M897 Artist Spotlight: May 2014
THE RUSTY WRIGHT BAND
The Rusty Wright Band is Southern Soul and Motor City Angst
Flint-area blues act is skilled in several genres
Story by LCC Radio Staff Reporter Karen Hopper
Here’s a new one: the frontman of one of Michigan’s most successful blues bands got his start in gospel … and metal. Rusty Wright learned the music business by his mother’s side as she toured with southern gospel quartet, The Temples. His first experience playing professionally came when he was just thirteen and playing in his mom’s group’s back-up band. Just three years later, he’d start earning money as a studio musician. Alliance Recording Studios eventually hired him as a staff musician, and that was just the beginning.
By the time metal started making its mark on rock and roll, Wright found another income stream as a hardcore metal rock guitarist in the late 80s and early 90s. There were parts of metal music that suited the Rusty Wright sound, and he attributes his “aggressive” guitar-playing to a Detroit influence, but metal wasn’t ever his true artistic calling.
He used to tell Tommy Stewart (Godsmack, Fuel) that all he really wanted to do was leave rock and play blues until he died. Stewart would laugh and say that if Wright ever did that, Stewart would play drums.
Then in 2006, that’s exactly what Rusty Wright did. Three studio albums and one live album later, Wright jokes, “Overnight success usually takes ten years.” His blues career has taken him to Italy, Japan, Korea, Virgin Islands. Now, he’s in the studio again, working with his wife, Laurie LaCross-Wright, (rhythm guitar & vocals; sometimes lead vocals), Dennis Bellinger (bass, formerly of Grand Funk Railroad, and an old friend from Wright’s studio days), Robert Manzitti (keyboards & vocals), and Marc Friedman (drums) on the Rusty Wright Band’s fourth studio album. It’s due out this fall, and their schedule grows hectic.
Tentatively titled “Wonder Man” after a likely single, two big jobs remain before its release. First, they’ll have to finish the album (for this article, we spoke between studio sessions), and then they’ll have to “plow the field.” That means a summer full of touring.
Starting on the 29th of this month, the Rusty Wright Band will be visiting Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Tennessee, and Florida. They’ll be home in Michigan for the Fourth of July and the end of July and early August. There’ll also be stops in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and New York. After the album is released, the band is hoping for a European tour as well.
Wright says the new album will be southern and swampy, and that’s a testament to the other part of his heritage. He was born and raised in Michigan, but that’s because his dad moved north in order to get a factory job. Before that, his family was all in Alabama, and Wright’s still got close ties there. He spent summers with family in Alabama, and that’s where he got his blues education.
“I’ve got southern soul with Motor City angst,” says Wright.
So don’t be surprised if you put on a Rusty Wright Band CD, expecting standard-issue blues, and instead get in-your-face guitar riffs and a synthesizer.