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Robert Cray: Right Next Door, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, John Lee Hooker and More…

Exclusive interview by Karen Beishuizen
Photo credit for album cover Keith Brogdan

Robert Cray needs no introduction. He is known as one of the best Blues guitar players in the world. He rose to fame in 1986 with “Right Next Door” – A song that is still as popular as back then. He is currently on tour to promote his album “That’s what I heard” which was released during lock down.

KB: You rose to fame with your 1986 album ” Strong Persuader ” which had the hit singles Smoking Gun, Right Next Door and I guess I showed her: How did you write this album and what is the story behind it?

Our producers wrote some songs Bruce Bromberg and Dennis Walker. I had some tunes and we worked on songs together. We made the record during a break in touring, and it was picked up by a major label.

KB: The song Right Next Door is about a love affair with the girl next door: What inspired you to write this song? Is it a true story?

Dennis Walker wrote this song. He’s a great writer! The band became Dennis’s voice!

KB: What is the story behind the song Smoking Gun?

It’s a song that Bruce Bromberg wrote the lyrics too and Richard Cousins and myself wrote the music. It was just a story that Bruce made up. He had a great way with stories because he loved that kind of music.

KB: You won a Grammy Award for the album: How did you hear you were nominated and what was the feeling after you won?

We were all so happy, we couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces! I don’t remember how we heard about the nomination…I think the record company told us. It was a great night. Lots of wonderful memories.

KB: In 1988 you released your album Don’t be afraid of the dark (I love this album!): How did you write all these brilliant songs? What inspired you?

Thank you. It’s a compilation of songs that all of us put together. It was a team effort.

KB: What is the story behind the song Don’t be afraid of the dark? What is it about?

This is another Dennis walker tune. You can see there is a theme to Dennis’s tunes that you and we all love!

KB: You worked with John Lee Hooker on 2 albums: Boom Boom Boom and The Healer: What was it like working with this Legend?

John Lee was a good friend, and it was my honor to have worked with him. We played a lot of shows together and had a lot of fun together. He had a great sense of humour we laughed a lot.

KB: On 27 August 1990 you played with Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Jimmie Vaughan, and Stevie Ray Vaughan at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin: Stevie Ray Vaughan died later that night when his helicopter crashed: You must have felt completely devastated.

Yes. We lost some good friends too soon.

KB: In 1990 you released the brilliant album Midnight Stroll: What is the story behind the song The forecast calls for pain? (I love this song)

Thank you. I love that song as well. I didn’t write it; it was written by our producer and friend Dennis Walker and David Plenn. I have written songs with Dennis, and I’ve also recorded a lot of songs that Dennis has written. He’s a great storyteller.

KB: Your latest album That’s what I heard was released just before the world went into lock down with Covid so you never really had a chance to promote this album and go on tour: You must have felt very disappointed. Are you catching up and on tour now?

Yes, we are. We started August 2021 and we, like the rest of the world are gradually getting up to speed, we are about to tour in the States. I start a leg on March 11th in New London CT, then after the US dates we will be in England May 3rd, starting in Leicester UK, (I have family there, as my wife and I got married there 30 years ago) The UK tour ends May 20th in Cardiff, and we begin a European leg in late June.

We have quite a lengthy tour for the rest of the year. In the overall scope of everything that happened during the pandemic not being able to promote the record was extremely minor.

KB: What artists do you currently like who you would like to collaborate it?

The Tedeschi Trucks Band. Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi. As far as collaborative…. I just take it as it comes.

KB: Did you spend a lot of time writing songs while in lock down?

I did a little writing and playing but no plans to go into the studio at this point as we will be touring most of this year.

Check out Robert’s Tour Schedule to see him Live: HERE