Beyond the Music: Cristina Garey

Outer Banks musician Cristina Garey also is an agent with Maritime Realty.

Funny how things fall into place. Last year, I started an interview with Cristina Garey. It was never published because I like to hear the musicians I write about — live — at least once.

We’d played in some of the same venues, but I had never heard what she had to offer. Well, the other night, I was invited to a last minute get-together/jam session. The hosts are good friends, and the guests included a mix of musicians.

Cristina was there. During the course of the evening, we all took turns singing songs and Ms. Garey was a revelation. A beautiful voice emanated from her slight frame and — despite her confession that she hadn’t picked up an acoustic guitar in years — a solid Latin rhythm was laid down, (over which, I was permitted to exhibit my humble, clumsy guitar playing skills).

I knew, then, which interview I was going to submit for this issue of COAST.

Here it is:

Q: What brought you to the Outer Banks?

A: I first came to Nags Head, as it was referred to in the late ’70s, because my college roommate's parents had a cottage here, and I love the ocean.

Q: How would you describe your music?

A: Eclectic mix...my roots are Cuban music, but I love all quality music — bluegrass, rock, jazz.

Q: Who is your greatest musical influence?

A: Joni Mitchell, Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66, Afro-Cuban music. As a teenager, I listened to a lot of Zeppelin, Yes, Pink Floyd.

Q: What is it about music that touches you?

A: It touches my soul; music is divine. I can’t live without playing music. I know that now. I love making music. The interaction between musicians; feeding off of each other. That’s music. The primal human connection. My passion forced me out of my comfort zone, so I play out, and not just in my living room.

Q: The first concert you attended, did it inspire you to perform?

A: Jethro Tull. It was Joni Mitchell that inspired me to want to become a musician. I wasn’t driven by a desire to perform. I am a bit shy. Performing was not an ambition until recently.

Q: Are you self-taught?

A: Yes. I started in 10th grade. Decades later, when my sons went off to college, I decided I wanted to go to college, too. I got a degree in music theory and composition from Elizabeth City State University. What a fun ride that was.

Q: Besides guitar, what other instruments do you play?

A: I am, primarily, a vocalist-songwriter.

Q: How many different musical projects are you involved in?

A: Duo: Randy and Cristy, Trio Los Playeros, (Stephan Carbocci, Chris Francis), Havana Club (Ron Forlano, bass; Chris Francis, lead guitar; Ali Shield, drums)

percussion).

Q: What's your favorite venue on the Outer Banks?

A: I love going to Art's Place on jazz night; I'm a huge fan of Joe Mapp and company.

Q: Musicians usually play for those “moments” when everything clicks. Do you have a favorite moment?

A: My debut with "Roots in the Sand" at Roanoke Island Festival Park. That was my first real performance and I lived up to the honor we were given. (1997 or 1998) The players in that event were much more skilled and experienced than I, but I stepped up to the plate! It was the first time I believed I had something to offer.

Q: What do you do in the off-season?

A: I am a real estate broker, currently with Maritime Realty. I work very hard.

Q: Was there a person in your life that motivated you to pursue music?

A: Quite the opposite; I was discouraged. I come from an old school, Hispanic, Catholic family and girls are raised to be housewives and mothers. Back in the day, I used to play open mics at Kelly's when they were hosted by the Bell Hops. I was dipping my toes in the water and very insecure. Dan Martier and Mick Vaughn always encouraged me. They really boosted my confidence, which I sorely needed.

Q: If you could perform with anyone, who would it be?

A: Pretty sure Yo-Yo Ma is not interested in playing with me.

Q: Is there one song you wish you'd written?

A: Every song written by Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Q: If you could choose any time period to play music, when would it be?

A: No time like the present!

Q: Do you listen to new music?

A: Always listening to new music. Recently I am enamored of Rosa Passos from Brazil. I love discovering a new great artist.

Q: Where were you the first time you performed onstage?

A: Roanoke Island Festival Park, I was 41.

Q: Writing songs, is it positive or negative inspiration that drives you?

A: Neither. Both. I am inspired by a strong feeling.

Q: Do you have any hobbies that aren’t music-related?

A: Gardening, landscaping.

Q: If you were so insecure about your talent, why did you keep pursuing music?

A: Things started clicking and as it turns out, I do have something to offer.  My partner, Rodney, gave me encouragement and a fine instrument, a Gibson ES 339, that makes me a better player and I perform with accomplished and talented Outer Banks musicians. Who would have thunk it? Moral of the story: If you love music; it’s never too late.

Transplanted to the Outer Banks from the wilds of the L.A. area, singer-songwriter Scott Sechman has shared stages with Bill Medley, Tom Rush, Al Wilson and the Grass Roots during his ongoing music career. He has contributed to Mojo and various online outlets. His column, Beyond the Music, appears Fridays in COAST.

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