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A Dirty Dozen with KITT WAKELEY – May 2023

According to a recent press release: “Today, GRAMMY® Award-winning composer, arranger, and producer Kitt Wakeley released his star-studded orchestral rock album, Symphony of Sinners & Saints Vol. II The Storm, along with a new single, “All Things Sacred,” featuring guitar legend Joe Satriani and renowned drummer Kenny Aronoff (John Cougar, Joe Satriani), the London Symphony Orchestra, and London Voices choir. The album and new single can be purchased at all major DSPs. Wakeley’s last album, 2021’s An Adoption Story, received a Best Classical Compendium GRAMMY Award® on February 5. An Adoption Story is Kitt’s personal musical voyage that explores his time in the foster care system as a young child where he was separated from his half-sister, Tasha, his subsequent adoption into a loving family, reuniting with Tasha decades later, and to the present, where Kitt and his wife Melissa adopted three siblings.” We get Kitt to discuss new music, influences, and more.

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehards might find?

As the same suggests, Symphony of Sinners & Saints Vol II is a continuation of the first volume. I wanted to make sure I had fully vetted out the concept of Volume I before moving forward with new projects. All of the songs from Vol I and II were written around the same time, so the whole vibe was consistent. I pride myself on giving the listener something different each time they hear the song. When you consider an 80 piece orchestra, guitars, bass, drums, synths, piano and other instruments, there are 250 – 300 tracks. I always include secondary melodies, calls and responses between instruments and hints of ear candy in some form. Most songs include over 100 different instruments that help create the sonic sound and ambience. Therefore, the listener can decide what part they want to focus on each time they hear the song. And yes, I always add hidden nuggets in my songs. Most of them are tips of the hat to my favorite songs. The nuggets are never note for note, but enough that the listener might perk up a little more. In our cover of Stairway to Heaven, my cellist sneaks in a nice “Gently My Guitar Weeps” by the Beatles or I used “Kashmir” for the bridge. Not all of my songs have such obvious nuggets, but they are there!

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

Like so many others, my musical journey started with my school’s elementary band program. I enjoyed playing music and the comradery amongst my fellow musicians. However, I didn’t really fall in love with music until my teen years when I joined a rock band. Learning to play my favorite music and performing for others was very addictive.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

I wish I had a simple answer, but it wasn’t anything specific. Rather, I love good music. Regardless of genre, there’s always an artist or song that shines above the rest and being in a cover band, I had to learn these songs, which made me appreciate them even more. As a kid and even to this day, I would listen to hard rock, pop, rap and film scores back-to-back-to-back. It didn’t matter if it was Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson, Ozzy, Mötley, or the Superman theme. It’s all great. I even geek out over the art of rap music. There are so many nuances to that genre that it’s hard to ignore the geniuses that create those tracks. As for live shows, I always like the bands that put on a spectacle. Van Halen, Mötley Crüe, Michael Jackson and even Garth Brooks put on a great show, but the visuals are extremely entertaining as well.

4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

Paul McCartney would be on the top of my list. He’s a genius at keeping things simple when necessary and brilliant at getting creative with progressions and chords. Breaking down some of his songs is quite revealing. Yet, no matter what approach he has taken, he always finds a melody that resonates.

5. What is your favorite activity when out of the studio and/or not on tour?  What do you like to do to unwind?

My favorite activity is spending time with my family. Simple things like family dinner every night, movie nights and attending events that my kids are participating in, are always a blessing. However, to unwind, I go to the gym every day. It’s my hour and a half to zone out. It’s very therapeutic.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe, or you disagreed with?

The two words that immediately come to mind are “orchestral rock.” My music is a hybrid of orchestra, rock, electronic and film score vibes. It results in a very cinematic and epic sound. Many people with compare my music and shows to Trans-Siberian Orchestra, while others compare it to film scores and trailer music. I’ve gotten a few references to “you’re the new Yanni.” Nothing against his superior musical IQ, but that’s not me!

7. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

When my career first started to take off, we were seeing so many stars and legends, ranging from Ozzy to Ryan Seacrest. We were invited to events that had stars like Jamie Foxx, Mylie Cyrus and Steven Tyler. Through the years, I’ve been backstage to so many shows and blessed to meet my heroes. However, the one person I was starstruck by was Nikki Sixx. He’s been the epidemy of “rockstar” since I was a kid. He has a great presence about him, very kind and still exudes cool.

8. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

The best part of being a musician is having a vision for a song and getting to be the architect until it becomes reality. I have full autonomy to create something that appeals to my emotions and senses. It becomes even more satisfying when others hear it and love it as much as I do. As for a dream job? I think anything in entertainment, such as making movies would be a blast. Making movies still involves a creative vision and being able to bring it to fruition for all to enjoy.

9. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

Wow! That’s a tough one, so I’ll make it a little fun. “What was it like win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony?” We’ll have to wait a few years, make a lot of wishes and wait for hell to freeze over. Hmmm… The most tiresome question? Everyone wants to know how I got started. It’s a legitimate and warranted question, but I see it a lot.

10. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

My first time I was ever asked to come back to my old high school to perform with my band. The place was packed with students, alumni and people who knew me as I was growing up. I used it as an opportunity to break in a new mixing engineer and crew. Unfortunately, it was a complete disaster in front of my hometown. Needless to say, I never used the sound guy or his lighting crew again.

11. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

I would be torn between two. The first would be during the Beatles’ Abbey Road sessions. I’ve talked with the engineers that were there at the time. The stories are great. There’s a whole mystique about what the Beatles did. Obviously, it’s a legendary album and they made pure magic! But, hearing the reality of what was involved was very entertaining. The other would Michael Jackson’s Thriller album. I’ve watched so many documentaries, met various people who were there, and the album is amazing for so many reasons.

12. What did it feel like to win a GRAMMY?

I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to articulate that feeling. Having the affirmation of my peers, hearing my name called, and reaching out to accept the trophy were obscenely euphoric moments. It’s a magical moment that so many creatives dream of and I’m one of the few that was blessed with the experience.

KITT WAKELEY LINKS:

OFFICIAL SITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

INSTAGRAM

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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