Billy Crain (Henry Paul Band, Outlaws)

Billy Crain

Introduction by Rich Harper

Anyone who has a love of Southern Rock will surely know the name Crain, as it has long been synonymous with the genre.

Billy Crain has been a stalwart of the southern scene for many decades, as was his elder brother Tommy, who played for many years with the Charlie Daniels Band. Sadly Tommy passed away in 2011.

Billy is a guitarist and songwriter par excellence who first came to real prominence when Henry Paul split from the Outlaws in 1977 to form the Henry Paul Band, and Billy got the call to join. The band’s first album Grey Ghost is classic southern rock with a country feel and Billy’s work is arguably best seen on the epic title track, written in memory of the late Ronnie Van Zandt.

Billy then spent a few years with the Bellamy Brothers before leaving to pursue a successful songwriting career.

With the sad passing of the Outlaws founder Hughie Thomasson, Billy was asked to join the band and has toured extensively with the current line-up as well as recording and co-writing the band’s first studio album for nearly 20 years It’s About Pride.

You might think that would keep him busy enough, but in between his time with the Outlaws, Billy has written two albums where he played all the instruments on all the songs. Both albums, Skeletons in the Closet and Creole Shoes, are highly recommended and every song tells a story.

Like many of his contemporaries in the music business, Billy has battled against drugs and alcohol. Billy Crain in HaitiHe told me he felt there was something missing from his life and he turned to Jesus to fill that void. His faith is a huge part of his life now, and he has recently been doing missionary work after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Much of the proceeds of Creole Shoes are being donated to the Chadasha Foundation, who hosted Billy during his time in Haiti.

THE WORDS AND MUSIC Q&A …

So Billy, what does rock music mean to you?
A way to use my God-given talent.

Who was the first artist to make an impression on you?
The Kingston Trio. I just loved their folky sound and the things that they sung about.

An album, song or lyric that means a lot to you?
‘Imagine’ by John Lennon.

An artist who has stayed with you over time?
The Allman Brothers Band. There was something about the twin guitars that was so exciting, that my brother TC and I could relate to.

How do you view what you do as an artist?
Play what I believe in and stand up for.

Billy Crain - magazine coverHow is your music most often labelled? And do you think labels are helpful or limiting?
A friend calls it ‘modern classic rock’. Labels are helpful if you are a young up and coming artist but for someone who is 58 like me, they are not so helpful.

From the outside there’s a strong family feel to ‘Southern Rock’ that has always seemed to me a great strength. Would you say that’s a fair perception?
Yes, very much so.

Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll – jaded stereotype or the meaning of life?
Jaded stereotype.

Rock music – the spawn of the devil or a force for good?
Both! It can be used to touch a lot of people’s lives. The problem is when you turn music into idol worship, then it becomes wrong.

Does the devil really have all the good songs? Billy Crain on stage
Absolutely not!

Rock music – music for all or a tribal affair?
For all…

Dylan or Morrison?
Dylan, he made you think about the times whereas Morrison was a rock star.

What do you say to a ‘rock star’ after you say hello?
Nice to meet you…

Your best encounter with an artist as a fan?
Hanging out with Gregg Allman. It was just really cool hanging out with one of my peers growing up.

Your strangest encounter with a fan as an artist?
Selling the t-shirt off my back in South Africa! I spent 22 hours flying from San Francisco to Johannesburg and got pretty tanked. I went to the casino when I got there and lost all my money and literally sold the shirt off my back!

What makes a rock gig special?
The camaraderie and energy of the show.

Your most notable gig as an artist?
The Spectrum in Philadelphia with the Allman Brothers . I just remember the Henry Paul Band being really great and the crowd going absolutely wild that night!

Your most memorable gig as a fan?
The Allman Brothers Band in 1971 in a little club called the Place in Miami, Fla.  It was a tiny little club and we were right up front by Duane Allman.

Is there a particular piece of music, or album or performance for which you would most like to be remembered?
The solo on ‘Grey Ghost’.

What would you say to people who say that rock or the rock era is dead?
I’m still alive and kicking and have a bank account!

And finally, what are you up to at the moment?
Promoting my new CD Creole Shoes and getting ready to start writing for BCIII. Also come check out my website billycrain.com.

Billy Crain's latest album Creole Shoes

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