“Roxy Gunn is one of the most talented people I know,” Slash bassist Todd Kerns proclaimed not too long ago. “Expect huge things from this beautiful and gifted artist.” That’s a mighty big compliment from a musician who has played with plenty of notable rockers in his career, so the young lady must have something special. Fronting the Roxy Gunn Project for only a little over a year now, the band is percolating just under the rock & roll radar. But things are really beginning to kick in. Late last year Roxy was picked to play the part of Michael Pare’ and Diane Lane’s musician daughter in the movie sequel to Street Of Fire
, which should premier sometime later this year. The band also contributed both original songs and material written by Jim Steinman, who is most recognized for penning songs for Meatloaf and Bonnie Tyler. It was an exciting time for Roxy and her band, which consists of guitar player Jon Mills, bass player Chris Reject and drummer Ryan J.
From there, the band has continued to move forward these first few months of 2012: more gigs in and around their home base of Las Vegas, more radio airplay and just recently they went back into the studio to record a new single with their sights set on putting together a full-length CD in the very near future. So before she becomes a star, MY ROOTS wanted to introduce you to this wonderful young woman whose cover of Pat Benatar’s “Love Is A Battlefield” is truly golden. “Roxy, why don’t you start off by telling everyone about you and your band.
The Roxy Gunn Project formed in 2011. We actually started out with another guitar player but he had to leave abruptly so we kind of went along as a 3-piece for a while and then we found Jon Mills, who is our current lead guitarist, and everything just came together. It was so crazy because I was an acoustic solo artist for many, many years prior and I was just aching to have a band. I wanted a band so badly because there were so many shows I wanted to play with so many people that I wanted to play with and I couldn’t because I was by myself and it didn’t exactly fit. So I recruited some people that were close to me and we just kind of went for it and it has so far turned out so amazing. It’s a really great project because we all come from different backgrounds in music and different genres that we like.
I like everything. I love the folk/acoustic scene, I love KT Tunstall, I love Adele, who is one of my favorite new artists, and I love the old stuff, like Heart, Fleetwood Mac, Motley Crue. Our drummer Ryan J is sort of more technical and he loves Rush and Metallica and all those kinds of bands. Jon Mills is technical also but he likes kind of the heavier stuff like Slayer, Dream Theater, Metallica and Van Halen. And then Chris Reject is on bass and he is our punk rock guy with old school Ramones and Rancid and stuff like that. So that makes us well-rounded musically and creates a sound that nobody has ever really heard before.Where are you from, where did you grow up and how did you discover music?
I am actually originally from California, a little town called Visalia. It’s about an hour and a half outside Bakersfield and I lived there until I was seven and we moved to Vegas. I was always around music. My parents are musicians, my grandparents are musicians, my great-grandparents are musicians so it was just kind of in my blood to play music no matter what; even if it was just on a hobby level. I started playing guitar when I was about ten and my Grandma bought me my first acoustic guitar. She originally wanted me to be a country singer but that didn’t exactly work out for me too well (laughs) cause my parents are kind of 80’s metal rockers so I gravitated more towards that cause I was around that more often. I have been singing my whole life, for the most part. A lot of people ask me, “How do you play and sing at the same time, it’s so difficult?” But I just kind of did it one day and I’ve been doing it ever since. I never really had to learn to do it. It just came naturally to me. I’ve always had a love for music, just from my family being so into it and everything and I just wanted to do it so bad. At first I was kind of like, well, I’ll just sing or maybe I’ll play piano but I’m really glad that I picked up guitar cause I’m one of the only guitarists in my family. So it was kind of unique at the time.Have you always had a confidence about your singing?
You know, it’s funny, when I was younger I actually stopped singing in the shower because people were like, “Oh my gosh, your voice is so awesome” and I clammed, like, “Oh my gosh, you can hear me? I’m never going to sing in front of anybody.” I would like refuse to sing in front of anybody ever. You know, at Christmastime or Thanksgiving when the family would get together, they’d say, “Oh Roxy, sing us a song” and I’d just be petrified, absolutely scared out of my wits. I was actually in a band when I was thirteen with my little brother who plays drums and our bassist sang lead. So I wrote a song and they said, “Ok, let’s hear it, let’s hear how it sounds,” and I was so nervous, I was like, Ok, I’ll just sing it so she can hear how it sounded and then she can take over. So I sang them the song and she was like, “Oh my God, why are you not the lead singer of this band? You are amazing. Why am I singing? You should be the lead singer.” And I was like, “Ok, I guess I could try” and ever since then I love singing in front of people. I don’t know, I instantly came out of my shell when I realized that I guess I can do this (laughs). But no, I have not always been crazy jumping around confident onstage. I was just absolutely petrified to sing in front of people.How long have you been writing songs?
I have been writing songs, really writing songs, since I was about seven. Just writing lyrics and stuff like that. There is a video that is super-private but I will go ahead and tell you about it anyway cause it’s pretty hilarious. When I was three, I think, I was at my grandparents’ house and they were moving and they had this big huge empty room with hardwood floors. And the video is of me like stomping around the room just singing some made-up song. I was interacting with the invisible audience at three, just singing away and singing different songs that I was making up off the top of my head and crazy stuff like that. So I guess deep down I’ve always been a songwriter some way or another. But truly actually writing lyrics out and thinking up melodies and how it would go and stuff like that, I was probably like six or seven.You know when you become famous you’re going to have to put that video out.
I know, I have to get it so I can put it on the website or Facebook or something (laughs). But that’s the earliest I can remember actually quote/unquote writing music.You said a lot of your family members were all musicians but what was the first rock & roll band or singer that rocked your world or made you want to do this?
My parents have always been rock music fans. My mom is a huge Queensryche fan and then she likes Pat Benatar and Heart and all that kind of stuff. When I was about seven or eight, I was the biggest *Nsync fan you’ve ever seen. I loved them more than anything in the world, that was my thing. When I started playing guitar I realized that I couldn’t really play their music on guitar very well, it was kind of hidden in the background. And then I remember I was watching Tv and a car commercial came up. I don’t remember what car it was but a car commercial came up and the music playing behind the commercial was “Back In Black” by AC/DC and I had an epiphany at that moment. I was like, THAT is what I need to do.
So I go digging through all my parents’ CDs and I pulled out Guns N Roses, Motley Crue, Rush, Dream Theater, Quiet Riot, Van Halen and all this stuff and I was like, I need to listen to this. I went to my room and listened to everything I possibly could and kind of became an 80’s metal fan at that moment (laughs). Once I realized I had to kind of relate to the music that had the guitar, cause I wanted to be a guitarist, I needed to listen to that sort of stuff and that’s what we had floating around our house. I just instantly picked up that rock music. I was about seven or eight at that timeWho would you say is your favorite guitar player? Who is still inspiring you?
Oh wow, honestly, Alex Lifeson from Rush has inspired me so much. When I was younger the technicality of Rush was kind of hard for me to understand at the time but, I don’t know, there is something about the way he plays that is so complicated but so simple at the same time. I absolutely love him. I love John Petrucci from Dream Theater but first and foremost – and I get a lot of flak for this because people are like, “He’s not that great” – Mick Mars from Motley Crue. When I first started playing electric guitar I got an Epiphone Les Paul and a Marshall amp cause I wanted to be Mick Mars so bad. Those three right there really connect with me because I started out basically with them. So they are still very near and dear to my heart. And of course Jon Mills from the Roxy Gunn Project inspires me also.Who was the real rock star that you met?
Oh my goodness, when I was younger, cause my dad goes everywhere and we just happen to run into people, probably at the time I was like, ok who cares, I don’t even know who this is (laughs) but the first one I can remember meeting was Michael Angelo Batio. He came to Vegas for a guitar clinic at one of the music shops here and I went and I got to meet him and he was so nice and he was such a riot. He was so funny the whole time. I was eleven, maybe twelve, and you know your first impression of [rock stars] when you’re that young, you’re like, oh my gosh, they are probably all high and mighty and like, “Don’t talk to me unless I speak to you first” but he was so open and so nice and just so funny to talk to. What was your first concert?
I don’t know if I can actually say I was there but when my mom was pregnant with me my parents went to Rush so I was kind of there (laughs). My dad had concerts my whole life so I was going to his for the most part, but the first real concert I went to was when I was eleven and for my birthday my parents took me and my little brother to see 311 and it was awesome. That was one of the first real concert experiences I ever had and it was just crazy because with 311 they’re jumping around, the crowd is going crazy and all that. You have this wonderful voice and you always get complimented on your Pat Benatar song.
When I’m first playing, it’s the slow acoustic kind of more ballad-y thing and I love the looks on people’s faces cause I’ll start playing it and they have this look like, “I know this song but I can’t figure out what it is.” Then the little bridge part right before the chorus comes up and they’re like, “Oh I knew I knew this song.” I did that song acoustic the whole way through for about a year or so before I brought it to the band and we were like, “Let’s do this: Why don’t you start out acoustic and then we’ll kind of ramp it up at the end like the original version.” So, yeah, we get compliments on that all the time. I hope one day that we can have the ability to record it and everything cause I think it would be a great version to do.You were chosen to be in a movie. That must have been a fun experience for a young band.
It’s hilarious cause we were just sitting around one day thinking, ok, we really need to push harder this year and we really need to start playing some more shows and things like that. We had just played at a little venue in town next door to Theatre 7 called the Neon Venus, and the owner of Theatre 7 is an independent filmmaker and he hosts like a film festival thing every year. He does mostly like horror films and things like that. But he knew the director Albert Pyun and, this is the story that I’ve been told anyway cause I wasn’t exactly around for it (laughs) but Albert was talking to Chad Freeman and said, “I have this movie and I need a band with a female lead and preferably she should have red hair.” And Chad went, “I have the perfect band for you.” Albert went on YouTube and saw some of our videos and called us and said, “Hey, I have this movie I’d like you guys to be in if you’re interested,” and we were like, “Of course we’re interested. Yeah, we’ll do it.”
It’s a sequel to a movie from 1984 called Streets Of Fire
with Diane Lane, one of her first movies, and Michael Pare’ from Eddie And The Cruisers
. It’s kind of like the unofficial sequel for that. But he’s like, “Just watch this movie and see what you think. This is going to be like the sequel and Roxy will play kind of the love child of Michael Pare’ and Diane Lane.” We watched it and loved it and were like, this will be great. So he gave us these songs to do that were actually written by Jim Steinman, who wrote “Total Eclipse Of The Heart”. We heard that we would be doing those songs and possibly some of our originals. Next thing you know we’re talking a lot and then next thing you know we’re filming everything and doing the soundtrack and all that stuff. It was really quick and really sudden. It happened really fast but we’re so glad that it did and we really thank Chad Freeman for telling Albert about us so we could have such a great opportunity like this. I mean, it’s been amazing so far. We never thought in a million years we’d be in a movie (laughs). Do you know the names of the songs you’re doing for the movie?
The songs are actually in Streets Of Fire
, the songs that Jim Steinman wrote: “Nowhere Fast” and “Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young”. Those are his songs and they’re such great songs. At first, we were kind of like, it’s 2011 and these songs are very 1984 with kind of like the electronic thing but they are great catchy songs. Then he asked us for a few more of our originals. “Goodbye Kiss” is one of ours, “Where Our Heroes Lie” is one of ours. We’re doing a song called “Don’t Forget Me”, which is one of ours, and there are a couple more that are sprinkled in there as well.You must be riding a great high.
It’s amazing. It’s been absolutely incredible. It’s just one of those things: one day I was working this job and thought the band was going nowhere and then the next day you’ve been invited to this movie premier and you need to here at this time to shoot this scene. It’s a great high and we’re trying to take it as far as we can and push and do our best and keep a positive attitude and keep moving forward. This is what we all want so this is not something we’re going to give up easy.
Vegas is a big city with hundreds of entertainment choices. How hard was it for you to get in the music scene and get noticed?
You know, Vegas is so big and it’s a lot like LA in the sense that everybody has a band. So when you tell somebody, “Hey, I’m in a band”, they just kind of go, “Ok, so, fifteen people I know are in a band. What’s so special about yours?” It is really difficult because especially in this town there is so much to do. You can either go see this band that is going to be there next week or you can go see this touring act that is only going to be here this one night and God only knows when they’re going to be here again. There’s nights when we’re competing with Motley Crue and some other touring act and another touring act and another touring act. We’re like, ok, well a lot of our fans are fans of those bands so they’re probably going to go see those bands because we’re still going to be here.
It is difficult to get people to see you and to build a reputation of being a good band cause there are a lot of bands who just want to live the rock star life. They’re not really serious about making it, everybody wants to make it huge, but they kind of do it in the wrong way and they build a bad reputation for themselves which is really terrible and the whole look of, “Hey, I’m in a band” is kind of blemished by that. I mean, it’s hard for anybody who is trying to make it here but a lot of fun if you can kind of push past that barrier. The one good thing about Vegas is a lot of the bands in town help each other outYour band gets to play with the Sin City Sinners quite a bit. How did you get hooked up with them?
We’d known Jason Green [Sinners manager] for a long time. He was a really good friend of ours. He had come to see me when I was acoustic solo at a couple of shows. He was friends with Ryan and Ryan was like, “Hey, you should come check out Roxy to see what you think. She’s really good but she needs a band.” So that was one of the shows that we really wanted to play but we really needed a band to play this. So when we told him we had a band ready he said, “Ok, well, you know what, let’s put a show together.” He just kind of had a lot of faith in us from the very beginning and invited us to play and it turned out pretty good.If you could talk to any singer for advice, who would you pick to sit down with and talk to?
Oh my goodness, wow, it’s so hard, cause like I said, I love every different kind of music. I think that Ann Wilson is an amazing singer. I also think that Mary J. Blige is an amazing singer. There are so many. I’m thinking of all these people who have had some bumps in the road but they still came through it and here comes the flak again, but honestly, I would want to sit down with Vince Neil from Motley Crue because they’ve had so much success and so much tragedy within their success, yet they just played a bunch of dates here and were pretty much sold out every single night. When you go through the things they have gone through and still managed to come back and have a career for this long, it’s unbelievable. But I would probably talk to Vince Neil and ask him how do you make it happen after so much hardship and so much distress and things like that? How do you come back and just blow people away still?He lost his daughter …
Yeah, the whole nine yards and what happened with Razzle and everything. I’ve read The Dirt
so many times I actually know it by heart (laughs). But yeah, I think I would definitely talk to him to see how that would come about. And I would love to talk to Ann Wilson just because they kind of came out as rocker chicks, after Janis Joplin, and there wasn’t a whole lot out there as far as hard women rockers. Like, “Hey, I know this is like a man’s world but we say screw that and we’re going to do it too.” I feel like her and Janis Joplin really broke out into the rock industry, the hard rock industry anyway, before anyone else. I’m sure that had to be difficult. Did you get to see Crue while they were playing a residency at the Hard Rock there in Vegas?
No, I didn’t. We were in the midst of doing stuff for the movie and everything and just could not get there and then we were playing shows. I wish we could have had a chance to go but we just couldn’t get out there and it broke my heart but I’m sure they’ll play again.
Another person if I could sit down and talk with would definitely be Nikki Sixx because he had this mindset like, “I’m going to be a rock star even if I die trying” and he did. “I have no means to do it and this is just what I want but I’m going to go after it with everything I have” and he did. It’s incredible. His story is one that is so inspiring and so educational for a young musician who goes, “Yeah, I just want to be a rock star.” It’s not easy. It looks like all fun and games but it is not easy and this is how it really is.So what does the Roxy Gunn Project have planned for this year?
Hopefully a lot. We’re doing a lot of stuff revolving around the movie. It’s supposed to be sort of like a rock opera so the music with the movie is prominent. We’re supposed to be actually playing some of the premiers so people can actually see that we’re not just actors who can hold the guitar and look like we’re playing. We’re a real band, a real hardworking band, we know our instruments, we actually sing and write and play the songs. So hopefully we’re going to be traveling around with the movie. We haven’t been out of Vegas to play yet so we’re definitely planning on going to California, Arizona, Utah and hopefully we can get up north to like Washington and Oregon. Our goal this year is to get out of Vegas and kind of spread the wealth (laughs). Go around and play for audiences that wouldn’t normally come to Vegas and come see us, so that is definitely one of our goals is to do a small tour of sorts.
A lot of our original songs are on the soundtrack for the movie and there’s a couple out already on itunes that is available for sale. Then there are a couple of video things of us recording them. As far as our own album, we’re still trying to get some more songs together, still writing and pulling stuff together so it’ll probably be a little while before we put out our own full-length album. We’re planning on putting out a little EP, like three or four songs, just a little one, that will be available for sale. So that will be happening but a full-length will be in the near future. So just keep an eye out for the movie and our EP and if you want to know more about us, we do have a video blog we do on our Facebook and we talk about upcoming things and Chris has a little segment called “Ask The Reverend” so if anybody wants to ask him a goofy question, he’ll answer it. So add us on Facebook and send us a message cause we love to talk to people.Rob Carlyle joins us next week to talk about his band The Compulsions, their latest CD and how a punk rock musician was originally bitten by the music bug after seeing The Monkees.