Thursday, October 15, 2009

Interview With Barry Drake

Want to hear what it was like to work with Rock and Roll legends in the 70's? Singer/Songwriter Barry Drake played alongside Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, Emmylou Harris, Loudon Wainwright III, Richie Havens, James Taylor and many more legends of that historic rock time period. He will be presenting his multimedia lecture of the 70's at Virginia Tech on November 3 at 7:30 p.m. in Squires Colonial Hall. His goal is to keep music alive and have students "vicariously live through the decade with me". Below is an interivew that I conducted with him to learn more about his credibility and rock & roll career!

Perrin: Which lecture do you enjoy presenting the most?

Barry: Actually, I love doing them all. They're like my children. I'm always doing all four decades when I'm on tour, so as long as I don't do too many of the same ones in a row, I'm happy. It may sound funny but as I'm doing each show, I'm reliving how I felt during those decades and enjoying the ups and downs all over again. I guess it's like therapy for me.

Perrin: How do you get your presentations to emotionally connect with the audience?
Barry: I try to do them from the perspective of a college age person when I'm doing a show on a campus. This way they can vicariously live through the decade with me. I'm also very emotionally connected to the music which I think they can feel. I try to make my enthusiasm contageous.

Perrin: Do you enjoy presenting at Virginia Tech?
Barry: Yes, of course. I've been coming to Tech for many years and I have a great relationship with the staff and students. I also have met students and community people at my shows at Virginia Tech who keep in touch with me throughout the year and show up on other campuses when I'm in the area. What more could a performer want?

Perrin: What type of multimedia presentation do you put on? Powerpoint?
Barry: It's funny, but all 4 of my shows were originally put together before there was Powerpoint, or home computers for that matter!!! As I upgraded my technology over the years, I kept the video editing capabilities of a computer combined with the visual strength of good old photographic slides. It's combination that works for me.

Perrin: How do you keep up the intensity for each lecture? Does it get repetitive?
Barry: I always manage to amuse myself every night. Maybe I'm a simple person, but I love watching my images and videos on the screen. Also, doing a show like mine is like a trapeze act, you never exactly know what's going to happen. I also perform my shows like a jazz musician. I know the song well but I put different little twist on it every night and in the process learn something new with each show.

Perrin: Who was your favorite artist that you performed with as a performer/songwriter?
Barry: There were so many. Van Morrison for his intensity. James Taylor for his great guitar playing. Emmylou Harris for her harmonies. Loudon Wainwright for his zanyness. Bruce Springsteen for his clear vision and focus. Ritchie Havens for his heart.........I could go on!

Perrin: What is advice that you would give to an aspiring singer/songwriter?
Barry: Good luck! LOL! I always ask them what they want. Believe it or not, every performer wants a little something different. Do they want to be famous? Do they want to get work and make a living? Do they want a Major Record deal? Do they want radio play? Do they want to stay home and write and record in their basement? Do they want to be a musician for their whole lives?
Back in 1972, I gave Bruce Springsteen some advice which fortunately he didnt take.

Perrin: Why did you choose to use multimedia in your presentation?

Barry: I always tried to make my presentations look like a Ken Burns, PBS documentary. It makes the subject much easier to absorb. For example, most students know the song "Born To Be Wild" but how many have actually seen a picture or video of Steppenwolf who created it. With my shows you get to do that.

Perrin: Why did you add rock and roll lectures to your already busy schedule?
Barry: I was always a closet Rock & Roll Historian and when I finally settled into a successful career as a singer / songwriter, it gave me the opportunity to express myself with something else I always loved. For many years I was doing both concerts and lectures, until it just became too overwhelming and I let nature take it's course. But I still play my guitar and sing every day. I love it more than ever.

Perrin: What is your favorite award that you have won?

Barry: I guess the 5 NACA Campus Lecturer Of The Year Awards! I was ecstatic with the first one. The next 4 just pushed me over the top.

Perrin: What made you want to perform on just college campuses?
Barry: Performing on College Campuses has always been a perfect fit for me. I started playing in the Coffeehouses of Greenwich Village in New York and students from colleges in the NY / NJ / PA / CT area used to come into The City and book me to play on their campuses. It felt so good to me, I just kept doing it. I still do Corporate or Community Shows also.

Perrin: If you could describe your lecture in a simple phrase, what would it be?
Barry: A multimedia trip through the 60s. The sights, the sounds and the smells of 10 incredible years all wrapped up in a fun, fast paced hour and 20 minutes.

Read more about Barry Drake's career at:

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