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Saturday, May 12, 2018

Exclusive Interview: Great White's Terry Ilous at M3 Rockfest

(Matt Downing Photography)

My first introduction to Terry Ilous was way back in 1980-something when XYZ (the band he and Pat Fontaine co-founded in 1986) was in heavy rotation on MTV's Headbanger's Ball. Their eponymous debut was always with me, living at the bottom of my school bag beside the likes of Whitesnake, Def Leppard, and Ratt. Why? Because they were often underrated but always worthy of that spot right beside the other classics of that era. 

Neil Zlozower  - (XYZ photo)

Flash forward thirty years and Ilous is still deeply entrenched in the rock world, fronting Great White for the better part of the last decade. His voice, with its power and gentle nuances, sounds better than it ever has. If you're fortunate enough to see him perform live then you'll realize that he has to feel each and every song wash over his body before he even sings a single note. While the rock world is fantastic, Ilous needs to keep growing as an artist, so last year he released Gypsy Dreams, a flamenco record that puts a new spin on some classic 80's songs. It's an absolutely gorgeous collection that shows off his range, in the gentlest of ways. 

Knowing all of this, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to spend a few minutes with Ilous at the tenth-anniversary M3 Rockfest and what unfolded felt like a very connected conversation. Just as I feel his music on a pretty deep level, I felt his energy before we even sat down. 

(Mick McDonald - NRR Magazine) 

 Cate Meighan: That was a great performance! How are you doing? 

Terry Ilous: I'm wonderful. We're very blessed to be here. It's a wonderful event, the fans are amazing and the production is top notch so we're very grateful to be here. We did the best that we could because there was no soundcheck and when I saw the audience responding, I was happy.

CM: You seem to really enjoy sharing the stage with the rest of the band. Is it as fulfilling as it appears to be? 

TI: I'm very happy to be working with Great White because it's such a great band, with great songs. Our new album Full Circle is out and doing that was such an amazing experience. Michael Wagener is just an incredible producer and we worked with him every day on this record. The entire band went to Nashville to record the album and we stayed in a private home altogether for about two months. No wives, no girlfriends just us and we get along very well. It was the way that it used to be back in the day when the band would get together to work with no distractions and we really had a blast. Now we get to perform the album and that's great fun. 

There are other things going on as well. My solo album Gypsy Dreams is also out and its very passionate Flamenco style music. Next year I'll be doing a lot of Performing Art Center shows with The Vagabonds to support it and I'm really looking forward to that.  Music is what I do, it's not a hobby it's a passion and life is about finding your passion and going for it. 

(Craig Newman Photography)

CM: Is Flamenco a natural progression for you musically? 

TI: Yes, it was very organic. I grew up in Spain and France where my dad and stepdad took me to flamenco shows. I saw the most amazing dancers and singers back then. Flamenco is like rock, it's a way of life, you don't just do rock on a Saturday night. If you're a rock n roll dude, it's in your heart. You love Def Leppard, you love The Beatles because it's in your blood and it's the same way with Flamenco. This whole album is very organic and I'm blessed to be able to work with such amazing artists.  

CM: You seem so intuitive, do you plan your next move or do you follow your instincts? 

TI: I do think about the next move all the time but to be honest, you can plan whatever you want and life is going to tell you what's going to happen. You can make plans and it's good to do that, but you don't have all of the control. So, the plan, for now, is Great White and the flamenco showsI'm also working on a blues/adult contemporary album that has been a side project for years. I really want to do that because I love the blues.  

(STKNTHE80s Rock Pix Photography)

CM: Is there anything at this point that you wouldn't do musically? 

TI: Well, I can't write lyrics about strippers or drinking all night because it's not going to happen. I'm a family man and I don't go to strip joints anymore and I don't drink anyway, well except for a little wine. You've got to be true to yourself and where you're at in life.  

Music in general really is a passion and so I'm not concentrating on only one style. Rock, blues, Bosa Nova just anything that I can feel, with great lyrics and singers, I'll like it. I have to feel it though. I can't just get on stage and collect money. I want to go out there and give the very best of myself to the fans, and to myself. It may sound funny, but I've always wanted to be better than I was the night before. I want to improve myself, period. Once you stop pushing the limits then you become stagnant and just a reflection of what you've done before. Being an entertainer doesn't mean that you have to recreate yourself every day, unless your David Bowie, who was brilliant, but somehow you have to push the limits. If you repeat yourself every day then I think you're just wasting your time and lying to the fans.  

(Cate Meighan- M3 Rockfest 2018)

CM: You've got a lot of fans. How does it feel to be so appreciated by them?  

TI: Well, without the fans I wouldn't be sitting here today. Without them, there would be no artists on any stage. You can be creative and write beautiful songs but if you don't have fans to share those songs with, then you don't have a career. I like to try different things and push the limits and I'm very blessed to have the fans still there. They may like one style or one record better than another, but they are always along for the ride and it's a gift to be able to bring them with me on this journey.    

CM: Are there any words of wisdom that you'd like to share? 

TI: Just be good to one another, forgive one another. Giving is receiving in this life. So, share your love, your money and your wealth. I think it's very important to help those that need your help. Of course, they have to help themselves too but don't close your eyes or turn the other way, help them. Be grateful for what you have. No matter what we have we always want more but stop and be grateful for what you already have in life. Just do the best that you can and be kind.  

Visit Terry's official sitecheck out his music and check out Great White's official site for tour dates.

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