M897 Artist Spotlight: August 2015
Cross-country GM blues road trip
Story by LCC Radio Staff Reporter Sarah Spohn
fourteen years old, Greg Nagy was listening to RUSH albums in his Flint family
home. At nineteen, he heard Albert King for the first time. “Instant goose
bumps,” he recalls of the Mississippi blues guitarist and singer.
Born and raised in the home of General Motors, Nagy has seen plenty of highs and lows in a town built on the automobile industry. While it’s often viewed as a place that’s run out of gas, broke down on the side of the road, for others, Flint still sparks creativity to keep the wheels turning.
“Flint truly does have some very good people,” Nagy said. “Adversity either crushes or inspires. There is certainly inspiration to be found here. But of course, there is much in the way of sadness too. There’s realness, a depth that comes from industrial communities.”
Nagy is proud of his hometown, the same home for the vibrant local music scene that Grand Funk Railroad came out of.
Starting off with the guitar, Nagy’s whole family was familiar with music. Some of his earliest influences were Muddy Waters, BB King, Freddie King and Albert King.
“My sisters both sing very well and I am convinced that my father would sing circles around me if he had vocationally gone that route,” Nagy said. “Music was always playing in my household.”
That led to his very first band, The Blues Contortion(ists).
“We weren’t that good, but we had big fun,” Nagy said. “Great bunch of guys. I had fronted my own band in the ‘90s under different names too.”
After joining the well-loved Mitten blues outfit, Root Doctor, in 2005, Nagy’s heavy soul-infused sounds soon became filling the bars, clubs, venues and streets of Michigan nearly seven nights a week.
Nagy recalls how it all began.
“Jim Alfredson invited me on board after hearing some of my original music and ideas,” he said. “We made three records together. I have nothing but big love for those guys.”
In 2008, Nagy went on to record his first solo record, with many of the Root Doctor members appearing in the liner notes. The roots blues album combined a classic set of genuine lyrics as well as gospel and R&B undertones.
While some group artists remain timid about going solo, the reception for Nagy’s debut album was very positive.
Walk That Fine Thin Line earned him a prestigious Best New Artist debut nomination from the Blues Foundation in Memphis.
While Alfredson and Nagy both left Root Doctor to pursue new projects, their creative partnership continues to grow.
“Jim and I co-own Big O Records,” he said. “He and I are writing partners too. It has been a wonderfully prolific relationship. Root Doctor used to call the two of us the Brain Trust … well, when they weren’t calling us a pain the butt,” Nagy laughs. “At any rate, collaboration can be a great way to grow.”
So grows the list of concert dates and radio stations playing his music.
His sophomore release, Fell Toward None hit number 3 on XM, and Rollingstone.com called it one of the best releases of 2011. And it wasn’t made without the help of some iconic musicians in their own right- Bob Seger’s “Motor City Horns,” Kid Rock’s Glenn Brown as the engineer, and Jim Alfredson from Root Doctor.
Number three is great, but it’s still not good enough, and Nagy has set out once again, with his best work to date- Stranded.
Inspired by heartbreak and a huge lifestyle change, Nagy released his third studio album and the reactions to it are anything but blue.
“My new album Stranded is my best work to date I do believe,” Nagy said. “It is spinning (at) nearly 400 stations.”
Having received four stars from DownBeat, All About Jazz, and Soul Bag, Stranded is available on Amazon, iTunes and gregnagy.com
This Flint family man has toured all across the country- Canada, Florida, California, New York, Pennsylvania and more, but Nagy says there’s still more to be done.
“The list is long but not as long as others, raising kids and other life stuff has kept me generally closer to home so far,” Nagy said, hinting at a European tour also.
Whether it is performing at BB King’s in Memphis, rocking out with Bob Seger’s horn section, opening up for Macy Gray, or touring with John Lee Hooker’s bassist, Nagy is always ready for a good old fashioned true-blue jam session.
“It’s tough, but the love of the music keeps people going strong,” he said.