Never Mind Godot: Phil Gammage is “Waiting for My Baby”
There is one other day that will live in infamy: August 1, 1981- the day MTV forged its debut on a platform known as cable television. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Sure, music promo clips were nothing new, but MTV made the “music video” a necessary evil – or godsend, depending on your disposition. At the time MTV emerged, I was a young bass player for hire, doing sessions and gigs in New York City when - all of a sudden - every club had a video screen and folks were fixated on the pomp and circumstance that defined the genre! Producers, agents, and bandleaders were asking how tall I was, how much I weighed, and how much hair I had. Fortunately, I was strong in all those departments. Oh, and I could play bass too!
Nearly forty years later, music videos are still a necessary component of an artist’s canon. The daunting task is to capture the aura of a song on film.
Enter Phil Gammage.
Gammage – in collaboration with David Schell – create videos that are also works of art. Sure, Phil and David are not the first to do it, and certainly not the last – however their cinematic artistry is, in a word, timeless. Their latest clip, which could have come out in 1955 or perhaps 2025, is also Phil’s latest single, “Waiting for My Baby.”
Before he embarked on a solo career, which now spans eight albums since 1990, Gammage co-founded The Corvairs and Certain General – two acclaimed ensembles worthy of your exploration. Phil’s continued presence on the New York City music is a blessing – no gimmicks, no posturing – just the best Americana blues this side of the Mississippi, and probably the other side too.
Tell me about the track “Waiting for My Baby” doesn’t this one go back a few years?
Yeah, I’d been kicking that one around for a year or so. It’s a one-chord boogie shuffle except for the harp solo toward the end. I can’t get any simpler with lyrics than I did with this song. I was going for that minimalism thing. Groove and melody, yes sir.
A new single! From a forthcoming album perhaps? If so, what can we expect from another Gammage platter?
I wrote and released three albums in the past four years, the most recent of those being ‘Used Man For Sale’ — so I’m taking my time before I ease into another recording project. I’m currently writing a new collection of songs and we’ll see where it leads me.
Once again, your moving images exemplify the power of black and white! Talk about how this platform exudes a timeless veneer.
Everything I create visually to go with my music seems to look better in black and white. It’s my comfort zone and I can’t imagine creating music videos in color at this point. I like the starkness of it and of course I dig the retro feel.
Talk about the sparse arrangement for this track.
I played several shows in the past year as a duo — myself with a drummer. That combination works well with my style of music so that is how we recorded the basic tracks for this song. There is a bass guitar on the track that I played later but it’s low in the mix.
Your longtime collaborator Roger Stoltz is the only other musician on the track – why did you work with Roger on this cut?
Roger has the steady touch that can bring my songs to life. He is a very lyrical drummer and percussionist who really listens. He doesn’t over play, which is an important thing for me.
Share with me some of the highlights of your recent European trek – did that inspire any new tunes?
Among my U.K. shows, playing a house concert in Kennington, London was one. The audience was fantastic and they were very knowledgeable about my music. Plus, it was a fun party afterwards! I hadn’t performed in London in a long time. Getting back to Paris and Rouen in France was another. Overall the tour couldn’t have gone much better for me.
Talk about working with David on this video, and the inspiration behind the imagery.
Yes, this is another collaboration with David Schell. The indoor lip synch performance was filmed in Kingston, New York at his Green Kill artist space. It’s a great venue and I recently played a concert there. Several people contributed to the filming… Lynne Stone was a huge help with synching the audio to our cinematography. We were going for the David Lynch vibe and I feel like we succeeded. We wanted it to be a nighttime video, and very noir. All of the outdoor footage was filmed in Wildwood on the Jersey Shore.
Tell me about the two ingenues in the clip, Jacquelyn Schnakenberg and Cara Gentry – what do they represent?
They are Hudson Valley based actresses who originally weren’t going to be featured but who took on bigger rolls as the shoot progressed. We used them to contribute to the overall vibe and help define the ambiance. Sometimes all they do is just sit around and smoke cigarettes, but it’s all good.
Explain the $50 tip!
That idea was Philip DeMartino’s, the actor who gives me the tip in the video. When I saw that sequence in editing I was pleased to see how well it worked so I kept it in.
Your performance work ethic mixes ensemble performances featuring bassist Anne Husick, drummer Roger Stoltz, and harmonica player David Fleming, among others, with solo shows – which do you prefer? What are the advantages of each? What are the pitfalls?
I love them both. I’ve performed solo much more this year than years past. Obviously, the shows in Europe were solo, but I’ve played a lot of them here as well. Solo you have certain freedoms that you don’t have when playing in an ensemble. There is a one on one intimacy with the audience that is powerful. But, of course you’re limited by what one person can do playing instruments and singing alone. There is something very special about the collective energy of like-minded musicians playing music together — any kind of music. The interplay between everyone, the chemistry… at its best it can be awe-inspiring and there’s nothing else like it.
What have you got planned for the remainder of 2018?
Playing more festivals with the band and going back to Europe!
Phil Gammage “Waiting for My Baby” Video
Phil Gammage “Waiting for My Baby” single is out now!
For all things Phil Gammage: www.philgammagemusic.com