What does Brownsville Station, the “I love My School Tour,” Country Music and Flip Flops all have in common? I can answer that in just two words, Billy Craig. This guy is a true quadruple threat. He is a songwriter, a singer and the new lead guitarist for Brownsville Station. He is also a Country Artist. Yes, I said country artist. How can this be possible you ask? I would have to say it’s because he is so well rounded and mega talented.
On top of all of that he gives back to the youth of our country by visiting schools on his, “I Love This School Tour.” You can find more about that incredible show at www.ILoveThisSchoolTour.com website. His anti-bullying, get excited about learning songs and theme really leave the children feeling great about school and the future.
I sat down to talk to Billy the other day and this is how that fun and heartfelt conversation went.
Q Tell me about the school tour?
A We are in our 6th year of the, “I love this school tour,” and it’s basically a project that is kind of like a concert for kids that goes right into elementary schools. We do messages like respect, bully’s are not cool and all these positive behavior messages. I change into different characters and it’s a lot of fun. It’s loud, it’s fast and it’s very high energy. We always have fun with it.
Q What do you mean you change into different characters? Do you do costume changes?
A Yeah, I start out as me, a country guy and then I turn into this hip-hop guy and then I turn into a full blown rap star and then I turn into a classic rock dude and then I turn back into myself, I kind of morph into these different characters.
Q Where do you live?
A I am based out of Detroit.
Q How did you come about doing country music?
A How did I start in country music?
Q Yes, with being in Rock City right?
A Well you know the number one country station in the country is here in Detroit. Detroit is very country but yeah R & B with the Motown stuff and it definitely has a very long lineage of rock & roll as you know.
A Well you know what? I was always kind of into country. I ended up doing a lot of years trying to stay busy I did a lot of top 40 which was probably more on the rock side than top 40 side but I started writing with a friend of mine in the early 2000’s. We were writing more folk, rock and country stuff and it just kind of morphed into that direction. The more I got into it the more I enjoyed it. That’s when we ended up going down to Sun Studio and we started a little recording session down there. That started the whole process for my first country record which is, “This Side of Somewhere.”
Q Now you play lead guitar on everything right? Do you bring in another lead guitarist on your own CD projects?
A Sometimes I do for a different flavor but I think on the new one that I am working on, I think I am going to try knock out most of it myself although I like to have some different sounds and styles on my albums.
Q Yes and every lead guitar player have a different, sound, feel and style.
A Right, you know I started doing gigs in the 8th grade and were doing weddings and we were doing high school parties and all this other stuff and we had to kind of play everything across the board, especially at the weddings. We would do Polka’s and country songs. That was back in the day of BTO and we’d pull out BTO and Alice Cooper songs and Rolling Stones and that kind of stuff and I was always the lead guitar player. As a matter of fact, the funny thing is that when I was a kid Brownsville Station, Smokin in the Boys rooms was a huge hit, it’s funny how things kind of come around.
Q Yes, so this is a good time to tell everyone that you are playing lead guitar in Brownsville Station.
A Yes, I am and I am really excited about it. It is going to be a lot of fun. I became friends with Henry and I had a band that had a couple of radio hits on a lot of top rock stations in the Midwest so they knew who I was and I knew who they were but we became very good friends. When they started up the new album for Brownsville I went and did some vocal tracks and a little bit of guitar and when they decided to put the band together to tour, I became the lead guitar player of Brownsville Station because that is what I do. I think the funny thing is when I first started on the country side of things, I took my acoustic because I became the front man guy so I took my acoustic and I just got another guitar player to take care of all that stuff and I looked at it as just kind of a role change. But then it started being boring for me and I said, you know what, I am going to strap on my electric and people didn’t realize that I could play a few things. I just never looked back from there. I’ll get another guitar player but we always share everything just to keep it interesting, you know?
A Brownsville is going out on tour so you just put your own projects on hold during that time?
Q Pretty much, with Brownsville, we are going to start in the spring and end in the fall. It’s fits perfectly because my kid show is fall to spring. My country thing is something that I have been working on for a few years to ramp it up. My song Flip Flops was played somewhat around the country and a little bit overseas. It was on the Today Show and then on the second CD, I had a little bit of airplay. I am currently working on a new record.
Q You know if people don’t know the music is there, they can’t listen to it.
A Exactly. I was reading the book by Clive Davis and he was talking about Columbia Records. It was really the dawn of rock and roll basically when he started there. It was right when the Beatles got huge. I think he started in 1963 at Columbia Records. Clive Davis was instrumental in getting writers to write shorter songs. In fact Clive Davis says in his book that he had to get Janis Joplin up to his office to tell her that she needed to take her song, “Ball and Chain,” down to 3 minutes so the AM radio stations would even touch it. He told her that would be the difference between selling 200,000 albums and 1 million and he was right because that went on to sell that many. So yeah, it’s exposure totally but that’s a very tough thing to get.
Q Yeah, it’s a tough nut to crack. So you wear many hats when it comes to your country music career, you literally wear many hats?
A Yes, I am songwriter, singer, guitar player, producer, engineer and many time promoter and booking agent. I just wish 95% of my time was in creating. I am also now producing a radio show, my kids show and Brownsville Station so Billy Craig country guy has been on the back burner. I started thinking time flies way to fast so over the last two years I have been writing a lot of material and I believe I had between 65 & 70 songs I had started and I just went into the studio and picked out my favorite ones. What I want to do with this particular record is a theme album like an old fashioned double album because there are going to be a lot of songs. It is more of a concept kind of thing. I grew up in the album rock era and that’s what I really love. If you make music with your heart and you work hard in that way, you will make a record you can be proud of presenting to the world.
Q With that being said Billy, is there a release target date for your next CD release?
A This new record is going to be a mixture of acoustic rock, country, and all the way to Big & Rich country.
Q You said you have the two country CD releases, do you have any other types of releases since you are so diversified?
A Yes, I have a CD I released that supports the, “I Love This School Tour,” that is also all originals. I just released another thing if you want to Google it, it’s Billy Craig, An Epic Tale. That is a 28 minute piece of music and it’s something that I had that has a bunch of instrumental music. At the time I was playing a lot of piano as well but I had written a bunch of music and one day I got this box in my basement full of tapes, cassettes that I have had over the last 20 years and I digitized all of that into pro-tools and it forced me to listen to a lot of this old stuff. I had always wanted to mix this stuff down and put guitars on it and I never did so I digitized it off of tape and I just strapped my guitar on and started doing guitar tracks to it. It already had everything else. The production of it is a little dated but it was still a lot of fun. It is $2.00 on iTunes. You can also hear it by going YouTube and go to my YouTube Channel, Billy Craig Music; it is a great little thing to listen to on the headphones. I like it but everybody likes their own cooking right?
Q Right and it’s called An Epic Tale?
A Yes, An Epic Tale.
Q Then of course you have the two country releases and then you have the, “I love This School?”
A Yes, the first was, “This Side of Somewhere.” My current is, “Next Exit Paradise.” I have the “I Love This School,” CD which I think I am going to start writing some new music for another one of those and then there is, “An Epic Tale.” I have boatloads of music that I have never released. You’re a song writer; you know how that stuff adds up after a while.
Q Yeah it sure does but everything we have talked about here today and listed is available on iTunes right?
A Yes. Everything is on iTunes. It is also available on my website which is www.BillyCraigMusic.com
We talked a lot more about the music business, his upcoming tour with Brownsville Station, his plans for the future regarding his country music solo career and his school tour. I want to say something about Billy Craig. Billy Craig is a really nice guy with a huge heart. He is getting ready to lay down tracks on his new CD but I really want people to check out his current release, “Next Exit Paradise.” This is an excellent CD and you will really enjoy the music on it. There is something for everyone.
If you work in the academic sector, you need to visit www.ILoveThisSchoolTour.com and get the tour booked into your school for next fall. Check him out on iTunes but if you want to buy a hard copy of the CD, do it from his website as he will sign it for you and that will get you an autographed copy. Be looking for more from me on Billy Craig as we watch his career go forward and upward in the next 12 months.