Spirit Rising Philip Sayce
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- 1Warning Shot00:50
- 2Fits Me Good02:51
- 3Black Roller Coming02:49
- 4She's the Music03:20
- 7Give Me Time03:17
- 8Oh My03:16
- 9Burning Out03:28
- 10One Foot on the Gravel03:55
- 11Awful Dreams06:01
Info for Spirit Rising
Reports of rock and roll’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, and Philip Sayce aims to keep it that way. On his new album Spirit Rising, Sayce boldly lets his freak flag fly, reaffirming his status as one of the best electric guitarists on the planet right now, but also demonstrating that he’s got a lot to say.
Those ideas have been building for a while now, as Spirit Rising marks Sayce’s first studio effort since 2015’s Influence, an album that found he and famed producer Dave Cobb brilliantly refurbishing a wide range of obscure rock nuggets. With Influence bringing Sayce to the attention of many new listeners, Spirit Rising shows the full breadth of his talents, and how much they have evolved.
“Given some of the things that were happening in my life, which ended up inspiring many of the songs, I needed to take charge of this record. I knew from the beginning how I wanted it to sound, and if I ever got stuck, there were lots of people I could ask for advice.”
Fans who want to hear Sayce’s blazing fretwork will certainly find a ton of it on Spirit Rising. That aspect of Sayce’s musical identity is, after all, how he built his reputation starting in his adopted hometown of Toronto, where the legendary Jeff Healey took him under his wing in the late 1990s. After touring the world as a member of Healey’s band, Sayce relocated to Los Angeles where he landed a four-year gig with Melissa Etheridge before officially launching an independent solo career in 2009 with the album Peace Machine. Sayce’s subsequent albums firmly established a rabid fan base in Europe, where he toured with the likes of ZZ Top and Deep Purple. All of this eventually got the attention of Warner Music Canada in 2015, leading to the release of Influence.
In some ways, then, Spirit Rising lives up to its title in terms of embracing new beginnings, and knowing this, it was important for Sayce to start the process by returning to his roots in their rawest form. “The initial approach in the studio wasn’t dissimilar from how I made Peace Machine,” Sayce explains. “For at least half of the songs on Spirit Rising I set up my amplifiers in the live room with drummer Michael Leasure, so there was lots of bleed in the mics, very live sounding. We approached playing the songs and grooves just like we do live, and shaped what was working from there.”
What was different this time was the support and feedback Sayce received throughout the process, as well as opportunities to collaborate with other songwriters such as Richard Marx, the L.A. writing team/band Distant Cousins, and Toronto’s Gavin Brown and Maia Davies. Their contributions fit seamlessly alongside Michael Nielsen-produced covers of two of Sayce’s blues heroes, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Magic Sam, along with a song by his mentor Jeff Healey. In fact, the overall variety of material on Spirit Rising reflects Sayce’s determination not to be pigeonholed, with tracks like the soulful “Give Me Time” and “Once” balancing speaker-shredding jams like “She’s The Music” and “Wild.”
“To me, rock, blues, jazz and hip-hop all come from the same family tree,” Sayce says. “So I most often describe my sound as roots music because it contains influences from all of those elements. At the same time I want to take my sound in new directions that reflect who I am, where I am, and where I’m heading next. That was the most exciting part about making Spirit Rising. Getting to experiment with so many people from different creative backgrounds was a real thrill, and a privilege.”
The foundation of it all is Sayce’s guitar playing, and unlike some doomsayers bemoaning the diminished role of lead guitar in mainstream rock, he believes a return to that former glory is imminent due in large part to YouTube and other digital media. “There is a sea of young players coming up right now who have unlimited access to learn techniques that took people of my generation years of searching and trial and error to figure out,” Sayce says.
“I think it all depends on where you look. We’re just at the tip of the iceberg with people like Rival Sons, Gary Clark Jr. and Greta Van Fleet now getting mainstream attention, and when you go to their shows, they are always packed. I feel like it’s a really great time to be making rock and roots music, and my hope is that this new album will appeal to those fans, both old and new.”
It’s often been said that it takes many years to become an overnight sensation, and in many respects that’s the trajectory Philip Sayce has been on. Listening to Spirit Rising, the experience he has accumulated thus far is undeniable. Yet, there is also an unmistakable drive to break new ground. With artists like Philip Sayce, the future of rock and roll is in safe hands.
“One of rock’s best-kept secrets.” (London Daily Star, UK)
"Spirt Rising closes with the uplifting “Spirit” and a beautiful instrumental “5:55,” which would be great to see expanded in the live set. Sayce has overcome many challenges and obstacles in recent years, which has inspired Spirit Rising. Well worth the wait, Spirit Rising is right up there with Sayce’s best work featuring blistering guitar and great songs from start to finish." (Pete Francis, bluesrockreview.com)
Philip Sayce, guitar, vocals
Born in Wales and raised in Toronto, Canada, Philip Sayce’s love of the guitar started at an early age when his parents introduced him to all of the classics, notably, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jeff Beck. “I have such distinct memories listening to these incredible musicians,” Sayce says. “Their music had a huge effect on me.”
His first live music experience was an Eric Clapton gig at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens. “This groovy version of ‘Crossroads’ had such an impact on me,” he recalls. “It was that musicianship that laid the foundation for me. What Clapton did was very different from what many younger artists do today. It was about spilling your heart out.”
With that inspiration ingrained, Philip asked his parents for a guitar, which became his constant companion. “It was this acoustic guitar from Sears with strings about four feet off the fret board,” he laughs. “I broke every CD player, DVD player, and tape player in the house pushing pause and rewind trying to figure out how to play.”
From the age of sixteen, Philip started showing up and playing at blues jam nights at Grossman’s Tavern in downtown Toronto. It wasn’t long before he was winning over admirers, including the legendary guitarist Jeff Healey, who invited Philip to join his band. Over the next few years, Philip had his first international tour experience with Healey, playing prestigious festivals and stages worldwide. “I learned so much from Jeff. His playing was off the charts. He would simply put people in a trance when he performed. It was otherworldly.”
After a move to Los Angeles, Philip was invited to join Melissa Etheridge’s band following an introduction by producer John Shanks. For the next several years, Philip performed on Melissa Etheridge’s albums and was featured during her live concerts where his cosmic performances left audiences stunned. On one such occasion, Melissa and her band were honoring Bon Jovi at a Grammy Awards event. Following the performance, Jon Bon Jovi told the audience “I want to give a special nod to Philip, who I immediately opened the program and said ‘Who the fuck is that guitar player?’ Pretty fabulous Philip.”
In 2009, Philip released Peace Machine, the first of three solo albums that established him as one of the leading lights in a new generation of blues-rock guitarists. With each subsequent release (Ruby Electric and Steamroller) his reputation continued to grow. With the European release of his fourth solo album, Influence, in the summer of 2014, Philip received some of the best reviews of his career. Produced by Dave Cobb, Influence features songs by artists that have inspired Philip over the years, as well as several original compositions. In January 2015, Philip signed with Warner Music Canada. Two new recordings, produced by Michael Nielsen at Revolution Studios in Toronto, are included on the Canadian version of Influence.
This album contains no booklet.