A Sit Down With Grammy Nominee, Grant Geissman
Along with fellow musicians, Kiki Ebsen, Terry Woolman, Bernie Dresel, and Steven Lawrence, one of the most exciting and prolific veteran guitarists and composers of our time, Mr. Grant Geissman delivered a virtuoso performance for “Fullertonites” and friends of the Muckenthaler Cultural Center, with the “The Muck’s” acclaimed rendition of “The Joni Mitchell Project” earlier this year.
The quiet, and rather modest Geissman leaves the “gushing” to his fans; however, BLOOZ, Geissman’s 16th album, has been nominated for a GRAMMY Award for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album, and BLOOZ is an extraordinarily stunning and beautiful collection of new and innovative bluesy and jazzy compositions. The blues itself is its own expressive dialogue and harmonic language and is unique because it crosses many musical genres. Geissman’s Blooz album is a collaboration between his Futurism label and the Mesa/Bluemoon label.
Geissman confides, “The album is called BLOOZ because it’s my take on the blues. It’s a fairly wide interpretation, and not always traditional,” He goes on to say, “It’s the album I always wanted to make.”
This is Geissman’s fourth album on his label, Futurism, and his creative take and progressive vision of the blues. Geissman’s bluesy tracks rise to the surface in a bold exploration of unparalleled melodies from Latin to gospel, to funky, to rockabilly, to a soulful shuffle, and more. “…One of the reasons I created the label was so that I could explore anything I wanted – which to me is what an artist is supposed to do,” Geissman stated. Since his early days recording and touring with the flugelhorn great Chuck Mangione, Geissman’s critically acclaimed recording, Cool Man Cool (2009) featured Mangione performing with jazz music legend, Chick Corea, on the Geissman composition, “Chuck and Chick.”
As a lifelong Beatles fan, Geissman fulfilled a dream while contributing to Ringo Starr’s Ringorama album. Geissman helped define modern instrumental music of the ‘80’s when he unveiled his album, Good Stuff, on Concord Jazz. He also co-wrote the music for all 12 seasons of the hit CBS sitcom, Two and a Half Men, where he earned an Emmy nomination. How many of you can hear Men, Men, Men, Men, and not know where it comes from?
Geissman also co-wrote the music for six seasons of TV’s Mike & Molly, the first season of B Positive, and specialty music for several other television shows as well. He has toured and recorded with Quincy Jones, Steve Tyrell, Burt Bacharach, Elvis Costello, Michael Feinstein, David Benoit, and several other well-known musicians and singers. Surprisingly, Grant’s expertise and love of the arts spans into his passion for comics, and he is the Eisner Award-nominated author of five classic books on the subject. His most recent is The History of EC Comics, an oversized coffee table book that has comic fans clamoring for copies.
Talking with Grant about music, here is what he had to say…
Fullerton Observer: When did you start playing your instrument, and what, or who, were your early passions or influences?
Grant Geissman: I was eleven when I got my first guitar, a Martin acoustic, which was under the Christmas tree in 1964. When the Beatles came out, I had badgered my parents for months and months for a guitar. I’m sure they thought I would outgrow it, but I kept bugging them, and so, under the tree that year, was a guitar! So, my early influences, like most people my age, were all the British invasion bands.
FO: What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Geissman: The first time I remember thinking that guitars were cool was seeing some kids a couple years older than me that had a surf music band, doing The Ventures tunes and stuff like that. They used to rehearse around the corner from my house, and I would run home after school to go hear them. I remember the chrome glinting off of a Fender Jaguar guitar and just thinking how great it would be to play in a band.
FO: What is your creative process like?
Geissman: For songwriting, I get a little germ of an idea and go from there. Sometimes, a tune will present itself very quickly, and other times, I have to keep messing with it until it sounds good to me. And, occasionally, I have actually dreamed fairly big chunks of songs. One, in particular, is a tune called, “Did I Save?” which got a substantial amount of airplay. I dreamed the whole first section of the tune, melody, and chords, and I forced myself awake and wrote it down. Then, I immediately wrote the bridge to it – without a guitar – just writing it down on the same scrap of paper I grabbed to write down the first part. The subconscious mind is an amazing thing.
FO: You are an incredibly talented musician, composer, and author. What are you most proud of?
Geissman: You flatter me! But truthfully, I am proud of all of it. The old saying is that “you should always strive to make your younger self jealous,” and I think the young me would be quite amazed at some of the things I’ve been able to do in my career.
FO: How do you juggle so many creative outlooks?
Geissman: Deadlines are always helpful to get the juices flowing, but another old saying is that “slow and steady wins the race,” so I guess that’s the answers. Just keep plugging away, and it all seems to work out.
FO: What is the best piece of advice another musician or mentor has given you?
Geissman: No one actually gave me this advice, but I think just trying to stay positive and helpful no matter what situation you’re in goes a long way. This isn’t always easy to do, depending on the situation, but try to do it anyway. I would give this advice to my younger self as well. I could have used that back then!
FO: If you weren’t a musician, composer, and author, what would you be doing instead?
Geissman: I have no idea since those are the things I’m the best at doing!
FO: If you can have your fans remember only one thing about you, what would it be?
Geissman: He did some cool stuff.
FO: You have worked with some of the most well-known musical artists of our time. Who would you most like to collaborate with (that you haven’t already), and why?
Geissman: How could I make such a list? On my latest album, BLOOZ, I got to collaborate with so many great people including Randy Brecker, Tom Scott, Robben Ford, Joe Bonamassa, Josh Smith, and John Jorgenson, It’s a special gift to have people like that help to play my music, so hopefully, there will be more such “gifts’ to come in the future.
FO: What’s next for you?
Geissman: My BLOOZ album just got a Grammy nomination in the category of Best Contemporary Instrumental Album, my first every Grammy nomination. I couldn’t be more thrilled about this! And, we did an album release concert at the beautiful El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood, with Tom Scott as our featured guest, which we shot and recorded. So, we’ll be working on assembling that and sharing some video clips from that show. After that, hopefully getting to play the BLOOZ live for more people.
Thank you, Grant, and we will be looking forward to hearing the blues, in Grant Geissman’s The BLOOZ style, that’s for sure.