|ROCKWiRED iNTERViEWS CRiSTEN GREY AND THE MOViNG DUNES
THERE iS NO "i"Santa Fe, New Mexico isn’t the most rocking town on the U.S. map. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t rock at all outside of the geological sense, but the art capitol is home to CRISTEN GREY ANDTHE MOVING DUNES. Following the band’s 2002 release ‘JUST A LITTLE REMINDER’, GREY and her musical sidekick BRIAN WIDGER were anxious to make music on their own terms without the compromises that bands end up making because of a ticking clock and a shortage of funds. For three years, GREY and WIDGER took the time to learn the ropes of running a console, while still churning out their brand of reflective, roots rockers that recall SHERYL CROW from a decade earlier (strangely enough, I lived in Santa Fe at that time!) and the result is 10,000 THINGS. According to GREY, from here on out, the sky is the limit with what they can do production-wise. “Not only are we happy with the final product, but now we’re in a really good place as far as a platform to launch toward any project that we would want to pursue in the future. It will be interesting to see what we can do in the future.”
CRiSTEN GREY OF THE MOViNG DUNES
TALKS TO ROCKWiRED
ABOUT THE CD 10,000 THiNGS
TAKiNG CONTROL OF THE MUSiC
AND GiViNG CREDiT TO A HiGHER SOURCE
iNTERViEWED BY BRiAN LUSH
ROCKWIRED spoke with CRISTEN GREY over the phone. Here is how it went.
You are the first band from New Mexico that I have ever interviewed.
Really? Oh my goodness! That’s interesting!
10,000 THINGS is a great CD! Now that all of the work is behind you and it’s out there for people to hear, how do you feel about the finished product?
I am very pleased with it. We spent a lot of time ensuring that it was what we wanted as opposed to the very first release which was really more of a singer-songwriter type of project. This is the first time where I’ve actually put on the engineering and producer’s hat. I co-produced the album with my musical partner BRIAN WIDGER and we actually did everything by ourselves. Most of the instrumentation that you hear – including some of the drum work which was programmed – we did ourselves.
How long did it take to put the whole thing together?
The whole project form beginning to end took about three years because I had to learn how to engineer first. It was quite a bit of a learning curb but we had decided back then that we would have absolute creative control over what we were going to release. It’s very difficult to be in the studio and to have the clock ticking. It can also get really expensive and that helped us to decide to do this album all by ourselves and I’m so glad that we did. Not only are we happy with the final product, but now we’re in a really good place as far as a platform to launch toward any project that we would want to pursue in the future. It will be interesting to see what we can do in the future.
You’re in an interesting locale for a band of your type. Santa Fe New Mexico isn’t known for its music.
That is very true. It’s mostly known for its art.
Describe what it’s like to do music in that kind of a community.
Right now, we’re working with a few companies. At this point our main focus is to get the album out and launch it nationally and internationally through online distribution. We are working with CDBABY of course and we’re going to place it on AMAZON and i-TUNES. What we are really trying to do right now is to gear some of this music toward television and film. We’re in a strange place when it comes to the music market but we’re in a great place for television and film. Right now, we’re making the connections and we’ve got a few irons in the fire and we’ll see what happens. Right now it’s just a matter of working and working and working. It was funny when you said “…the work was behind you…”. Now is when the work really begins.
Talk about how your music has been received live.
I love the people that come out and support us. Our fans have been phenomenal. It’s been really well-received live. We’re getting radio coverage locally through KBAC 101.5 THE PROJECT. I think the fans have been the bedstone of everything that we have been trying to accomplish because they’ve been so supportive. For the CD release that we had a while ago at THE SANTA FE BREWING COMPANY, everyone showed up! The place was packed! There was no parking and I was shocked. I didn’t anticipate that kind of response. They had been waiting for a few years. You know when you’re out the loop and not playing live for a while, people have short attention spans and they find other things that they want to support. It was inspiring to know they didn’t forget us. They were there in multitudes. It was great! We want to continue to do more festivals and special events. At this point, we can really hone in on showcasing and highlighting the CD in those types of venues as opposed to doing regular clubs. For right now, we are staying away from the regular club type scenarios and sticking to festivals.
How does the band’s sound translate live onstage?
Usually we have the capacity to perform as a duet and all the way up to being a seven piece band. We are very flexible and that is what’s nice about the material. The songs can translate very well acoustically if they need to. Mostly, we are a four or five-piece band and if there is a special event, we perform as a seven piece.
Talk about how music began for you as an individual.
I was about twelve or thirteen years old when my father gave me this beat up, hollow-bodied guitar. I couldn’t event tell you the brand name of that guitar, but the strings were so high off of the frets that I would literally bleed. I was just really determined to play that instrument. I was self taught and have gone on to also play mandolin and bass. I fiddle around with keys also. The majority of strings and keys that you hear on the CD – I was fortunate enough to manage my way through. I am not a keyboardist by no extent of the word. I am a multi-instrumentalist in the sense that if something needs to happen and the instrument is lacking then I will pick it up. I played dulcimer on the song STIR UP A SWARM. I had never touched the instrument before. I also had to learn to play harmonica very quickly for this CD. Whatever the music requires, I will do what I have to do. Even if I burn the candle a both ends, then so be it. When you hear something in a song and have a vision for it, then you have to approach and achieve it. There is no other way around that. As a kid, I was determined to learn how to play guitar. I started playing coffeehouses and writing songs when I was about fifteen and then I continued on and I would sneak in underage and perform at different clubs here and there. When I hit about sixteen or seventeen, I was playing in various punk groups and new wave bands. Songwriting has always been my first love. That is my truest love and that is probably my forte more than anything. I just continued on throughout the years and then heavy metal happened in the eighties. At the time, it was unheard of for a female guitar player to even venture towards heavy metal and because of that, I had to do it. If you tell me that I can’t do something, then I am going to prove you wrong. I just started learning a lot of different riffs and learned to play lead guitar. I had some regional success with a group called ALL EYES. I was the lead guitar player and the backing vocalist. I did not front at the time. We had some successes here and there. We opened up for a lot of the Hair Bands like CINDERELLA and QUIET RIOT. We even did some stuff with MISSING PERSONS even though they weren’t really a heavy metal band. We did quite a bit here and there. After doing that for a few years, I continued to write and I eventually said “all right! I think I’ve got that out of my system.” I felt that at the time, I was trying to prove myself to my peers, the men in my life, and the world. I realized that that wasn’t exactly what I wanted to be doing stylistically. It was time for a change. I enjoyed singing and I really wanted to front a band. I wanted to write my own material and that was how CRISTEN GREY AND THE MOVING DUNES was formed.
Talk about your other band mates. Who are they and what is it that each of them brings to the table both musically and personality-wise that makes it all work for you?
I could not have completed this project without BRIAN WIDGER who is my right hand man. He is just a phenomenal guitar player and producer and engineer. He is also a multi-instrumentalist. He has been my pillar. He is that one person within the past few years that I feel like I can lean on. He’s got a great sense of humor which is just amazing to me especially in circumstances where things are stressful. He’s just been very even-keeled. I could not have done this project without him. He is the other piece of the puzzle that is THE MOVING DUNES. The other musicians that I consider to be consistent parts of this unit would be MARK CLARK. He has been in this industry for over twenty years or so. His most recent session was with CAT STEVENS’ latest project. He is phenomenal. I love him. JOSE ROMERO is amazing! He is Santa Fe’s best kept secret when it comes to bass guitar. He also plays Spanish guitar and acoustic guitar but his bass playing skills are just wonderful. KEVIN ZOERNING has the same type of resume that MARK CLARK has. He’s played with some wonderful, national musicians. He was also an instructor at the College of Santa Fe which is now defunct. He plays keys and strings. He is a monster when it comes to what he does. ADRIENNE BELLIS is a wonderful vocalist. She is also a dance teacher. She teaches the Irish dance. She is just a creative wonderful person. All of these people that I have been so fortunate to work with have these wonderful work ethics. I guess that is why I choose to work with them. They are perfectionists and they are relentless with what they do. I think that synergy between all of us is just wonderful. Last but not least, we have LISA CARMEN who is a wonderful vocalist and an artist in her own right. She has several releases under her belt and she has played for many years locally and all along the East Coast, which is where she is from. She is a phenomenal songwriter and vocalist as well. She has a really smooth vocal presence.
Explain – if it can be explained – the creative process. How does music get written in this band?
I am the primary writer for the band. It depends on where the inspiration is drawn from. For example, I’m currently working on a song right now called ‘AMERICA’ which may or may not make the cut on a future CD. That song came from a story that I heard from a friend of mine who had visited this older gentleman who had participated in the Cold War and was part of this secret operation. He was deployed out during that time period and had discovered that a building he had blown up had children in it. When I heard this story, needless to say, I already had the lyric. It was that quick. Sometimes the lyrics come to me first. Sometimes it’s the music and other times, it’s both. It really depends on where I draw the inspiration from. I keep saying “I”, but I really have nothing to do with this. I truly believe that I am just a conduit. There is no “I” in this process. That is why I am so overwhelmed and grateful. I believe that when it comes to something creative, it comes from source. It comes from the universe. It comes from God or whatever you want to call it. It has nothing to do with us. It’s my responsibility to pull it down, fashion it and present it.
From this CD, what moments stand out for you the most and why?
I think the overall feel of the CD has to do with human resiliency and strength. If you really listen to the CD from beginning to end, you will notice that there is a common theme. And that common theme is of strength, the bittersweetness of life and what it takes to actually survive all of those experiences and how we all share those experiences. That to me is the essence of 10,000 THINGS. There is one thing in the TAO that says “…one produced two, and two produced three, and three produced ten-thousand things” which basically means that we are in this world but we are not of it and it is through that connection with source that we are able to find the resilience and the strength to continue forth no matter what the circumstance.