Over the past 25 years, Winston-Salem native Greg Humphreys has led a well-known college guitar rock band and a respected soul-funk powerhouse, and – more recently – embarked on a solo acoustic career.
But in the New York City-based Greg Humphreys Electric Trio, which makes its Double Door Inn debut Friday, he blends those competing facets of his musical personality in one band.
“In a way, this is a way for me to pull it all together under one roof – something that encapsulates all the music I’ve made, and hopefully everyone will hear a song they want to hear,” says Humphreys, calling from the Brooklyn apartment he shares with his fiancée and their 9-month-old son.
In the ’90s, Humphreys’ band Dillon Fence was an alternative rock breakout for Chapel Hill-based Mammoth Records; the group, which got its start playing frat houses, packed clubs along the East Coast. Humphreys’ next band, Hobex, took a sharp turn toward classic soul, which echoes on his recently released solo EP “Cosmic Irony” and on the Electric Trio’s new live album.
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Friday’s show, he says, will include selections from “Cosmic Irony,” electric arrangements of songs from his other solo albums, and tracks from his Hobex and Dillon Fence days.
Humphreys grew up listening to Stevie Wonder, Al Green and the Jackson 5 on the radio. “In a way, I look at soul music as my generation’s folk music,” he says.
“Being so deep into the alternative indie college rock world with Dillon Fence, for escape I would listen to soul music. Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Live at the Bitter End’ was a big album for me as far as deciding to change my style. For good or bad, when something becomes a grind, instead of powering through I decide to change – which I guess is not good for consistency, but it’s good for creativity.”
After Hobex slowed down, Humphreys turned to acoustic music, playing with folk and bluegrass musicians, and working as the house engineer for the Music Maker Foundation.
“I was burned out on band life and piling in a van,” he says. “I’d been doing it since I was 19.”
Working on the other side of the sound board reignited his desire to make his own music.
“I learned during that stretch my real passion is as a writer, performer and guitar player,” he says. “After that, I redoubled my efforts.”
After spending his entire life in North Carolina – much of it in the Triangle area – he moved to New York to be near his fiancée three years ago. There, he embraced fatherhood and connected with fellow transplants bassist Matt Brandau (N.C.’s the Old Ceremony) and drummer Keith Robinson (Charlie Robison, Marcia Ball).
“I’d really come to miss playing with an electric group, playing with a great rhythm section and playing electric guitar,” he says. “It was scratching an itch for me.”