*Downtown Nashville, TN (Photo Jared Manzo)
Good evening Marcel. We are especially glad that you have joined the great group of rockandroll.gr.Let’s start our conversation with what almost everyone understands when they hear you sing. That your voice has many similarities with that of the legendary Roy Orbisons’. At what age did you realize this and how did you deal with it afterwards?
That is a great compliment. Perhaps the greatest compliment a singer could ever get, and I am really flattered when people say that to me. What happened was, I am a huge Roy Orbison fan and I basically grew up listening to his music, singing along to his records. I am sure this had something to do with it. And it was a natural process, as I started performing people would come to me after the show and give me this compliment. I started featuring one of Roy’s songs here and there. It was usually one of his early ones, because his guitar playing was also amazing, and a lot of people don’t know that. Orbison’s guitar playing in all of his Sun recordings is really outstanding: “Ooby Dooby,” Go! Go! Go,” “Domino”…so I usually do some of those. I enjoy playing some of Roy’s songs during the show. The later stuff is a lot harder to do, besides you need a bigger band for most of them. We have done a few of these too, tunes like “Blue Bayou”…such a great song. But nobody sings like Roy Orbison. I don’t really try to sound any particular way, and I have developed my own style, write my own songs, and sing them with my own voice.
Apart from Roy, which other artists have influenced you?
Elvis for sure. Man, he influenced everyone. The way he carried himself, his stage presence, the way he interpreted a song. Like Roy, he never stops amazing me. Buddy was a great influence, Buddy Holly. The way he structured his songs, the chord changes, the melodies….all that stuff influenced me a great deal. In terms of guitar playing, apart from Roy, Carl Perkins and Chuck Berry played exactly what I wanted to play and I learned a lot from them. All the greats have something special that influenced me one way or another.
The recently released ”Patiently” album was recorded at Jack Clement’s Cowboy Arms Studio in Nashville. How did you experience the atmosphere in the studio?
It was fantastic. We recorded the entire album in 2 days, and recorded all the songs live in the studio, the way it was done back in the day. All done at once. The musicians and the way the songs are played was also very important – you have to be able to hear the others when you are all playing in the same room. You know, Jack Clement worked with Sam Phillips in Memphis (Sun Records), and the first session he engineered was for Roy’s single “Rockhouse” and “You’re My Baby.” Jack’s reputation is immense when it comes to record production and his studio is remarkable. State of the art. But you also have to know how to work and use that stuff, and the engineer there, Cameron Davidson, is so good. The musicians that played on the record are some of the best in town too, so it all worked out great. I am so thrilled.
”Patiently”’has several of your own songs, but also some arrangements. Would you like to tell us a few words about it?
Yes, “Patiently” was written by Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers under his alter ego name Ellen Carrol. I wonder how come this song was not a hit by anyone? I really dig it. But actually, I thought it would be an album filler. The recording came out so good that not only became the album opener, but also gave the name to the entire album.
Some of the other covers we did are songs that I really like. The thing is, with me, I have to really like a song to do it. I really have to internalize a song in order to be able to play it. Like the case of “Sands of Gold” and “How Can I Write on Paper (What I Feel in My Heart,” those are two records that I could not stop listening to before we recorded the album, so it was an easy choice.
The originals are all basically new songs, for the most part, all written within the last year or so, except for one, “How Do You Pretend,” which we recorded at Roy Orbison Jr’s home studio a few years back and finished at Jack Clement’s studio.
There is a lot of Nashville on the new album, and there some songs I am particularly proud of, like “Trying to Forget.” It’s on a Roy Orbison meets David Lynch style and the sound we got on that one is incredible…all live in the studio. “Another Country Song” is another one, and “Stranded in Dallas.” Good jivin’ numbers. We also went for the classic Nashville Sound, the sound that came out of Nashville in the late ‘50s and ‘early ‘60s…”Sands of Gold” and “How Can I Write on Paper” for example. We got some Sun Records sounds like on “Broken Hearted,” some rockabilly with “First Date” and “You’ve Got Love,” (written by Roy Orbison and recorded by Buddy Holly). In general, the album is quite rockin’.
You have taken part in many concerts, some of them dedicated to Roy Orbison. Are there any special moments that stand out to you?
Well, yes, we did a few big ones. Apart from most of the big rockin’ festivals in the US and Europe, we played at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Master Series Tribute Week to Roy Orbison, and shared the bill with The Crickets (Buddy Holly’s band), Raul Malo (The Mavericks), the late Glen Campbell, Billy Burnette (rockabilly legend Johnny Burnette’s nephew) and more; we also played at the Arizona State University’s Roy Orbison Celebration to which Roy’s wife Barbara attended and was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Roy. We performed at the 20th Annual Roy Orbison Festival in Wink, Texas, sharing the bill with Roy’s oldest son, Wesley. I also starred “In Dreams – The Roy Orbison Story” in Australia, that was pretty unreal. This was all equally thrilling, but meeting Roy’s wife Barbara at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame show was perhaps the highest of all honors.
With your knowledge you have contributed to the writing of the book “The Authorized Roy Orbison” by the three sons of the beloved artist. How did you feel about it?
It was like another dream come true. It truly was. I worked on this project for a long time. You see, Roy wanted to do an autobiography before he passed away in 1988, and then Barbara wanted to finish it. She actually read what I had written and really liked it. Sadly she passed away in 2011. The boys then took over, and finished the project. My passion for Roy Orbison is an ongoing thing as I am constantly working on different projects.
Which elements do you think make the Rock ‘n’ Roll of the 50s timeless? Can today’s youth get closer to this music?
Well, I believe that rock and roll is still true and real. Very much so. What started in the 1950s as a novelty is still around. I think it is a very honest way of expression, and very easy to relate to, very inviting. Good to dance to. It’s like very easy to like so to speak, and that is one of the ingredients that makes it timeless. And I believe that it is really so good that it will never be forgotten – like good classical music which is still around after hundreds of years. But back in the ‘50s you had to be brave to play rock and roll music. After those guys paved the way back in the ‘50s, we now got it pretty easy. I think there is a lot of talent out there for sure, yes, and performers that are really carrying the torch exceptionally well.
Do you have any Plans for the near future?
Yes, we are now promoting the new album which is out on Bear Family Records. I head over to England in October for the Rhythm Riot and a couple of shows in Germany. Then we’ll do some local shows and after that we go back out to Europe for the Rockin’ Race in Spain in February. Things are looking good.
Shall we expect you sometime in Greece?
I hope so!!
Where can we find you on the internet?
You can find us on Facebook and Instagram, or here: https://marcelriesco.wordpress.com/music/
Thank you for the interview, I hope talking to you again in the future
Thank you. This has been fun.