Legendary soul and funk group the Average White Band will be back in NYC this weekend. Founding member and Greatest Ever Bassist nominee Alan Gorrie spoke to Dear Scotland this week about hanging out with Marvin Gaye, what goes through his mind each night when he plays ‘Pick Up the Pieces’, and much much more:

Dear Scotland: Where are you now and what did you do last night?
Alan Gorrie, Average White Band: I’m in New England for a couple of days getting my batteries charged for the upcoming final flurry of gigs for this year. Last night I had a curry and read the weekend’s British football news from cover to cover.

DS: Paul McCartney said he got into music to avoid a job – and get lots of girls. What made you get into music? 
Alan Gorrie, AWB: I started playing in bands long before the ‘job’ situation reared its ugly head – I suppose I went to Art college to avoid that lousy option – and having a musician father made it easy & natural for me to pursue the dream full time. Still waiting for the lots of girls, though.

Average White Band – ‘Cut the Cake’


DS: What is your favourite song of yours to play right now?
Alan Gorrie, AWB: “This World Has Music” – it’s one we recently revived from years of ‘neglect’, and it has a perfect balance of musicality and vocal challenges. Plus, it seems to bring the house down every night.

DS: One of your most popular songs, ‘Pick Up the Pieces’ has been used in dozens of great films and TV shows. So many great images are now tied to the song. Do you picture anything specific in your head when you are playing it, or are you just watching everyone dance along?
Alan Gorrie, AWB: I’m never aware of anything but being ‘in the moment’ with that tune. It grooves so hard –  and we’re all conscious of trying to inject a little something new into it every night, and, as you suggest, the audience takes it from there and changes the vibe accordingly. It never tires, really – it kinda’ plays itself to a degree.

Average White Band – ‘Pick Up the Pieces’


DS: You’ve been touring consistently this year all over the world. Is there one particular place that you really look forward to playing?
Alan Gorrie, AWB: I love a lot of places we play annually, but I do like visits to Japan, and our recent shows in Scotland were just the best. In the States, I think my favourite outdoor gig would be The Winery in Saratoga, Ca., and our most ardent fan-base over here would be Washington DC. If I had to pick one place, however, it would be……jings, this is hard….The Paradiso, Amsterdam. What a buzz!!

DS: When touring, do you feel more Scottish when you are abroad, or do you adapt well to new places? Anything you miss about Scotland?
Alan Gorrie, AWB: I’m always Scottish, wherever, whenever, whatever. Fortunately I go back often enough to not have to miss it so much – I even have my Saturday Radio Scotland fix on my computer wherever I am, for the footie each week. I am honestly quite at home almost anywhere I go, though.

DS: What will be your first words on stage this weekend at BB Kings in New York City? 
Alan Gorrie, AWB: “Good evening.  So… who ate the beans?”

DS: Most of your influences were probably US R&B artists but are there any Scottish musicians, past or present, that have influenced you?
Alan Gorrie, AWB: First would be Dundee’s Dougie Martin – a great soul singer, and of course my dad who was a phenomenal piano player. Glasgow’s Jim Mullen was a major inspiration, and also a great friend, but the rest are the pantheon of American Soul giants such as Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke and Ray Charles, to name but a few. Oh, and John Lennon and early Steve Winwood too, though neither are Scottish or US!

Otis Redding on Ready Steady Go!


DS: I would imagine that some people are still surprised that you are a “White Band” despite your name and the band’s massive success, how have people reacted over the years when they discover you and Onnie are actually white and Scottish?
Alan Gorrie, AWB: Well, lots of people were surprised back in the day, but it has never adversely affected our acceptance by, especially, the black community. The irony is, however, that there have been a number of English pundits who have discounted us as irrelevant because we weren’t black/from the USA. Ah, well….there’s nae accounting for eejits!

DS:  So you’ve been nominated as one of Scotland’s Greatest Ever Bassists by our contributors alongside Jack Bruce (Cream), Derek Forbes (Simple Minds) and others. Other than yourself of course, who would you vote for?
Alan Gorrie, AWB: I’m flattered to be compared to Jack, quite honestly, and Derek was a very musical part of an otherwise quite ‘minimalist’ original lineup that did amazingly well; I would vote for Graham Clark of “The Wets” –  a really great bassist and much underestimated. Don’t forget Hamish Stuart either, our old bandmate, and a seriously creative bass player. Oh, and Madaleine Pritchard’s bassist is quite the player too.

Wet Wet Wet – ‘Temptation’ (Live at Glasgow Green)


DS: What do you think the Scottish national anthem should be?
Alan Gorrie, AWB: I’m passing on that one – I’ve no idea. All I can say is that “Flower” is a sentimental lament, tough to sing en masse, and IT DISNAE SWING!!! An anthem should be rousing and dynamic. (No jokes now about Pick up The Pieces for the current Scottish team!)

DS: What is the best after-show experience you’ve had?

Alan Gorrie, AWB: Quite a few vie for that title: the after-party at Mad Dogs, Edinburgh after our first Playhouse concert there, a night with our pals ‘Kokomo’ on Bourbon Street after our first New Orleans gig, a visit from Marvin Gaye after he’d just sung “Grapevine” with us in Hollywood (THAT’s a dressing-room moment), and in our car crawling along the 15 miles back to Washington DC among 22,000 black fans walking – yes, walking all the way back to the city. It was like we’d won the Cup or something; they were fantastic!

Marvin Gaye – ‘Grapevine’


DS: And finally, many many years from now, when you finish your farewell world tour, is there one place to where you would like to retire?
Alan Gorrie, AWB: That’s dead easy – Scotland, of course. As long as I can keep my ‘travel permit’ to continue to visit some of my favourite places (especially during the shite months), I’d be happy being able to amble to the pub, the corner shop, and get to the football on any given Saturday. And the landscape keeps my soul topped up – it’s second to none!


The Average White Band play at BB Kings in New York City this Saturday December 5, 2009. Full tour details including ticket details for all their announced 2010 dates are below.

The follow-up CD to The Average White Band’s live 2006 release, Soul & The City, Times Squared, which was recorded live in New York in March 2009, is available now from the band’s store here.

Much more on the band at www.averagewhiteband.com

Voting for Scotland’s Greatest Ever Bassist ends at midnight (EST) on Tuesday December 8th.

Photo Credit: jules2view

Average White Band – ‘Person to Person’