George Winston Shares What Cats And Music Have In Common
“Music is kinda like cats. Cats do what they want to do, not what you want them to do.”
– George Winston
There are many times, when I’m preparing for an interview, that I find myself trying to predict how a particular conversation will go when speaking with a celebrity. What I’ve learned from so many of these instances, though, is that celebrities will surprise you, more times than not. This was the case during my interview with George Winston.
Having grown-up listening to the legendary pianist, I was eager to unlock the mind of him, certain to discover and capture the genius within. And I did, but not in the way that I had, originally, expected. George and I spent three-quarters of our conversation, together, talking about our mutual love for cats – comparing notes on our own special felines and vowing to bring pictures when we met, face-to-face, during his upcoming performance at The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center.
Truth-be-told, you can learn a lot about a person by how he treats and loves his animals and I did with George Winston – most importantly, that this famed pianist is as gifted in his understanding about life as he is about music….and cats help him accomplish both.
Read his interview, below, to learn more.
What is your personal mantra?
My four greatest inspirations are cats, the seasons, playing live, and the earth. When I play live for people, I don’t even think about breathing.
Explain your adoration for cats.
Cats help me understand life and become closer to everything, including human beings. They taught me to be more compassion towards others and keep me in-touch with every day. I learned more from one of my favorite cats, Goobajie, than I can express. Isn’t it ironic that the being I learned most from in my life, did not say one word to me?
Explain "Music" to me.
Music has its own life. You can’t demand how or when it will come to you. I don’t try to draw any reasonable conclusions from it. I just remove the extra from the stone to uncover the masterpiece within. I prefer “live” music but all forms exist because people need to express themselves in ways that suit their needs. Each listener is equally valid. You like what you like. You don’t have to be an expert for what you like to be good. You just have to like it.
Do you believe that you were born gifted?
No, I believe that I work hard. I rarely play in the ‘zone’, like gifted people do. The greatest athletes in the world play in the zone. I’m not one of those people with natural abilities. I have played in the zone all of five times. Everyone has limitations. I put a lot of work into it.
How long does it normally take for you to create a song or album?
Between seven and forty-nine years. One Doors’ song that I’ve been working on has taken me forty-nine years and it’s still not right. Autumn took seven years. The music will tell me when it is right. The effort, however, is my part and the toughest part of all for me.
You have been known to perform in stocking feet or show up to performances wearing a flannel shirt. Share your thinking behind this.
The audience thinks that they are attending a performance because of me. I think that I’m attending a performance because of them. I’m not conventional but I’m extremely happy and grateful to play for people.
Share the moment you realized that you had “made it” and what does that term mean to you?
“Just playing a song the best that I can then playing it better the next time” is what I consider to be ‘making it’. The only thing that is real to me about music is the player and the listener. As long as there is one person, I will play. If not, I will practice.
If you had to do it over again, what would you be?
I’d be a cat vet. I’ve had twenty-two cats in my lifetime and I have four hundred cat friends, currently.
What’s one thing people might not know about you?
I never hang out with musicians.
Share a social cause or cause-based organization close to your heart.
Wherever I play, I help out in the community through my concert. When I play at The Kate this week, all of the proceeds from the merchandise sold will be donated to The Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries. I also urge attendees of the concert to bring with them a nonperishable item to contribute as well as The Kate will be collecting them during these performances. I began this tradition in 1986. The government can’t do it all. We have to help.
When all is said and done, how would you like to be remembered?
I don’t care to be. I want people to pay attention to who’s here at that moment. I’ve had the opportunity to do everything I’ve wanted to do. I consider myself the luckiest person on the planet, already. No need to be greedy.
Admittedly, while writing up this interview, I’ve been listening to Autumn, inspired by the changing leaves entertaining me outside my office window. It is amazing how brilliantly George Winston has captured my favorite season. Few people can do this, but then again, few people possess the insight into nature and life that George does...nor can understand how some tomcats behave more like dogs than cats, like my Gary. George… well...he understood that perfectly!
Many thanks to George Winston and Larry Rust for making this interview possible