Entertainment Music

24 Minutes with Gino Vannelli

By Joe Leary

Gino Vannelli. (Supplied Photo)

Gino Vannelli. (Supplied Photo)

Since hitting the pop charts in 1974 with People Gotta Move, Gino Vannelli has gone on to sell millions of records over a remarkable 40-plus year career. Prior to his appearance Nov. 3 appearance at the River Rock Casino Resort, Joe Leary spent 24 Minutes with the Canadian musical great.

We got to know you originally from People Gotta Move, but there are so many great songs in your repertoire. As an artist, do you know in your heart of hearts what’s going to be a hit and what will connect with an audience or not?

That’s a very good question. You have maybe some intuition or some sensibility or inner sense that some track might have some kind of special power or emotion but nothing really more than that. No one can ever say for sure of course because that would really defy the beauty of the business or the beauty of writing. You never really know and because you never really know, it keeps you going. The great mystery keeps us all going.

Does it ever sometimes surprise you when something that you think is great didn’t resonate as strongly as something that did that you personally didn’t think was as good?

That’s true. Many great composers have either carved or complained that they were known by their least favourite song.

Your touring schedule has an interesting pattern of dates and locations: Tel Aviv, Poland, The River Rock Casino. Do you prefer to appear in a variety of venues and concert halls? How do you arrive at touring dates?

I think venues that I feel I can put my music across the best. Venues that have really good PAs, good production values that are nice and are easy for people to get to. I understand how difficult it is sometimes to get to a concert. The River Rock is a really nice venue and I’ve played it five or six years ago and I really wanted to do it again and will be very happy to be there again next week. But I also like to play the world so that’s why we’re going to be in Israel and Poland and Holland and Germany, and we’re also getting ready to sign contracts for a South African tour too. It’s always a lot of fun to go and play all over the world and see how people react to songs I’ve written 30 or 40 years ago.

When you perform your hits in 2017, are they re-imagined or do you pretty much keep them true to their original form?

In a sense both. I respect the form that they were released or well know in – I’m just not one of those artists that would just mimic the record. You might as well just listen to the record if you’re going to do it just like the record. I like to take it places but at the same time be respectful of its original form. So in a sense, it’s the original form with a twist. And of course, the musicianship. This Portland band that I take with me, a rhythm section and a three-piece horn section are so great that it automatically brings a twist to the whole night in fact.

You’re now up to your 20th album. How would you say in your career that you’ve evolved over the years?

It was always a serious business to me. From my first record deal on I knew that I was in it for the long haul because in a sense, mastering the kind of music that I wanted to make. The kind of music that I heard in my head took a certain amount of mastering of myself as a person, because we go through things in life, and go through ups and downs and sometimes that sends us off on wild goose chases and we become less of the artist that we had in mind. And then we get back on track and maybe our personal lives lose a little bit but our art gains a little bit. So it’s a constant juggle between life and art. Between commerce and art and between the personal and the impersonal. Between the inner self and the image that you put forth. It’s a struggle but it’s really a balancing act. I’m really happy to have been doing what I have been for the last 30 or 40 years. It really gave the opportunity to not only get better at the music I was making and better as a singer, producer and arranger and a live artist but also improve myself as a man. To stay in this business and to stay close to your craft and passion, you have to find a way to keep doing it. Keep getting it done and even before that keep interested in it so that you can keep learning.