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Gary Cain Interview!

Gary Cain has a new album coming soon and we had some time to catch up with him and talk about all things musical in his life!

Who are your musical influences?

My very first musical influence was probably my Mom, who started teaching me piano when I was around 3 years old. She also had a cheap classical nylon-string guitar that sat in the corner and I picked it up around the same time and started monkeying around with it.  When I was quite young my parents took me to a Roger Whittaker concert.  It was just him with his acoustic guitar on stage.  We were in the fifth row and it was really mind-blowing for me as a little kid  So that was probably the first time I clued in to the magic of live music.

My first inspiration on the guitar was Angus Young.  I used to listen to the If You Want Blood live album cranked in headphones every day while I walked to elementary school. Was a bit of a challenge pulling off some of those solos on a nylon-string acoustic so eventually I got my first electric. I had many phases where I would just obsess over a particular player. After Angus there was Metallica, Joe Satriani, Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jeff Healey, Albert King, Chris Duarte, Eric Gales. Danny Gatton, Scott Henderson. Some other players that really inspired me along the way would be B.B. King, Albert Collins, Doyle Bramhall II, Greg Koch, Robert Randolph, Philip Sayce, Charlie Hunter, Allan Holdsworth, Wayne Krantz, and Mike Stern. I also draw inspiration from non-guitarists too, like Buddy Emmons, Oscar Peterson, Michael Brecker, the Temptations, Bill Holloman, Joey DeFrancesco, and Nate Smith. There are so many great musicians and something to learn from everyone.

What album has had the greatest impact on your life as a musician?

I think there would maybe be a three-way tie!  First has got to be If You Want Blood Live by AC/DC because it just got me absolutely hooked on guitar.  After that might be Texas Flood by SRV as it got me into blues, and sent me down the deep rabbit hole of all the greats that influenced him. And third might have to be Chris Duarte’s Texas Sugar Strat Magik.  I think the thing with that album is to that point I was really working on learning what other players were doing and trying to do that myself - learning as many of their licks as I could.  Hearing what Chris did with the whole Texas blues thing that had gotten so over-saturated and stale with so many just imitating Stevie, man that really turned a light on for me and kind of set me off on my own path.  He wore his influences on his sleeve but was also such an original.  After that I still worked hard to learn from other players, but I concentrated on how I could take what I learned from them and apply it to my own voice and style.  

Is there a particular song that has resonated with you for a long time?

I’ve always loved the song “I WIsh It Would Rain” by the Temptations.  It’s just a perfect song - like an R&B and soul masterclass.  

Tell me about your favorite performance in your career.

Oh man there have been a lot of really memorable ones.  Probably one of the best was opening for George Thorogood at Massey Hall in Toronto.  That venue is just so iconic and the crowd reaction was overwhelming.  Also everyone from top to bottom on the Thorogood crew was so gracious to us. We had an absolute blast.  I also really loved playing in the UK touring with my last album.

Tell us about your new album!

I’m releasing my third album, “Outside The Lines” on May 3.  I’m really proud of it. Originally I intended to make an EP but once I got going the songs just kind of kept on coming. I've been told by more than a few industry folks that I’d have more commercial success if I’d stick to a more narrowly defined genre, but for me, music is about expressing myself authentically, not cutting off my corners to fit in someone else’s box. So that’s where the album name came from. I’m going to continue to make the kind of music I want to, regardless of where other people might draw their lines. There are elements of blues, rock, funk, fusion, and R&B.

It was a really tough year for me with the loss of my Dad, and being so far away from my family back in Canada for a significant part of that time. Making this album was kind of something I could lose myself in both in the songwriting and performance. 

How does your latest album differ from any of your others in the past?

I think my playing and songwriting has evolved and hopefully gotten better! I feel like I’ve got a much wider palette harmonically, rhythmically, and tonally to work with now, just more freedom.  I sang my first ballad on this album, which was a bit daunting being a real stripped down track, but I’m glad I took a risk, and it’s my wife’s favorite track on the album, so that’s always important!  I also mixed this album myself, which I haven’t done for the first two, something I really enjoyed and am happy with how it turned out. I went for some different tones - I used the Fractal FM9 for this album and really love creating with it. 

How are you continuing to grow musically?

I practice a LOT - I spend a ton of time with a guitar in my hands.  I’m always trying to expand my knowledge of music and improve my technique, and especially my timing.  I think once you discover and accept that there is always more to learn, the easier it is to continue on that journey knowing there is never a destination to arrive at.  I try to expose myself to great music, in all genres.  I also try to stay connected to my original inspiration for starting out playing music, that cathartic joy of expression that is hard to put into words.  There’s so much to do around the music with promotion, booking, and the business side of it that if you’re not careful you can lose sight of the reason why you’re doing it all.

If you could play anywhere or with anyone in the world, where or with who would it be?

I would really love to tour Western Canada, I haven’t had a chance to yet, and I get people out there asking me all the time when I’m coming. I’m really looking forward to an opportunity to get back to the UK as well. As far as players, I’d love to jam with Nate Smith. He’s just such a groovy drummer and I jam over his Pocket Change albums all the time.

If you could change anything about the music industry today, what would it be?

Well it would sure be nice to be able to make some money from the recorded music, so getting paid something reasonable for streams would be nice.


What are your biggest obstacles as a musician?

Probably my biggest obstacle is resisting becoming cynical about it.  It is just so hard to get noticed in the over-saturated world of social media, which seems to be the place you’ve gotta focus.  Whatever mechanisms are at play, it seems pretty clear that superficial things outside of the actual music tend to move the needle far more than the music itself.   There are people who literally can barely play guitar getting endorsement deals with major guitar brands, because they dress sexy and have a ton of instagram followers.  If that’s what they want to do to sell their product, hey, more power to them, but stop calling your latest sequin-clad hobbyist the next Jimi Hendrix.  Seeing feature articles in major publications about people who just clearly have not put in the work musically is pretty frustrating.  But in the end, all you can do is continue to put in the work, and the chips will fall where they may.

What do you think the best aspects of the music business are?

You know, as frustrating as it can be, there are a lot of great people - fellow musicians, radio deejays, promoters, and of course fans.  As an example, when we toured the UK we had a lovely couple put us up at their place for three nights, fed us, and were just generally super nice. Making genuine connections with people through music makes a lot of the other nonsense worth it.

What strengths do you have that you believe make you the musician you are?

I tend to have a lot of ideas that come pretty fast, so as long as I can get out of my own way and let it happen, I think that makes my phrasing somewhat unique.  I also work very hard at getting better, and practice a ton.  I am obsessed! 

Do you have any weaknesses that you're actively working to improve on?

Of course.  If you can’t identify anything you need to work on, you will not improve. I’m always working on my time, feel, polymeters, bends, vibrato, harmonic vocabulary, left hand fluidity, right-hand picking, hybrid and economy. So basically everything!  Also I’m working hard on singing, which I hope gets a little better with each album.  I’ve talked to players who I look at as some of the best in the world, and they all still find things they’re unsatisfied with their playing, so I’ve accepted that you never really ‘get there’ and it’s always going to be a journey, so just keep moving forward.

Describe your favorite and least favorite part about being a musician.

By far my favorite thing is playing live shows when the band is cooking and the crowd is feeling it.  There’s nothing better, and that can be at a small club, or a big festival stage, it’s just the best.  My least favorite part is all the logistical wrangling it takes to book gigs and tours etc.  Oh, and dealing with nasty border agents!

If you had to choose one... live performance or studio work, which do you prefer and why? 

There’s nothing like a good live gig, so I’d take that, but I do really love the studio stuff as well, it’s just a different thing. 

What do you think about online music sharing?

Like so many of the technological tools available, it’s a double-edged sword.  On one hand, you can get your music out to so many people so easily, but on the other hand, so can everyone else, so getting people’s attention is a real battle. And of course it’s led to physical music sales dropping off a cliff.

Describe your creative process when you write new music.

I have musical ideas and lyrics come to me all the time, so I will often just record them into my phone.  A ton of songs have started as me singing with traffic noise in the background because I’m stopped at a red light.  When it’s time to sit down and get the songs together, I’ll often just listen back to all my ideas and see which ones are worth fleshing out, and I’ll start recording, adding drums, figuring out the structure of the song. A lot of ideas come from practicing too, you discover a lot, often through your mistakes!

Give us some advice for new musicians just starting out in the industry.

Never pay to play, always be cool to the venue staff, take care of your band, don’t leave your gear in the van, and never take other people’s opinions of you too seriously, either good or bad.

What is your favorite piece of gear and why?

Well aside from my guitar, I’d say my Fractal FM9 - I’ve been using Fractal stuff for years, and have always loved it, but the FM9 is just on a whole other level now. Having that many tonal options available is such a great asset creatively, and it sounds amazing.

How do you prepare for your performances and recording work?

I like to have a Red Bull before I go on stage, and warm up my hands for about 15 minutes.  Then it’s flame on!

What does your practice routine consist of?

Oh man, that would take a while.  I think the most important thing is to really be able to identify what the roadblocks are in your playing and technique, and create exercises that focus on them. That’ll be different for every player. I think for most guitar players, they will get the most bang for their practice buck by working on their time.  A metronome is one of the most important pieces of gear you can have.

What do you like most about your new album?

While there is a ton of guitar on the album, I don’t think it’s at the expense of the songs - the solos all say something.  Sometimes they say it fast and loud!  The songwriting is really personal.  I think it’s a pretty good snapshot of where I’m at both personally and artistically.  I had to kind of make a choice with this album whether I was going to try and fit myself inside the more traditional blues box as so many people have told me I should do, or continue to go my own way. I’d rather risk failing on my own terms than do something that isn’t authentic artistically, so I chose the latter.  If you’re a blues fan and are open-minded, I think you’ll dig this record.

What is the best way to stay updated on current news; gigs, releases, etc.

I put all my dates on my website at, where you can also join my mailing list, and I often post videos and news on my Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube.

Are there any artists outside of your genre that have not had much influence on your music that you enjoy?

Everything I listen to influences me, but outside what would typically be thought of as my genre I listen to all kinds of stuff, including Pantera, Miley Cyrus, Dua Lipa, Lettuce, Bahamas, Sturgill Simpson, ABBA, Oscar Peterson, The Tragically Hip, Charlie Hunter, Big Wreck, Tower Of Power, The Temptations.  If it’s good, I like it!


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