Robert Cray: The Deep Blue Beyond

Just play music because you love it, and play what you want to play. There is no way to predict what is going to sell. You don't have to put on makeup or spandex. You don't have to read up on the hot trend. Just play because you love it.
-Robert Cray

Recording Live

"The idea of recording live is special because you have everybody's energies concentrated in one spot," explains Cray. "They are not separated by an overdub or somebody trying to figure out something. It is best when you are all there at the same time hitting or missing it. When you record live you want to find the proper settings where you can get the best from your instruments. That is always best served when your stuff is cranked up! When you are in a traditional studio you don't want to do that because you run the risk of blowing out the super sensitive recording microphones."

"You have just got to let it flow, naturally," continues Cray. "If it goes up and down just let it be. Because you are all playing together, that is the way it is supposed to be."

The Mojo Workers & The Festivals

Robert Cray by Rod Snyder
Robert Cray has won five Grammy Awards, his first in 1986, which propelled him to stardom. When he moved to Virginia and found his roots it wasn't just the music that came calling. The people who pioneered the genre were calling as well. He worked with John Lee Hooker on his record Boom Boom and a friendship ensued.

"John Lee Hooker would call me up on the telephone just to see how I was doing," says Cray. "He was just a genuinely funny man. There was a couple times where he would call me up and pretend he was a woman on the other end of the phone. 'Helllllooooo [Cray stretching in a hi-pitched voice].' All I could really do was laugh and ask, 'John is that you?' He was a great guy."

It was his work within the circle of the blues pioneers and interpreters that led to his eventual involvement in Eric Clapton's roundtable of guitar gods at the Crossroads Festival.

"I have been invited a couple times. It is a great experience. Eric does a great thing and just to be considered a friend to him is an honor. This year they asked if we wouldn't mind being the house band for the blues segment."

"The Festival has been going on for a long time and it lived a good life for a while," offers Cray. "I see it slowing down. It might be one of the only ways now for people to see some of the masters that are left. On their own, some of these guys might not get that great of a draw. What Eric does by bringing out guys like Hubert Sumlin [Howlin' Wolf] is serving a great purpose."

"When I am up on stage it's a good feeling but at the same time your mind is racing at a billion miles an hour," observes Cray. "You are trying to find someplace new to go. If you have time to hear yourself in the room you are not spending enough time trying to dig into something new."


Flavors of the month are a dime a dozen. The artists that truly matter are the ones who keep going. What allows a musician to command longevity? What makes them relevant? With Robert Cray thriving for more than 30 years, I wondered if he had any advice for the younger generation of artist.

"Play because you love it," Cray says. "Play only for that reason. That is what makes me happy. I play because I love it. Nobody can predict who is going to be a star, and that shouldn't even enter the equation. Just play music because you love it, and play what you want to play. There is no way to predict what is going to sell. You don't have to put on makeup or spandex. You don't have to read up on the hot trend. Just play because you love it."

JamBase | Worldwide
Go See Live Music!

[Published on: 3/4/08]

Take full advantage of all JamBase has to offer by signing up for an account!

You'll receive

show alerts

when your favorite artists announce shows, be eligible to enter contests for

free tickets

, gain the ability to

share your personalized live music calendar

and much more. Join JamBase!




sbruce44 starstarstarstarstar Tue 3/4/2008 03:14PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Awesome interview Halo! One of the best I've read on JamBase. As someone who recently quit a band that I felt was too driven by career aspirations, that last quote was inspiring and comforting.

aaronjl1 starstarstarstarstar Tue 3/4/2008 04:57PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Hands Down, one of the best articles on JB ever!

Flat5 Tue 3/4/2008 06:26PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


yeah, you guys have been putting out some good articles lately. keep it up!!

salmon401 starstarstarstar Tue 3/4/2008 08:13PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I've seen Robert Cray a handful of times over the last 18 years, on his own and with SRV, Clapton, and Trucks. He has always puts on a solid show, not a lot of flash and dazzle, but solid, real blues.

id rather be phishing Wed 3/5/2008 07:45AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Saw him with Clapton and at Crossroads, amazing talent. Should get more notoriety for his talents

breadloaf starstarstarstarstar Thu 3/6/2008 07:33AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I have been seeing Robert Cray for over twenty years. He has this quality of expressing very deep feeling through a frenetic outpouring of staccato; lots of little notes piled on each other- and he sings his solos. Very effective. His style is really his own. I find it very hard to even mimic his style. The women dig the guy, too. Always a fun show. Nice interview.

DaMule starstarstarstarstar Fri 3/7/2008 11:37AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


"Syndication and mass media has basically smothered that out. Now you hear the same stuff everywhere."


Awesome article.

guitardave starstarstarstarstar Fri 3/7/2008 11:48AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I have been a fan since "Strong Persuader" (1986)came out. Like Stevie Ray, he had to battle for the blues in the 80s. He is one tasty mofo!

onlyheat starstarstarstarstar Wed 3/12/2008 12:48AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I agree that "Strong Persuader" is an amazing album. Every song is great. It's almost like an 80's Blues Concept Piece.

thehurricane23 Wed 3/12/2008 05:14PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Man, Strong Persuader brings back good memories, I was 12 and my older bro turned me on to him and SRV at the same time. I consider it the first real, new music I ever listened to. Cray and Buddy Guy are definetely two of my favorites, class act and a great article. He puts in to words the way I feel about music, its for the LOVE