Artist Profiles: Donnie Fritts and Grant Mitchell

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Donnie Fritts
SOUTHERN KEYBOARD SOUL

Keyboardist and songwriter Donnie Fritts made a name for himself on the legendary Muscle Shoals, Alabama, music scene. He’s played keyboards with Kris Kristofferson, written songs covered by Ray Charles and Dusty Springfield, and acted in more than 15 movies. Fritts’ new album Oh My Goodness is out now and features appearances by Jason Isbell, John Prine, and Brittany Howard of the Alabama Shakes. Find out more at funkydonniefritts.com.

HOMETOWN: Florence, Alabama

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MUSICAL INFLUENCES: My Daddy, who was a great guitar and bass player. Then of course, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bobby “Blue” Bland, and other people like that.

MY BIG BREAK: Joining Kris Kristofferson’s band in 1970. By August of that year, we played the Isle of Wight festival off the coast of England. And by Christmas we were playing at Carnegie Hall!

LATEST ALBUM: Oh My Goodness, produced by John Paul White and Ben Tanner, out this month on Single Lock Records.

FAVORITE KEYBOARD GEAR: A Wurlitzer 200A electric piano.

ADVICE TO OTHER MUSICIANS: Never stop, never let anyone talk you out of your dreams, and if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen. Oh, and practice!

Grant Mitchell
THE PIANIST/PRODUCER

British pianist, songwriter, and producer Grant Mitchell has worked with some of the world’s best-known artists like Seal, Eric Clapton, and Julia Fordham. He most recently appeared on the multimillion-selling debut album by singer/songwriter Emili Sandé.

MUSICAL INFLUENCES: Oscar Peterson, Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan, Michael McDonald, Earth,Wind & Fire, plus arrangers like Jeremy Lubbock and Nelson Riddle, Quincy Jones, André Crouch, Rachmaninoff, Ravel, J.S. Bach, and all kinds of music from the 1970s.

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MY BIG BREAK: Producing and arranging the first Julia Fordham album in the late 1980s, which gave me the opportunity of working with the some of the world’s greatest musicians. Also, collaborating with producer Trevor Horn for several years. Those experiences taught me a huge amount about making records, like the psychology of interacting with artists and performers, how to extract the best from them, the discipline, diligence and attention to detail that’s required, and that the first “take” nearly always contains the magic and the spontaneity that connects with people.

LATEST WORK: Our Version of Events by Emili Sandé and The Language of Love by Julia Fordham.

FAVORITE KEYBOARD GEAR: At the moment as a piano player, it’s the Kawai VPC1 controller paired with Ivory’s American Concert Grand. It’s as close to a real piano as I think you can get without needing a truck and six guys, although it’s still pretty weighty!

ADVICE TO OTHER MUSICIANS: Absorb and learn from the musicians and artists that inspire you; it will help you to create your own unique identity, approach, and sound. Listen to what others are doing when you play. Don’t ever underestimate the value of learning all of the wonderful reharmonization and voicing options that are available to you. Never give up (there will be times when you will want to), and finally, the ninth is one of the most useful tools in a piano player’s arsenal!