A Conversation with George Mastrogiannis

“Music is something people need whether they realize it or not. It’s an expression of our soul.” – George Mastrogiannis

To many of us, music is an essential part of our lives. We wake up to it, get through our commute and work day with it, we even fall asleep to it. Music invokes memories, moments, it defines us, our generation, and it’s the soundtrack of our lives. For most of us, music is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and then for others, music is life itself.  This essential need for music in life defines George Mastrogiannis, the drummer and percussionist on Robert C. Fullerton’s soon to be released album, Let it Rain.

I recently caught up with George during a break in our day. George works in the school system as an SRBI Tutor – Scientific Research Based Intervention. He provides proactive assistance to students who are struggling with their classes and may need help with organization, for example. If he wasn’t playing music, usually gigging on the weekends with the G-Tree Band with his cousin, George Lesiw with Lee-Ann Lovelace as their lead singer, George says his dream job would be “teaching, which is where I’m heading. Right now I’m finalizing for my teacher’s exam. Other than that, if not music or teaching, hmmmm, that’s a good question. Probably traveling.”

Image

The G-Tree Band: Mike Nunno, George Mastrogiannis, George Lesiw

photo credits: Corey Tucker  http://coreylynntucker.com/

Mastrogiannis began playing drums after some time spent playing the guitar. “I picked up the guitar first and since my cousin, George Lesiw and I were about the same age we both picked up the same instrument,” recalls Mastrogiannis. “He was getting better at it than I was and I always remembered being drawn to the drum set so I finally started going to music stores and the drum set drew me in. I stopped taking drum lessons after less than a year and played on my own for a while because what I was learning wasn’t helping my creativity and I feel that I found my own way which helped a lot. I wasn’t pulled towards any particular style.” He is keen to point out that growing up, he loved anything musical and was influenced by all genres. “It didn’t matter,’ he says,”

Dad was Greek so his music was Greek. Mom loved Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.” His own interests included Van Halen and Def Leppard. His favorite song from Van Halen and first music video he saw? Unchained. “Though my parents weren’t musicians themselves, they influenced me because they both loved music. They also loved to dance, but I don’t dance, hence, the drums. That rhythmic stuff is so essential to all the music we hear.”

George played his music mostly in the New Haven, CT area when he was younger, including playing in a blues band called The Cobalt Rhythm Kings with his cousin. “This was our first real band with older musicians who had more experience and they taught us what we needed to know,” says Mastrogiannis. “I love the blues. I used to sneak into café 9 before I was of age just to hear the music.”  He would spend time living in Boston, New York and Los Angeles where he studied music in the late 90’s, earning his undergrad at the HARTT School of Music and also earning his Master’s degree at Hunter College, two accomplishments he is most proud of. “I had educational challenges growing up. I overcame them. I’m more well-rounded.”

_____

◊ George’s Four Pitfalls Musicians Should Avoid ◊

*Working too much and not getting compensated for their worth

*Pigeon holing themselves into one style of music

*Only playing one instrument

*Not writing their own music

____

In time, Mastrogiannis moved back to Connecticut when he met his photographer girlfriend, Corey Tucker, who was taking photos at a bike race where he was helping with his bike team. Then, about a year ago, he met Robert through Corey while at the Iron Frog in Simsbury, CT. “My first impression of Robert,” Tucker remembers, “was that he was a very sweet guy. I loved his sound which is bluesy with a soul feeling. I loved the overall energy that he puts into his music.”

When asked about working with Robert on Let it Rain, Mastrogiannis points out that when they started, “Robert came to me with the songs and he had a vision and a sound he was looking for, but he didn’t’t tell me what to do; he knew I would find my way and my place in the songs. I feel it worked out so well because I helped Robert take his music to another level. We were feeding off of each other, just the two of us in the studio. It was very easy with him and it’s not always like that.” As for the strength of Let it Rain, Mastrogiannis says, “It’s the songs. They are very catchy, not in a cheesy pop kind of way, but in a real soulful, foot tapping, finger snapping way; its relatable music.”

On a personal note, Mastrogiannis adds, “What’s funny is the album [was originally called Back Again], but for me it’s my first recording after not having played for almost seven years or so having only played off and on before that. I was more focused on bike racing and just working. I came out of that and came back to Connecticut. Meeting Corey brought me back to music again, it opened me up again and the music was able to come through. Having the chance to record with Robert brought me back into the musical realm for the music itself. Every time we recorded, I came out of my shell more. I’m so grateful to Robert for the album and for the chance to come back to music.”

The G-Tree Band will be performing on July 19th, 2014 from 1pm to 4pm at Hot Tomatoes in Hartford. Stay tuned for additional conversations with more of the collaborating artists on Robert C. Fullerton’s second album, Let it Rain.

© 2014 Sharon Elizabeth

About Sharon Elizabeth

Sharon Elizabeth is an author and artist focusing on nature and adult relationship themed poetry, witty short stories based on "you can't make this stuff up" life experiences, and the pairing of original Haiku poetry and inspired photography aka Haiku with a View. As an active volunteer with the CatTalesCT.org no kill feline rescue, Sharon serves as their newsletter editor among other tasks and adopted Harley her grey tabby from Cat Tales in 2010. Thump D, the orange feline, joined them in 2014. Sharon's art and writings are chronicled on her public Facebook page at Swirl Ink Publications.
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2 Responses to A Conversation with George Mastrogiannis

  1. Back Again says:

    Spot on; it really was more of a collaboration. I didn’t want to write out charts for this project. I had the songs in basic form, and an abstract idea, more of a feeling, concept, of how I wanted each song to sound at the conclusion. What I wanted, and found with George (the others as well), was someone to whom I could say, “Here’s the song. If it were yours, what would you do with it?” We’d get to the studio; talk it over, and have at it. George’s ideas were always right on track!
    RCF

  2. ginny says:

    Very, proud of you Georgie, and I know Mama would be too!

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