Larry Braggs Standing on the Side of Greatness
The stars have aligned and the time has arrived. Larry Braggs is about to embark on a solo career and he has lots of plans. One of the first events coming up for him is the Wilson Creek Winery Concert on September 13. He will share the stage with Eric Darius, and anyone who has seen either of these two high-spirited artists knows well that they are in for an invigorating show.
Braggs has been lead vocalist with renowned soul band, Tower of Power for the past 13 years, during which time the band earned a Grammy nomination in 2006 for “Best Remixed Recording – Non Classical”.
Asking him about the highlights of working in Tower of Power, he says there are so many.
“From my good friend and great musician who I learned to love and got to know before he left us, Mr. George Duke, to singing with James Brown on tour with Power, that was a big highlight. I got to do shows with Little Richard and my great friend Marcus Miller. He has done so much from such an early age, you’d think he was 100 years old, and Dr. John with so much talent, just hanging out with him. Those are the highlights.”
Braggs has said, “In Tower of Power you’ve got to have soul,” his soul music inspirations range from the romance of artists like Lionel Ritchie, Peabo Bryson and Jeffrey Osborne, to the richness of Charlie Wilson of The Gap Band and the funk of James Brown. But he says what people don’t realize is that he holds a special affinity for Sir Tom Jones.
He continues, “He is a big inspiration to me, even to this day. What he’s done in his career and being that solid an entertainer for all these years. I used to go into the house as a little kid to watch the Tom Jones Show. I could be outside playing football or basketball or whatever, but if the Tom Jones Show came on, I’m going in the house to watch it.”
“I have an eclectic taste for music and soul is feel good music, it is the voice of your soul” Braggs says.
Very early on when Braggs started singing with Tower they were not sure he was the voice and were still auditioning other singers. As it turned out he was the right voice after all. He explains how that experience influenced his decision to branch out into a solo career.
Growing up in Chicago, in a place called Pig Town, he says his parents were tough-minded people. They were very well educated in street smarts and just how to survive. Braggs watched his father as a powerful and strong man his whole life. Even while bedridden he always said, “I might give out but I’ll never give up.”
When this happened at the beginning with Tower he thought he could say forget this, but his motivation kicked in. He didn’t have a job back home and Tower didn’t want him for this job he explains, so he had to prove them wrong.
“They said they didn’t think I was the voice but they don’t have anybody right now. So, could I stay until they find the person they are looking for? I mean, who does that?”
So he stepped it up saying, “I’m not the best singer in the world but I will not let anyone out entertain me. I decided I was going to be the best singer they ever had.”
Coming in to Tower, Braggs entered as a piece of something already there. He says he had other music he wanted to do. Feeling strong about that, he had to make his move because he says, being safe is not always best for a person.
“It’s up to you, once you make the commitment to keep driving the bus. You may have downfalls and valleys, it won’t always go your way, but you have to keep focused and believe that you can be successful. If you aren’t, at least you tried and didn’t just sit on the couch and waste away.”
For his solo career Braggs’ wants to put out different kinds of records, soul, blues, jazz and rock-n-roll. He currently has a record out with the band CTA (California Transit Authority), a rock band which the original drummer for Chicago, Danny Seraphine is in. Braggs sings on four tracks on their sophomore CD, called Sacred Ground.
“We’re doing more things together now and I’ve got some offers from other bands. I’m concentrating on doing a little bit of everything but more of what I want the world out there to hear from me. People saw what I could do with Tower and I’ve given them a little taste on my last two records, Places and Just Saying”
Braggs has had a very diverse performance background going back to his days in college at University of Arkansas Pine Bluff and North Carolina A and T. He studied opera for several years and has done theater, musicals and even a few movies, (Wild Cats, Soldier Story, Player 5150). It’s no wonder he wants to embark on a solo career. It seems it was only a matter of time before he would want this and now is his time.
Braggs would like his new record to showcase a lot of the new music he wants to do. He says it’s going to be fun, kind of a blues soul record. He’s really looking forward to this particular project.
He adds, “I love Gary Clark Jr. and the success he had. I’ve been looking forward to doing a similar record and mine will be a little more vocal than on the guitar side.”
Braggs explains, “We’re doing a Kick Starter campaign for the upcoming record. Certain donations will receive CD’s and MP3’s of the single, all the way up to $10,000. For that amount we will do a personal concert for you and your friends at your house or wherever you decide.”
“Without TOP I would not be in the position I am now. They’ve really helped me grow as a singer and a musician. The band has its own way of doing things and it increased a lot of skills I didn’t know I had. It taught me how to be a better singer; if I am a better singer at all,” he humbly jokes.
“Singers are musicians; we have this incredible god given gift and we have to take care of it. It’s the only instrument we have. Like I said, how you feel is how that instrument is going to deliver. When I go on stage, that’s my gospel in life, to make you forget anything negative that might have happened in your life and to bless you with something to walk away with and feel good. I know when I go on stage and perform I feel better than I did before I went out there.”
Braggs and his band have a big show coming up at Theater 166 in Carrollton, Texas, near Dallas on October 4. It will be videotaped and streamed online. He says he is looking forward to it and showing people what he’s been working on.
He muses, “I know that I was put in charge of a talent and I’m supposed to nurture a talent and share a talent and be respectful of it. That’s the thing that a lot of musicians know and a lot learn it as we start playing all over the world. Going to other countries and seeing the faces of the people and the greetings that they give you is amazing. People actually know who I am, it’s really a blessing.”
Braggs adds that there’s something very honest about playing away from home. People in other countries get live music, and they accept it more. They give an artist a chance and if they like you they accept you. They love you for life and they let you know it. It’s truthful.
“We’re living in trying times and if you’re a musician and have something to say, people listening to the music hear the words more than anything else. Your words will cause someone to act in a certain way. You didn’t plan it that way but what you say and what they hear, depending on what they’re going through in their life is really going to lead them in a certain way.”
He continued putting a very fine point on his conviction saying, “You have to be careful what you put out there and how you portray yourself to kids especially because they’re watching. You are a bastion of everything around you when you become a person of interest or wealth or popularity. It’s better to be on the side of greatness than on the side of weakness.”
The pairing of Larry Braggs and Eric Darius together is a hot match. Braggs is a very charismatic, lively exuberant singer and Darius is just that way on his saxophone. Before we closed I asked Mr. Braggs what it’s like to share the stage with Eric Darius.
“I’m an old man; I’ve got to get my laps before I go on stage with Eric, he doesn’t know how to slow down. He has so much energy! One time on the jazz cruise David Sanborn looked at him and said. “If I did that I would die.” He’s out of his mind when he’s on stage and it’s just fun doing it that way. He has come into his own.
He adds, “I don’t know if my new record will have me jumping around at one hundred miles per hour but it’s still going to have the same energy because the energy is the energy no matter what it is. I would love to have him play on my record too, he doesn’t know that yet but if he reads this article, he will know.”
“I’m looking forward to playing with all the guys on the roster at Infinity Artist Group. This is the agency to look out for.”
Closing in a spirit of greatness, Braggs adds, “Be good to yourself, be good to others. Take life as it is because we know what the end is. So live it, be kind to everyone that you meet and smile more.”