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Philip Sayce

Philip Sayce


'Influence' is an apt title for an album from arguably the most underheralded guitar hero on the circuit. Philip Sayce, the Welsh born axe hero, came of age in Toronto, Canada during the 90's and was weaned on such guitar heroes as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Healey and Mark Knopfler. "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," Sayce recalls. "It was that musicianship, which 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."

Hence, the title 'Influence.' Sayce knocks it out of the park with an array of visceral covers and inspired originals. The blues guitar whiz is wise enough to realize that it doesn't matter if you're an interpreter or a writer, it's about delivering a song that's going to sear the listener's brain. "You want to make some sort of emotional connection," Sayce says. The charismatic Sayce is a throwback. That's evident after a spin of 'Influence.'

The leadoff track, 'Tom Devil,' is a psychedelic stunner, which proves that Sayce is a master of the six string. "That song is about paying tribute to often forgotten roots of where modern Western music originates," Sayce says. "My intention is to move away from 'flavor of the month' and to reconnect with spirit."

Part of what makes Sayce's sonic approach work so well is his disregard of trends. He goes with what moves him. 'Out Of My Mind' is a mighty tip of the cap to the man, who changed modern blues guitar, Jimi Hendrix. "I couldn't help but do an homage to the master, "Sayce says. "My take on this one was just to go all out and have fun. Hendrix really moved me at an early age."

Sayce proves to be unpredictable. He surprises with 'Fade Into You,' a changeup of sorts, which is a moody, moving piece, which showcases his guitar brilliance. Sayce hits the bullseye with 'Fade Into You,' because like most great art, it's inspired by real experience. "This song is definitely one of the heaviest songs, if not the heaviest song on the album," Sayce says. "It comes from a very hurt, sad, dark place. It's about being screwed over in the music business."

So many seminal artists have been on the short end of the stick in the mercurial industry, particularly blues greats. Buddy Guy didn't break until he was 30-­‐years into playing the game. But Sayce, who is still so young and vital, kept plugging along and has bounced back with a sonic masterpiece, which features blazing guitar licks and unbridled joy, particularly when he renders covers, such as the Little Richard gem, 'Green Power.' It's a relatively obscure R&B cut, which is a tight tune that builds and builds that the legendary vocalist-­‐pianist crafted during the early '70s.

"There's no better rock and roll singer than Little Richard," Sayce says. "I just wanted to have fun with 'Green Power' and do it justice. It's a song everyone should know. During the recording I was staying at a hotel in Nashville that Little Richard spends a lot of time in. I was in the lobby one day and I saw him and he figured out that I'm in the same industry as him, he acknowledged me and that was cool. It was no small feat to try doing a Little Richard song. It's pretty much a live take. It happened so quickly. (Producer) Dave (Cobb) said 'that's a take' after the second try. It just worked out immediately."

Sayce and Cobb certainly know how to pick songs. They unearth Graham Nash's long forgotten 'Better Days,' which is the gorgeous centerpiece and perhaps defining 'Influence' track. "Better Days' is such a beautiful composition," Sayce says. "That song is so underground and it connected with the head space I was in. To me, it's about how this business takes a toll on your psyche. It's an unbelievably heavy song."

But 'Better Days' is also about perseverance and dogged determination, which Sayce possesses in spades. Influence' might have been inspired in part by the endless dues paying he has suffered through but the moving, well- ‐constructed album is the sensitive recording artist's ticket to the next level. "I just want to make the best music that I can," Sayce says. "I'm inspired by great music, whether that's by Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Frank Sinatra, Donny Hathaway or Pharrell (Williams).'

Sayce has won the approval of a number of acclaimed artists. He recorded and toured with the late Jeff Healey and Melissa Etheridge. "She is a tremendous musician and just a great person," Sayce said. "It was a wonderful experience with her. Jeff was just off the charts. He would simply put people in a trance when he performed. It was otherworldly."

And then there was Sayce's unforgettable performance at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Festival at Madison Square Garden last year. "It was amazing," Sayce says. "In some ways I went full circle since my parents played Clapton and Dire Straits when I was growing up. I heard nothing but the best then and that's what I'm trying to do today. I'm going out there in the studio and onstage to do my best."

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