INTERVIEW: Guy Gilchrist

Guy Gilchrist has been in the business of being creative across all genres of art his entire life. He is the International Multi- Award winning Writer and Cartoonist of 48 Children’s' Books, the comic strips "Nancy ","Jim Henson's MUPPETS", and "Your Angels Speak", as well as the character designer for Tom and Jerry, The Pink Panther, Looney Tunes and Disney, and the Founder of his own Art School.

His career began as a teenager with Comic Book companies, Newspapers, and Weekly Reader. Guy then wrote music, auditioning for record companies, while also auditioning as a writer/artist for The Muppets. As life happens, the same week Guy was given the job writing and drawing The Muppets comic strip for Jim Henson in 1981, he also had a song he wrote break the Billboard Charts.

Newspapers, television, radio and in every variety of media all over the world have been Guy's creative palette. His work is found in museums, galleries, toy boxes, bookshelves, and cd players worldwide; including the White House, where Guy was President Reagan's Guest of Honor in 1984. His art is enshrined in The Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC.

Guy's Nancy Comic Strip , syndicated by United Feature Syndicate, runs in approximately 350 newspapers, in 80 countries, and on the web Guy currently is writing, drawing, singing and having more fun than a human should in Nashville, TN.

Now living in Nashville, Guy has written and/or performed with Dion, Charlie Daniels, Chris Hillman, Jett Williams, The Marshall Tucker Band and countless other artists and songwriters.

I have been blessed to call this wonderful human being my friend. He recently did a promotion with his Christmas CD project donating the proceeds to Boys Town. We visited about this and other aspects of his amazing career.

B: Guy, you have already done so much with your life and you do not sit still for a minute. Let’s talk about the Christmas CD and the connection to Boys Town.

G: I love Christmas. It’s my very favorite time of the year. While writing songs this past summer and I had already written “Christmas Light”; I wanted a fun song and I had that line “...I punched a kid in Math class just to watch him cry...” He’s this kid who thinks he’s way tougher than he is and that would be the exact kind of thing he would get into. This has been the first project I’ve worked on where I’ve used the characters that I work on every single day and then put words and music to it. If you follow my cartoons, you already know what everybody looks like. You can sort of picture everything in your mind. Make your own video. This is how “Merry Christmas Sluggo” was written.

B: Do you find yourself sometimes thinking like your characters? You said you’re with them every single day. How much of them is a part of you or vice versa?

G: Well all of them really. I’m coming up on 15 years now with these guys; they are very much “me”. Everything that you are goes into your art and that is the case with the songs, my books and the comic strip. It’s always exactly who you are. Little bits and pieces of you that go out.

B: Boys town received all of the proceeds from the Christmas CD, what was your motivation behind choosing them as the recipients for your project?

G: When I finished the rough draft of the song realized it was my character Sluggo, I also realized it was me. When I was a little kid, I was always getting into scrapes. I thought I was tougher than I really was. When you’re 11 or 12 years old, that’s when you can start walking down the wrong road and not even know it. Especially if you don’t have a strong family, and that was sort of my case. God puts angels in your life, and sometimes you don’t know that they’re angels when it’s happening. I remember years and years ago walking back and forth from my house to the store and to school I would pass this guy’s house. His name was Dick Shuey and he was a DJ for the little AM station in town. He would see me passing by and we started talking. He must have figured out that my folks didn’t have a lot of money and that I didn’t probably have a lot going for me. He knew I loved rock and roll and started giving me all the old Sun Records artist’s albums; Elvis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee, and Brenda Lee, because the rocking guys were now being played on country. One time he gave me the Johnny Cash Live at San Quentin album. He really had me figured out. I took that record home and at first I wanted to find out if it had all of the beeps that were on the radio or could I hear all the swear words. What I found was that the record spoke to me. Its like the Bible on a record. Sin, redemption, the works! I found that I didn’t only find entertainment and enlightenment but I think it helped to redeem me.

When I finished my Christmas project I started wondering if Boys Town was still around. I went on the web and I found them at I contacted them and made arrangements to donate a portion of my songwriting and sales back to them; because Christmas is about redemption and unconditional love. If that is not what that place symbolizes then I don’t know what possibly could be. This record with two songs on it is almost a ‘micro-cause’.

B: What age did you start singing and performing?

G: When I was in high school I learned the three guitar chords trying to get girls. When I was a young boy I loved to write in rhymes. I started singing about the same time and started a band. A friend and I wrote a song broke the Billboard hot 100 a couple years after high school. I guess it was about three or four years ago when I came to Nashville to record a bunch of demos of mine for a project with Sony. I was promoting my Nightlights II book; using some of the poems from the book and make a children’s Christmas project out of it for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. That wound up being my base for coming to live in Nashville.

B: When you think of all the different people that you’ve met along the way, who’s been the most influential for you?

G: There have been a lot of them. I’ve got so many friends here. One of them is my very close friend, Charlie Daniels. Charlie is everything that a person should be. If you want to see what an angel looks like, that is what an angel looks like. Have you ever seen Charlie and Santa Claus at the same time? I think he’s Santa. He’s given me a lot of advice about music and given me a lot of opportunities in music. He’s been there every step of the way for me as a friend. Jett Williams has been incredibly supportive. When the tornados came down in Macon country she had a benefit. I was out there for that and I drew caricatures of the acts, forty acts! It almost looked like “Where’s Waldo”. A bunch of us were in the catering tent and Jett said ”play that song about Roy Rodgers being your daddy”. Bill Anderson was in the tent and asked “Who wrote that?” I said “I did”. He said “Where do you live?” and I said “Connecticut”. He said “Why?” Then he said “You ought to be here”. He was a huge inspiration to me too. After the amount of success that I have had people ask me “Why do you want to do this now?” and all I can say is “Why wouldn’t I?” You go from blank piece of paper to blank piece of paper and I never understood why one wouldn’t put out the absolute best that you can put out that day. It is all the same to me. I just try to do the best I can with what I have got.

B: Have you had any of your songs recorded by anybody else?

G: Anne Murray cut a song of mine but never released it, same with Jerry Lee and George Strait. Suzy Bogguss did a great job on a song I wrote called “My Heart’s a Paper Airplane” and just spoke it with the music playing in the background. That was cool thing.

B: Are you hoping to get onto a label or stay independent?

G: Of course I’d like to be on a label, even though it’s fun to do what you want when you want to do it, which where I’m at right now. Were not getting picked up by the big corporate stations really but we’re getting played. I kind of like the idea that it is just us. It is just where we are right now.

B: I know you are going to do something out of the box to promote this. Have you already figured that out?

G: We already have in a way. We just put out the 2 songs. On every one that went out I’d write the person’s name, or station call letters and then write “This has been written, sung, played, performed, drawn by and signed for you by” and then I sign it.

B: You are working towards a full CD project for next year right?

G: If I don’t start doing something else. I think an archeological dig is easier than digging through my studio. So many irons in the fire. I’m writing with so many amazing people that it is really interesting because you never end up where you think you are going to. When we were rehearsing for the Christmas show we started working on another song and another project we’re also working on a couple of songs that will benefit our veterans and active military.

B: What can you share about some of the other projects you are working on?

G: I am also working on a book project that will be available next year and I think I will be the editor for a line of Christian comics. I came up with all of the characters but I won’t be writing or drawing them, other people will be doing all of that. Also, we are planning a tour in and out of as many states as we can. I have a wonderful band put together for a tour.

B: Have you done any USO tours or performing for the military?

G: I have been invited and I have accepted a few different times, but something has always kept it from happening. Since 2002 I have been very active and worked with many organizations. I am always trying to find ways to support the troops. I feel like there is a debt that can never be paid to these men and women. I am in amazement at this brand of young person that is doing what they are doing. I was a year away from going to Vietnam when they stopped the lottery, but both of my brothers served. I try to do whatever I can. I continue to do it through the “Nancy” comic all the time.

B: Who is the one person you want to do a duet with that you have not yet?

G: Morey Amsterdam which would be the ultimate. Mandy Barnett. If they were alive, Soupy Sales or Captain Kangaroo. My absolute favorite, ever since I was a kid is Brenda Lee.

B: Speaking of legends, have you performed on the Opry yet?

G: I have been on as an announcer twice and I played with Little Jimmy Dickens once upon a time. I have never done one of my songs on the Opry, but I hope to someday.

B: Where can people find the CD?

G: We are available on all of the download options for the MP3 format (ITunes, Amazon, CD Baby etc). If you want a physical CD, signed by me, you can go to the website. 25% of the proceeds from the CD sales as well as my income as the songwriter goes to Boys Town. I am hoping that someone really famous will sing the “Christmas Light” song so it can make a lot of money for Boys Town.

B: Guy, you are an inspiration to so many people through your works, I am honored to call you my friend and wish you much success with all you continue to do.

G: Bev, the same goes back to you. I always enjoy seeing you and spending time with you. We need to do it again soon.

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