Although the Gabe Dixon Band recently signed to a major record label, they have not followed the oft-trend of selling out for barrels of cash and then pumping out jewel cases full of crap. Instead, On a Rolling Ball expands and nearly perfects the sounds that the four University of Miami graduates stumbled across years ago, during countless afternoons spent experimenting inside the UM School of Music.
Their newest album, On a Rolling Ball, encompasses all genres of music, from piano-fueled pop to blues to straight up funk – think Elton John meets Widespread Panic.
Lead singer/pianist Gabe Dixon and band mates Winston Harris (bass/vocals), Jano Rix (drums/vocals), and Chandler Webber (sax/vocals) will bring their special mix of funk back to the University of Miami this evening at 9 p.m. with a free show on the UC Patio following the Homecoming Parade.
This is a Life & Art interview with Gabe Dixon via telephone.
Q: Were you guys trying to maintain the same style of music with On a Rolling Ball that you had on More Than It Would Seem (first album, independently released) or were you trying to go for something different?
GB: I think that there was kind of a natural progression that happened with the band, but at the same time we were going for something that was a little more representative of what we do live, which is to stretch out a little more. When we recorded our first album with Eddie (Eddie Kramer, famed producer who has worked with Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Traffic) we were going with shorter songs so that we could pitch that record to record labels. Since we were doing this current record on a record label, we were able to play more like we play live, which is what we like.
Q: What was it like moving to such a big record label like Reprise/Warner Brothers?
GB: It was great, because they gave us more money to do our record and also tour support so that we could go out and tour. And (the support) was relatively modest compared to a lot of bands on record labels, but they’ve certainly given us the necessary means to get by when we’re on the road. They weren’t trying to dress us up in costumes or anything stupid like that. They let us be the band that we are.
Q: What were some of the bands that influenced you growing up?
GB: When I first started playing stuff other than classical music I was about 11-years-old, and I got into early-70’s stuff like Elton John, The Police, even rockabilly, boogie-woogie, Jerry Lee Lewis type stuff. Then, in high school, I got more into the Dave Matthews Band, Medeski Martin & Wood, Phish, and a lot of the blues people like Stevie Ray Vaughan and B.B. King. . . . But it’s not just about music, you can be influenced by the way you see someone cross the street, or a scene from a movie.
Q: What was your reaction when Paul McCartney asked you to play keyboards on his album Driving Rain?
GB: My reaction was, “Yes. I’ll do it.” I was shocked. I was happy and thrilled to be able to do it, just because I respect Paul so much as an artist, songwriter and bass player. I knew that I could do a good job because . . . I knew his history. The Beatles were the first rock band that I ever got into.
Q: Was there any improvisation going on in the studio? I’ve read that Paul was looking for a raw, less rehearsed sound for this album.
GB: We’d have to go in the studio and try different things out. In one track in particular, called “Rinse the Raindrops,” we ended up playing for like 20 minutes, and we had to cut it down to 10 minutes because there was so much jamming in it.
Q: You played with Paul at Madison Square Garden in the “Concert for New York” to raise money for 9/11 victims’ families. How was that?
GB: It was the largest amount of people that I’ve ever played for . . . it was a sold out crowd. It was mind blowing and a mountaintop experience. It was certainly one of the highlights of my musical career.
Q: Are you looking forward to coming back to Miami for Friday’s show?
GB: Oh yeah, we always love playing in Miami. The people are always so good to us. We haven’t been back since last fall (Surfrider Club shindig at the Rat) so it’ll be good to be back. Come see us play and tell all of your friends.
Kevin Dean can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.