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Interview with Don Grusin

Explore the Virgin Islands author Harry S. Pariser interviews Don Grusin whose latest album "The Hang" features the tune "Road Town."

Read more about Explore the Virgin Islands  

Note: we have corrected a few things, but the prose is largely Dave's.

How did you come to write the tune "Road Town," and why did you decide to call it that?

Brother Dave and I visited British Virgins ( Virgin Gorda) a couple of times,  maybe 22 years ago, the first time on a beautiful Gulfstar 60’ sailboat with a marvelous captain and his wife. Trying to come up with his name now....I may. We passed Tortola and found Road Town a few times in the course of the sail and anchoring at various places...the second time we went there, there was a connecting flight on a small prop commuter plane that landed briefly on Tortola.  I really found a spiritual feeling from the place, like a nudge in the heart that this was special and should pay attention to it.  So I came back and got this 6/8 rhythm going as a response to the local bluesy pan-players and other muso’s who play 3 against 4 beats, my ancestral home rythmically speaking. Afro-caribe for sure.


What is your process when you write a composition? Is there a riff
that you start with? Or do you combine several ideas?

Sometimes I wake up at night with the melody all ready to go.  Other times I play with rhythmic grooves and gradually find a song to match.  Even sometimes I sit at the piano and my fingers if by magic go to a melody or harmony about which I have no idea, intellectually, from where it originates.  Part of it is of course habit, and there are muscle and nerve patterns that persist in the way piano players seemingly automatically create chords and melodies.

When did you visit Tortola?

I do think it was about 22 years ago, a year before my daughter was born.  She, Sadie, is 21.


Why did you select the British Virgin Islands as a place to vacation in?

Somebody in the music business knew about these delicious places and recommended that we go there...which for me was a giant change in destinations, having usually gone to flyfishing spots on the mainland and Alaska. When you grow up in the Rockies, this kind of adventure is mostly out of one’s ground of being.  So it was with some effort that I decided to change up...maybe has something to do with my Taurus trait!?

Did you have any experiences there that influenced you to write and
name the tune? "Roadtown"?

As I wrote above, there was just a special feeling, and I loved the name of the place!  Reminded me of my childhood growing up in cowboy country in Colorado.

Where did you stay? Are there any places you would recommend for visitors?

Sorry don’t recall any places, although we were for the first visit living on the sailboat. I do have friends who run a Mexican restaurant on the Turks and Caicos that are in heaven, having moved from my neighborhood some years ago. I’d like to visit them sometime, and Virgin Gorda and Tortola is still a wished-for destination.

More information:

Explore the Virgin Islands Updates (PDF)

Sample pages from guide

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