I expressed my surprise in my review of Phil Gammage‘s album “Redeemed” about the intriguing blend of different styles. Following that, I had an opportunity to have a conversation with him to explore his music further and learn about his upcoming projects. Let’s dive in and discover more!

  • Tell us more about your beginning and how your professional musical journey started?
Great to talk to you.
I started with taking bass guitar lessons as a teenager at a local music store in Houston. I picked guitar up soon after that and played in various rock bands in Boulder, Colorado and San Francisco. Our music was more artsy than punk, and it was the easiest way at that time for me to get on stage with a working band. I didn’t have the musical chops to play much else than that. Those were my “music school years”, I’ve had little formal training in music.
blankAfter moving to New York I co-founded the post-punk rock band Certain General which had some success, particularly in France with our album November’s Heat. It was released on a French label and we made it over to Europe to play some good shows in France and the U.K. In America and Canada we played around at east coast at places like Danceteria, CBGBs, Peppermint Lounge, 9:30 Club (with R.E.M.), Forty Watt Club in Athens Georgia, but unfortunately never had an American record label’s support. Also made it up to Ontario a couple of times. I was that band’s lead guitarist and sometime songwriter.
I began to develop a growing interest in American roots music like folk, blues, and country. Older artists like Lead Belly, Hank Williams, John Lee Hooker, and others and I began to write songs in that style. Then I heard a more recent album that was a real game changer for me … Fire of Love from the Los Angeles band The Gun Club. They combined blues music with the punk esthetic and it really opened my ears to new musical ideas.
Night Train was my first solo album and I worked with the French indie rock label New Rose Records for a few years. This label was the home to many American artists like myself who couldn’t get record deals in our own country in the 1990s. Folks like Alex Chilton, Elliot Murphy, Johnny Thunders, Jeffrey Lee Pierce, and more — it’s an impressive list and the label should have more notoriety and fame. My albums with New Rose would now be considered Americana but back then that word wasn’t really in use.
From there it’s been about working with other indie labels and as the music biz evolved, my own self released albums, singles, and music videos. I’ve been back to Europe a few times to work, and play out steadily on the east coast. I always had an interest in film making so that became part of my art … to make music videos for my songs. For the latest album we’ve made five videos and are filming another one soon.
  • In your music industry journey, do you believe that the AI advancement poses a threat to the industry and musicians?
Yes, very much so. It’s a threat to all of us working in the arts. I have actor friends who are members of the union SAG AFTRA. They went on strike for several months last year for a new contract that addressed AI and other issues in their industry. Musicians such as myself don’t have a union as strong as the Screen Actors Guild unfortunately.

  • Was the album preparation and songwriting process more challenging and time-consuming for your latest album “Redeemed” compared to your 2021 album “From Nowhere to Somewhere”?
It was easier to prep and write songs for RedeemedFrom Nowhere was written and recorded during the last months of the pandemic and that made everything more difficult. Just logistically getting people together to play and record was challenging.
With Redeemed I began by recording home demos of the songs. They were then worked up with my live band at a weekly outdoor gig we had in New York. It was a loose scene at the venue and that enabled me to test drive the new songs with different players, many who ended up on the album.
  • Was the ‘Redeemed’ music video shot in three different towns? We’d love to hear more about the filming process and the concept behind the video.
Yeah, that wasn’t the initial plan but it evolved into that. The interior scenes were all filmed at the Green Kill Artist’s Space in Kingston, New York … up in the Hudson River Valley near Woodstock. The rest were filmed at a couple of locations in New Jersey … Asbury Park and Wildwood. Those two towns are on the Jersey Shore as it’s called. I’ve been going down to the shore for years and I like it a lot. They have a great vibe for filming.
  • As the owner of a music production company, how do you adapt to the industry changes, considering that many independent artists can now record music from their own homes?
Going back a hundred years it’s primarily been technological changes that have spurred the evolution of the music biz. That’s never been more obvious than it is know as we continue to make and market art in the digital world. It’s up to the artists and producers to adapt and explore. Musical tastes have changed the industry too of course.

  • We’ve become accustomed to a fusion of country and blues, but incorporating post-punk is truly iconic. Was this intentional during the album’s songwriting phase?
I suppose my years of being a post-punk rock lead guitarist and songwriter in Certain General is still part of my musical DNA. I wanted Redeemed to have a lot of diversity and my post-punk element is part of my musical trick bag even if I don’t write and play in that style so much any more. Country, folk, blues, cinematic soundtrack elements, jazz, and more are all there too. All tied to a similar musical and lyrical theme for this album.
Producing and mixing all but two of the album’s songs allowed me to try new things out in a relaxed way at my home studio. I’d begun doing a little of that on From Nowhere, but Redeemed is where it all came together.

  • In general, what specific lyrical themes inspire you to write?
I like lyrics that tell a story. It’s an art and a craft to get something strong written in three verses, a chorus, and maybe a bridge or two. You have to make good use of all your words and not waste any.
A few years back, I co-wrote a couple of songs with the Hudson Valley poet David Schell and we were pleased with the results, in particular the song “Just Another Traveling Man”. For Redeemed we took it a step further and co-wrote all of the songs together. He the lyrics and I the music.
David is very prolific writer and I had the pleasure of using his poems that I felt would best fit my music. Both he and I are film noir fanaticos and several of the songs include that element. Those lyrics tend to be edgy, as in songs like “Serious Trouble”, “Woman in the Window”, and “Messages From the Grave”. He also writes poems that have a historical angle to them like “Johnny Lee”. There’s even a love song “Good Place”. Some are the lyrics are about expressing and feeling a strong emotion, like the angst and sense of relief expressed in “The Rain”.
  • Lastly, could you share your aspirations for 2024 with us?
As a bandleader I want to continue to work regularly and play better and more high profile shows. We’re hoping to get more festival bookings.
I’ve started to slowly think about the next album, writing some new songs. The response to Redeemed has been great and right now I’m happy to be spending time promoting it.