COACHELLA VALLEY MUSIC AWARD WINNERS ‘BEST DUO’
By Noe Gutierrrez
The Coachella Valley’s ‘Best Duo’ has now secured, what some would say is the valley’s ‘best residency’; TWELVE ACOUSTIC AND UNPLUGGED, an intimate music showcase in a grand setting.
TWELVE is atop the Fantasy Springs Resort and Casino and features Cocktails Above, a luxurious, newly renovated space featuring mid-century modern furniture, an expansive balcony and sweeping views of the Coachella Valley and surrounding mountains. Choose from their extensive list of fine wines, top shelf spirits and beer. You can also purchase fine cigars and smoke them on the spacious balcony. In addition, they have artisan cheeses to pair with your wine of choice.
Coachella Valley Weekly spoke with the desert’s top twosome Mark Gregg and Misty Howell as they savor their CVMA win for ‘Best Duo’ and prepare for their ACOUSTIC AND UNPLUGGED residency at TWELVE at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino every Friday and Saturday from 7-10:30 p.m. The show is FREE and open to the public 21+.
CVW: You seem to have been together for years given your chemistry and talent, but you’ve been performing as a duo for only a short time. How long have you been a duo?
Gregg: “Misty was not a singer when we met. She had just started playing again and only ever did it for fun. She had no stage experience. She never even told me that she sang. I knew she played guitar so I invited her to sit in with me at The 19th Hole in Palm Desert. When she was encouraged to sing a tune, I couldn’t believe it. I just wondered why she wasn’t singing on stage and in bands. She was that good. Then we just slid into it over a couple of years of Misty and I being friends and her coming to most of my shows. It became a thing where she would just do a set with me acoustically or with my band and it evolved from there. We’ve just recently been booking ourselves as a duo, so I’d say about a year, but she’s been performing with me for close to three years now.”
CVW: Mark, you have a long and documented history in the desert music scene. Misty, where did your story begin?
Howell: “I have had a love for the guitar since I can remember and have played since I was about 12 years old. Music has always and continues to excite me in good times and got me through the tough times. My love for music led me to seeing Dude Jones play almost every week for over a year. Mark would play acoustic some nights and that inspired me to pick up and play my guitar again. I finally got the nerve to ask Mark if he gave guitar lessons, his reply was that he never had before. Mark soon after did sit down with me and he and I worked through the song “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” by Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty. Mark encouraged me to sing as well as play guitar and I have performed with him ever since.”
CVW: You have a new residency at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino on the 12th floor lounge this every Friday and Saturday FROM 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. called “TWELVE ACOUSTIC AND UNPLUGGED featuring Mark Gregg and Misty Howell”. How excited are you at the opportunity to perform in such a unique venue?
Gregg: “This is a really big deal for us. It’s a real acknowledgment of Misty as a top artist and us as a duo. It will anchor everything we do in the valley. It’s a trade-off as Dude Jones won’t be working near as much but it’s worth it both artistically and financially. The venue is called TWELVE because it’s on the 12th floor with a view of the whole valley. It’s really beautiful and intimate. It’s stripped down and intimate, but sexy and with an edge.”
Howell: “My first opportunity to perform in front of a large crowd was with the headliner at the Fantasy Springs’ Rock Yard and what an amazing experience that was. Now to have the opportunity to take up residency at TWELVE is very exciting for me.”
CVW: Mark, how happy are you for your son and award-winning musician Derek Jordan Gregg?
Gregg: “It’s hard to talk about Derek without sounding like I’m over promoting. Derek is one of the best entertainers out here in his age group, or any age group. I believe he should find somewhere to live in Los Angeles and launch his career by making the connections that just aren’t available here. The work sucks you in and then it’s ten years gone.”
CVW: For my generation in the desert, Dude Jones was the soundtrack to our late nights in the mid-90’s. How have you kept that band in the mouths of locals?
Gregg: “That’s nice of you to say. I’m lucky that I have access to really good players that can turn on a dime with me, so we really have a lot of fun playing and that translates. I think people have a good time and like the music.”
CVW: I assume you both have “other” jobs. Mark, I know you have the Ultimate Attenuator that helps adjust the volume of an amplifier to create that sought-after sound. Misty, what do you do when you’re not singing and playing guitar?
Gregg: “I’ve always just been a musician. The inventions and product marketing have gone through lucrative periods but it’s in the service of my music career, which is how I make my main living.”
Howell: “I am Co-Founder of Custom Care Solutions. We employ caregivers that provide care for those convalescing in their home.”
CVW: Misty, has being a front woman always come easy to you?
Howell: “Being a front woman made me nervous in the beginning. Mark was always encouraging, supportive and willing to share his knowledge with me. To have such a talented artist believe in me as well as my family and friends allowed me to believe in myself and my ability to share music. I enjoy every moment I perform.”
CVW: Mark, you’ve played in the Coachella Valley since the early 90’s. What are some of your favorite moments?
Gregg: “Recording a record after rocking Village Pub, every night from 2 to 6 a.m. for six months when we were negotiating a record contract was a trip. All the beautiful girls and good friends; I’m excited to play every night. That hasn’t changed.”
CVW: Mark, you’ve played guitar on stage with Rock royalty like Robert Plant, Rudy Sarzo, Dee Snider, and so on. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you nervous on stage. Is it more nerve-wracking when you’re beside more well-known musicians?
Gregg: “Playing with elite guys is pure joy. I think they are more nervous than me, wondering, ok, what’s this guy gonna do? We have a good laugh after and I’ve made great friends.”
CVW: What other gigs do you have going on?
Gregg: “I also perform every Monday at Lavender Bistro in La Quinta.
Fridays and Saturdays 7-10:30 p.m.
TWELVE – Fantasy Springs Resort Casino – Indio, CA
Acoustic and Unplugged
Mondays 5-9 p.m.
Lavender Bistro – La Quinta, CA