Concert preview: Making music ‘that way’ with Robert Cray

Concert preview » Renowned bluesman, who will co-headline with Mavis Staples, says there’s no substitute for old-fashioned collaboration.

The Internet is turning out a new generation of musicians that has people like five-time Grammy winner and Blues Hall of Fame inductee Robert Cray taking notice.

“It’s funny, because I was just having this discussion with somebody recently about the whole thing with the Internet,” said Cray, who is co-headlining a show with soul and gospel legend Mavis Staples at Red Butte Garden on Friday, June 20. “We were talking about the fact that you can learn everything on the Internet.”

The discussion swirled around being able to mimic a musician on screen from a repeatable YouTube video or using software that slows down a song while keeping the same key.

“It’s a great way to cheat,” Cray said. “In the days for us, we would just totally destroy vinyl records, trying to repeat a phrase we just heard to try to copy it. It’s a whole different thing.”

But there are a few key things the Internet can’t teach.

“Will it make a difference in how a person feels the music?” he asked. “That will be the big question, so to speak. The whole thing is, there’s all these great schools for everybody to learn, but what’s going to prove everything is going to be people getting the opportunity to play with one another and create music that way.”

Cray has been making music “that way” with The Robert Cray Band since the mid-1970s, with influences that cross musical genres.

“My parents had a great record collection that included Ray Charles, Sarah Vaughan, B.B. King and John Lee Hooker,” he said. “And me, I got inspired to play guitar when The Beatles came out.”

Growing up in the ’60s, Cray and bandmates who have come and gone — and come back again — were influenced by musicians like Jimi Hendrix, Muddy Waters and Thelonious Monk.

“When we sit down to write something, we don’t tell ourselves what we’re going to write,” Cray said. “We just write something, and if it sounds good, then we’ll do it.”

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