Taylor credits Kuti with pushing him, and others, to compose distinctly African music: Video, Photos

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Ebo Taylor became one of Ghana’s major prolific musicians in the 1950s and ‘60s, making his signature Ghanaian highlife that influenced the father of afrobeat, Fela Kuti.

As highlife and afrobeat music has entered the global stage, Taylor’s work has been sampled by international R&B artist Usher on his 2010 track “She Don’t Know,” featuring rapper Ludacris, and by Canadian hip-hop duo Ghetto Concept on their 1992 track “Certified.” His influence can also be seen in afrobeat’s clubbier offshoot, afrobeats (with an “s”), which has hit international charts through West African acts like Wizkid, who has collaborated with artists including Drake and Major Lazer.

And Taylor is still recording new material at age 84.

“Uncle Ebo,” as he’s known by locals in Saltpond, the small Ghanaian fishing town he’s called home since birth, has spent most of this year in his home studio observing Covid-19 protocols and recording new material for his third studio album in 10 years.

Since the release of his 2010 album “Love and Death,” as well as his collaboration with the Berlin-based Afrobeat Academy in 2011, Taylor’s international profile has been raised. In 2017, the release of Ghana funk anthem “Come Along,” made DJ playlists globally, according to Taylor. But Taylor’s newfound global fame is the culmination of his own influence on West African music since the early 1960s.

West African roots

Born in 1936, Taylor grew up listening to the highlife music that has always been at the heart of his style, which fuses jazz elements with traditional highlife for a groovier sound. “I was inspired by the pioneering saxophonist and trumpeter E.T. Mensah and his band The Tempos,” he said in a recent interview in Saltpond.

Taylor joined the Stargazers, a highlife band led by saxophonist Teddy Osei and drummer Sol Amarfio (who would both go on to form the legendary British-based Afro rock band, Osibisa) shortly after leaving college. In 1962, Taylor moved to London to study music at the Eric Gilder School of Music with funding from a government cultural program instituted by Ghana’s first prime minister and president Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, who secured independence for Ghana from British rule. It was in London that Taylor first met and collaborated with Nigerian saxophonist Peter King and Afrobeat legend Kuti.

“Fela used to come to my apartment in Willesden quite often and we’d spend hours playing records,” Taylor said. “When he came to Ghana in ‘67, he drove to Cape Coast to see me and we spent the afternoon talking about African Unity.”

The story of highlife and Afrobeat legend Ebo Taylor, in his own words

The story of highlife and Afrobeat legend Ebo Taylor, in his own words

Taylor credits Kuti with pushing him, and others, to compose distinctly African music. “He (Fela) never understood why as Africans we like playing jazz; he wanted us to be ourselves, be original and tell our stories,” Taylor said.

After moving back to Ghana in 1965, Taylor became the in-house guitarist, arranger and producer for the influential Ghanaian record label Essiebons, founded by music producer Dick Essilfie-Bondzie. It was during this period that Taylor recorded over 10 albums and put his stamp on projects by West African music legends like Pat Thomas, C.K. Mann and Gyedu-Blay Ambolley. The quality of Essiebons’ studio and the genius of Taylor made Essiebons one of the preferred recording studios for musicians from all over West Africa. Sadly, Ghana’s tumultuous political and economic environment throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, marked by multiple coups and government reorganizations following the ousting of Nkrumah, stifled the development of its music industry and arguably Taylor’s rise to global stardom.

Global influences

Yet Taylor’s influence can be seen across genres today, particularly with the emergence of afrobeats in the early 2000s, fusing afrobeat and highlife with EDM, hip-hop and reggae.

Taylor is quick to highlight the fact that the popularity of afrobeats has coincided with its embrace of authentically African arrangements and a departure from heavy hip-hop and R&B sounds which he believes could seem forced. “The music we made was real music, it made you stop and think,” he said. “It’s not surprising that people are connecting with afrobeats more now that it is embracing elements from the music we made.”

Taylor won’t say much about his highly anticipated new release. But it is uncharted territory for the guitarist and composer. He is working on it without support from two of his key collaborators: Essilfie-Bondzie, who became Taylor’s career-long executive producer; and Tony Allen, the legendary Nigerian drummer with whom he collaborated extensively on his recent projects. Allen and Essilfie-Bondzie died within months of each other earlier this year. Taylor fondly remembers both of them and lights up as he recalls his studio sessions with Allen. “The entire studio would freeze,” he said.”We just couldn’t understand how he was creating those sounds. Nobody knew what to expect next. It was magic.”

Over the last few years, Taylor has toured extensively throughout Europe with his Saltpond City band, marshalled by his son Roy, and has been more likely to be seen playing in Amsterdam or Berlin than in Accra or Lagos.

While Taylor is likely to slow down on touring, he intends to continue making music. “It’s what I love to do, it’s who I am,” he said. He intends to introduce his music to younger and more mainstream audiences and was keen to express his desire to collaborate with Ghanaian rappers M.anifest and Reggie Rockstone.

Like his hero Nkrumah, who Taylor believes is unique among African leaders past and present for his concern for the common man, Taylor wants to be remembered as a man of the people — not as a rockstar. “I want to be remembered for my music, for my art and as Ebo Taylor the man,” he said.

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EBO TAYLOR FALL TOUR 13'

EBO TAYLOR FALL TOUR 13'

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Interview with Sid Whelan: The Blues and Country had a baby … Video, Photos

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Interview with guitarist and songwriter Sid Whelan: NYC based blues-influenced Americana musician with an unapologetically old-school vibe.

How has the Blues and Roots music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

The Blues teaches finding joy and redemption against the odds; in the throes of misery or despair; and in the face of heartbreak and loss. As a person who has struggled against depression since my teen years, not only have the lyrics of the blues often described my condition when I couldn’t find the words myself; they have inspired me to persevere and prevail. Roots music in general teaches doing more with less. The more accomplished we become as musicians, the more tempted we are to get fancy and complicated. That’s not always bad; sometimes there’s a place for that. But usually focusing on roots simplicity is the best course of action. Lastly performing this music has connected me with a vast diversity of people all over the world of hugely different heritages, politics and perspectives. And in this music we’re all finding a common space where we can be enthusiastically human and understanding towards each other. Talk about redemption!

How do you describe your sound and songbook? What characterize your music philosophy?

When they say “the blues and country had a baby and called it rock n roll” they were literally describing me. My mom introduced me to Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and Hank Snow; my dad introduced me to Ledbelly, Alberta Hunter and Bessie Smith. And I grew up on the Beatles, the Who, Zeppelin, the Clash, Santana, U2 etc… While in college I discovered a passion for African and Caribbean music, which you can hear in the amazing percussion arrangements on my new album, particularly on “The Promise” and “Legba Ain’t no Devil.” With influences from Robert Johnson to Bob Dylan, from Steve Earle to Santana, I call my overall musical sound “Dark Blue Americana.”
The truth is that my guitar sound is confounding. Usually guitarists have an identifiable sound. Think BB King, SRV, EVH, Wes Montgomery; Pete Johnson, Elizabeth Cotten… I take a completely different approach. What all the session guitarists did for David Bowie, Joan Armatrading, and/or Steely Dan in a diversity of approaches for their recordings over the years is what I do for myself on a per-song basis. So, I am like a bunch of session guitarists on my own gig.  This is a hard thing for people to wrap their heads around and probably something no significant blues-associated guitarist has done. On my new album “Waitin’ for Payday,” my co-producer Lora-Faye and I deliberately tried to mitigate that and make it easier on the audience by sticking to one Strat sound and performance approach on the title track, on “Midnight in the Country,” on “the Promise” and on “Break it Down.” But certain songs like “Nina Simone” and “Make Some Time” didn’t work out with that approach and had to be re-recorded, so we’ve still got a diversity of guitar palette that sounds like a few different players.
My musical philosophy is to push myself out of my comfort zone with every new project, whether it’s the acoustic guitar chord-solo on “Nina Simone” or the Curtis Mayfield-style head voice on “Legba Ain’t no Devil,” or to write a sentimental love song that melodically centers on the break between my baritone and tenor registers like “Make Some Time.” I always look for something I haven’t done before and which is totally terrifying to attempt (at first.) In my songbook I take structural, harmonic, melodic, groove and lyrical principles from country, blues, rock, soul and jazz standards and creatively re-purpose them into my Dark Blue Americana sound.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

A few years ago, I did a short solo tour in Ireland. One of the gigs, though open to the public, was at what we would call a middle school in the US. The school takes music very seriously and the kids in the audience were on point. In short order I had them singing along, stamping and clapping in time to songs they had never heard before. It was pure audience participation magic – total euphoria – none of us wanted the show to end. More recently, I played a showcase of regional songwriters at the stunning White Eagle Hall in Jersey City. It was an incredibly diverse and eclectic show with a lot of contemporary styles. When my trio lit into “Every Time I See Her,” which is a finger-picked country blues from my second album, the entire room boiled out onto the dance floor and started boogieing. Once again it was pure euphoria between audience and performers. It was also a tremendous affirmation of both the enduring appeal of that style as well as my band’s ability to perform it. To see singer-songwriters, goths and hip-hop cats dancing together to my neo-retro blues was stunning.

Lastly, on my first album I had arranged the song “Dog in the Fight” as a finger-picked mountain minor in dropped D tuning with a chugging train rhythm, like Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” We were struggling with take after take when the bassist Doug Berns said “this isn’t working; I have an idea.” With no rehearsal he got us to play the tune in a manner that sounds like Miles Davis classic “In a Silent Way.” Everything changed completely including the tuning of the guitar. It was a completely spontaneous unrehearsed performance based on an off-the-cuff suggestion from a hired hand.  As we recorded it, I literally felt like I was floating in space.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

The music of the past is still with us so I don’t miss the music itself so much as the loss of the mid-level venues that made it possible for unsigned artists to have a career. That scene is almost extinct now. I recently played at a famous roadhouse in Jersey, where artists like Aretha and SRV used to play. But it was empty: the audience just isn’t there anymore to make it work financially. One of my favorite Jersey venues is going out of business at the end of this month and they were never empty, but even then the numbers didn’t work out. Also, without that circuit it is really hard for ensembles to mesh and develop their group interplay.  So, to my ears ensemble performance quality has declined noticeably in live music. Though there are still shining examples out there like Los Lobos and Tedeschi Trucks where everything from the kick drum to the lead guitar is working together.

My biggest fear is that young people aren’t growing up so much with music that is played by musicians. They’re into music that is created artificially in studio with few if any musicians. And honestly, though it is difficult to excel at anything, including ‘artificially produced’ music (for lack of a better term); it’s even harder to learn an instrument; then learn how to use it in an ensemble; then learn how to perform; then learn how to record. You see where I’m going with this. The technology allows creative-minded people to skip straight to 4th base and start recording. So the temptation to skip the first three bases has to be overwhelming for many young people: Where does that leave live music in 30 years?
My hope is that live music is simply so alluring and rewarding that young people will get captivated by it in large numbers and keep it alive.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

Ha! I would shut off every TV in every venue in America when musicians are playing. The image manipulation of TV programming is designed to grab the eye.  How distracting and unpleasant!

What would you say characterizes NYC’s music scene in comparison to other US scenes and circuits?

New York’s music scene has managed to weather the storms of incredibly high real estate costs; competition from an exploding palette of entertainment choices; drinking age going from 18 to 21; the smoking ban; increased costs for everything that goes into a show, etc. We still have tremendous home-grown talent and a healthy showing from indie artists coming through. Producers and venues at all levels have gotten wise and moved away from bad service; bad sound; grungy decor and general dirtiness to providing a professional and positive experience that makes it possible for performers to give their best and for audiences to experience some joy. Listen, I played at CBGB back in the day. It was awful. My band in college sang in 3-part harmonies and cared about the sound of our instruments. Who wants to play in a place where the sound engineer destroys your sound and you’re scared to use the bathroom? I appreciate the historical importance of that venue, but today’s venues and promoters know what was done wrong at places like that and know how to do much, much better. It’s been decades since a sound engineer in NYC let me down. Outside of New York I find that audiences are more attentive, more appreciative and less distracted. They’re more likely to participate either by dancing or singing along. I love playing outside of the City for that reason.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in music paths?

When I was younger, I was brash, arrogant and opinionated.  Looking back on it I alienated a lot of musicians and certainly wasn’t able to help them achieve their personal best through that type of negativity. By the same token, I was often right and the people I was trying to correct did need to step up their games, even if I didn’t express myself in a useful way. So, I have learned a tremendous amount both about how to communicate with musicians to empower them to achieve their personal best within the context of my band, and about how to choose the right people to work with in the first place. I’ve also learned to seek help. When I was young, I didn’t know to ask for mentorship. Now I go to coaches/teachers for vocals, guitar and songwriting and I also work with co-producers and horn arrangers.

What is the impact of Blues and Roots music on the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

What a brilliant question, which could honestly take up an entire college course for a semester and/or fill a 350-page book! Almost All-American music composed and/or arranged after 1900 sits on a three-legged stool. One leg is African; one leg is European and one leg is Native American. We lean more heavily on one leg or another at different times but they are all always there. Most people don’t like to talk about these things but the fact is that people who looked like me enslaved Africans and tried to exterminate Native Americans, so the legacy of that negative history can inflame conflict between contemporary artists, writers and thinkers over issues of authenticity and appropriation as well as exclusion and privilege. I am always willing to engage that discussion even if I don’t have all the answers.

Circling back to hope for the future, I am seeing a lot more participants in Roots and Americana music from diverse backgrounds, particularly in the under 40 years old set, so I do think a natural ethnic balance is beginning to re-assert itself in what was never a purely “white” musical genre to begin with. For me, I just have to be comfortable with the fact that I’m using some musical building blocks that don’t match my genetic heritage. I wrestle with it internally but then again, I am one of the most diverse hirers I have ever seen In terms of gender, sexual orientation, different generations and also ethnic background so no one can accuse me of exclusion. Lastly, on the negative side I have seen an increase in recent years of blues festivals and blues cruises with all-white line-ups year after year. I find that behavior reprehensible and it’s certainly not going to be effective at pulling in younger audiences.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I would want to spend a day at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals in the ‘60’s while one of those heavy sessions was going down with Aretha or Pickett, Allman, Hall and the Swampers. Wow!

Interview by Michael Limnios

Photos by J.Henry Fair

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Kid Andersen nominated for Blues Music Award: Photos, Video

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Christoffer “Kid” Andersen is again nominated for the Blues Music Award as best guitarist. The awards from the American Blues Foundation are the highest award in the international blues community and this year is awarded for the 41st time.

Interestingly, the Kids band, Rick Estrin & The Nightcats and members of the band are nominated for a total of eight awards.

Kid Andersen nominated for Blues Music Award
Kid Andersen at Royal Albert Hall November 10, 2019.

Kid Andersen nominert til Blues Music Award

Kid Andersen nominert til Blues Music Award

“Entertainer Of The Year” and “Band Of The Year” are awards that are high in the blues environment, and are among the eight awards to which the band and band members are nominated. Rick Estrin & The Nightcats are also nominated in the categories “Contemporary Blues Male Artist Of The Year” and “Contemporary Blues Album Of The Year”, as well as Rick Estrin as songwriter nominated for “Resentment File” in the “Song Of The Class” Year “. The band also won three awards last year, in the categories “Band of the Year”, “Song of the Year” and “Traditional Blues Artist”.

Three of the band members are nominated as instrumentalists. In addition to Kid in the guitar class, Rick Estrin (in the harmonica class) and the band’s new drummer, Derrick D’Mar Martin, were also nominated.

Rick Estrin & The Nightcats, from v. Rick Estrin, Kid Andersen, Derrick “D’Smar” Martin and Lorenzo Farrel.

Rick Estrin & the Nightcats are the clear “winner” of the nominees with their eight nominations, but right behind comes Sugaray Rayford with his six. Last year’s “Soul Blues Male Artist” has not only been nominated again in this category, but also in “BB King Entertainer of the Year”, “Soul Blues Album”, “Instrumentalist: Vocals”, and with the Sugaray Rayford Band in class ” Band of the Year “. The song “Time To Get Movin ‘,” written by producer Eric Corne, is nominated as “Song of the Year”.

The other nominees in the “Band of the Year” category are The Cash Box Kings, Nick Moss Band featuring Dennis Gruenling, Southern Avenue and the Sugaray Rayford Band.
In the guitar class, California resident Kid Andersen is in good company with greats like “Monster” Mike Welch, Junior Watson, Laura Chavez and Christone “Kingfish” Ingram. We cross our fingers that Kid gets his much-deserved recognition when the awards are to be handed out in Memphis on May 7.

Here are all nominees in the 25 categories:

Acoustic Blues Album
Catfish Crawl – Catfish Keith
Confessin’ My Dues – Terry Robb
Good as Your Last Dollar – Fruteland Jackson
Solo Ride – Bruce Katz
This Guitar and Tonight – Bob Margolin

Acoustic Blues Artist
Eric Bibb
Guy Davis
Rhiannon Giddens
Fruteland Jackson
Doug MacLeod

Album of the Year
Church of the Blues – Watermelon Slim
Hail to The Kings! – The Cash Box Kings
Kingfish – Christone “Kingfish” Ingram
The Preacher, The Politician or The Pimp – Toronzo Cannon
Roots and Branches: The Songs of Little Walter – Billy Branch & the Sons of Blues

B.B. King Entertainer of the Year
Billy Branch
Rick Estrin
Sugaray Rayford
Bobby Rush
Mavis Staples

Band of the Year
The Cash Box Kings
The Nick Moss Band featuring Dennis Gruenling
Rick Estrin and the Nightcats
Southern Avenue
Sugaray Rayford Band

Best Emerging Artist Album
Before Me – Ben Levin
Folie a deux – Hudspeth & Taylor
Kingfish – Christone “Kingfish” Ingram
Spectacular Class – Jontavious Willis
Through My Eyes – John “Blues” Boyd

Blues Rock Album
Killin’ It Live – Tommy Castro & The Painkillers
Masterpiece – Albert Castiglia
Reckless Heart – Joanne Shaw Taylor
Survivor Blues – Walter Trout
Up and Rolling – North Mississippi Allstars

Blues Rock Artist
Albert Castiglia
Tommy Castro
Tinsley Ellis
Eric Gales
Walter Trout

Contemporary Blues Album
Contemporary – Rick Estrin and The Nightcats
Don’t Pass Me By: A Tribute to Sean Costello – Various Artists
Kingfish – Christone “Kingfish” Ingram
The Preacher, The Politician or The Pimp – Toronzo Cannon
Venom & Faith – Larkin Poe

Contemporary Blues Female Artist
Diane Blue
Vanessa Collier
Shemekia Copeland
Samantha Fish
Janiva Magness

Contemporary Blues Male Artist
Toronzo Cannon
Gary Clark Jr.
Luther Dickinson
Rick Estrin
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram

Instrumentalist Bass
Willie J. Campbell
Patrick Rynn
Bill Stuve
Larry Taylor
Michael “Mudcat” Ward

Instrumentalist Drums
Tony Braunagel
Cedric Burnside
June Core
Derrick D’Mar Martin
Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith

Instrumentalist Guitar
Christoffer “Kid” Andersen
Laura Chavez
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram
Junior Watson
“Monster” Mike Welch

Instrumentalist Harmonica
Billy Branch
Rick Estrin
Dennis Gruenling
Brandon Santini
Kim Wilson

Instrumentalist Horn
Mindi Abair
Jimmy Carpenter
Vanessa Collier
Trombone Shorty
Nancy Wright

Instrumentalist Piano (Pinetop Perkins Piano Player)
Anthony Geraci
Bruce Katz
Dave Keyes
Jim Pugh
Victor Wainwright

Instrumentalist Vocals
Shemekia Copeland
Sugaray Rayford
Curtis Salgado
Mavis Staples
Dawn Tyler Watson

Song of the Year
“Bleach Blonde Bottle Blues,” written by Rebecca Lovell
“Lucky Guy,” written by Nick Moss
“Resentment File,” written by Rick Estrin, Joe Louis Walker, and JoJo Russo
“Time To Get Movin’,” written by Eric Corne
“The Wine Talkin’,” written by Joe Nosek, John Hahn, and Oscar Wilson

Soul Blues Album
Dog Eat Dog – Billy Price
Keep On – Southern Avenue
Real Street – Tad Robinson
Sitting on Top of the Blues – Bobby Rush
Somebody Save Me – Sugaray Rayford

Soul Blues Female Artist
Annika Chambers
Thornetta Davis
Bettye LaVette
Terrie Odabi
Vaneese Thomas

Soul Blues Male Artist
Billy Price
Sugaray Rayford
Tad Robinson
Curtis Salgado
Wee Willie Walker

Traditional Blues Album
Church of the Blues – Watermelon Slim
Hail to the Kings! – The Cash Box Kings
Lucky Guy! – The Nick Moss Band Featuring Dennis Gruenling
Roots and Branches – The Songs of Little Walter – Billy Branch & the Sons of Blues
Spectacular Class – Jontavious Willis

Traditional Blues Female Artist  (Koko Taylor Award)
Rory Block
Sue Foley
Mary Lane
Trudy Lynn
Teeny Tucker

Traditional Blues Male Artist
Lurrie Bell
Billy Branch
John Primer
Jimmie Vaughan
Jontavious Willis

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All images & transcripts are of Fair Use and copyright to their respected & collective owners. Some images copyright AP, Clipart.com.

Interview with Neil Minet: It’s just a problem to be solved: Video

Post Views: 10,534

Interview with blues guitarist and singer Neil Minet. An interview by email in writing.

JazzBluesNews.com: – When you improvise, you know where you’re going. It’s a matter of taking certain paths and certain directions?

Neil Minet: – That’s a great question, and a bit tricky to answer; yes and no. Sometimes I have a very specific solos rehearsed, and I play it that way every gig, but for other songs my solo will be different each night. In those cases I usually have a general idea what I want to say, and a few licks I know will work well, but it depends a lot on everything going on in the  moment: the energy of the crowd, the feel of the room, the tone of my guitar, and even the vibe between the guys in the band. If everyone is feeling subdued, that naturally calms me down, but if everyone is really feeling it, I feed off of that. Once I’m into a solo though, whatever the vibe, it’s absolutely about finding the best path I can take to tell the most coherent story. I get lost in a trance while I’m play so I’m often not even fully aware where my fingers are going. I’m usually only thinking about the emotions I’m trying to convey and what’s worked well in the past. I’m not all that eloquent with words, but I have a number of emotions I need to express. The only way I’m truly able to do that is to speak through my guitar.

JBN: – Do you ever get the feeling that music majors, and particularly people who are going into jazz, are being cranked out much like business majors? That they are not really able to express themselves as jazz musicians?

NM: – I think the outcome is totally dependent on the person. I should say that I haven’t had a great deal of formal music training, nor am I studying music in college, so I can’t speak from personal experience, but I think it can go both ways though. I imagine some musicians who go to school for music really benefit from it. It fits with who they are and what they want to learn so it allows them to express themselves even better. For others though I think an intensive program can be suffocating. I think it can force some students to either “get through,” either when their level of interest or style of learning doesn’t match their program, or it might teach material that doesn’t really resonate with someone. In either case I think it’s possible that this can cause a musician to lose the spark that brought them to music in the first place.

I’m almost certain this would’ve been the case for me. There are some days I can’t help but practice for hours, staying up till the wee hours of the morning, but there are other times when I don’t touch my guitar for days on end. I don’t think this is a problem at all, but it probably would’ve caused me to flunk out of a music program. Also, I have yet to find a program that teaches the music I want to learn. If there were a course on Stax/Muscle Shoals horn arrangements I’d absolutely take it, but I haven’t seen one yet.

JBN: – What about somebody who is really gifted and puts together a band and just gets upset to the point of quitting because of the business aspects-the agents and the clubs?

NM: – I would absolutely understand. It’s not like you get hired once and then you have a steady job, you continually have to get hired over and over again. But at the end of the day, that’s the nature of the music business. It would be nice if it were easier, but for me, I absolutely love performing so the rest is all worth it. Plus, I like getting on the phone, meeting new people, building relationships; the business side of things that satisfies the half of me with a Type A personality.

JBN: – How do you prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

NM: – I think this was a bit more difficult when I was first starting out. I like to think that I have a better grip on what I’m doing now though. It’s important to have a bunch of different tools, but that doesn’t mean you need to use them all at once. It’s more about knowing when to use the right ones. In my playing for instance, if I think a tune might benefit from a little Latin influence, I’ll absolutely throw some in there. Yet to play something just to show that you know it is no good at all (although I’ve certainly been guilty of that before). At the end of the day it’s all about the song. It’s about making each song the best it can be. I think as a whole this is what it means to be musician; it’s a continual process of learning to play for the benefit of the song. I, for one, certainly have a lot more to learn to further that end!

JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

NM: – This is something I’m still learning myself. I think as artists we have the opportunity to make observations about the word and tell stories without the burden of needing to represent a particular view or standpoint. That’s a pretty big canvas to work on and there’s lots than can be said. However, simple is always better. I think you can say a lot more with a simple message that really resonates with people than saying something super witty and intellectual. It’ll stick if they feel it. I think I’ve learned a lot more about the world listening Van Morrison sing some non-words with a whole lot of soul than from anything I’ve read in a textbook.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

NM: – Absolutely! There’s nothing like the thrill of playing in front of a live audience. I feed off their energy and I hope they feel the same. It’s definitely possible for someone to take their desire to please their audience too far, but for me, I just love what I do and I love to share it with anyone else who enjoys it too. I’m first and foremost a music listener so I understand both sides of the relationship. I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t go see live music. I know a lot of other people feel the same way so I’m just happy I can contribute to the whole music project.

JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, opening acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

NM: – Absolutely! One that I’ll never forget is from a number of years back at one of early gigs. Just as I’d just counted in a slow blues, one wonderfully intoxicated patron came up onto the stage shouted in my ear “Know Any Zappa?” before walking out the door. At the time it was floored, but now I think it’s hilarious; you can’t make that stuff up!

Aside from that, making the album was a particularly memorable experience as a whole. We were tight on time in the studio so we mostly tracked the whole thing in two marathon sessions, the first was something like 18 hours and the second was a straight 24 hours. By the end of each day Shane Patterson and I, the bass player in the band and my right-hand man, were absolutely delirious. It was a blast though; I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.

Also, for the tune we featured Morris Tarbell on (the other guitarist in our group), we must’ve had the fastest tracking session in history. I remember he rolled up to the studio after work, plugged in his amp, tuned his guitar, did one take, killed it, and then packed up and headed out. I don’t think he was in the studio for more than 30 minutes. I was blown away; he’s a true professional.

This summer Shane and I made a few trips to New York City too, playing at a club called Paris Blues up in Harlem. The logistics were a nightmare, the club was tiny, the place was hot, but it was an absolute blast! I can’t wait to do it again!

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in blues when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

NM: – I’m not exactly sure. I’ve thought a lot about this. A big hero of mine, Sean Costello, was asked the same question in an interview he did with Blues Review back in 2000. His thought was that a lot of young people just haven’t been exposed to a lot of the great old blues, soul, and R&B material. He felt that if young people were to just to hear it, they’d like it. I feel the same way for the most part. It’s timeless music and there’s not much of a barrier to entry to enjoy it, but maybe that’s just me.

As with anything though, I think culture has a lot to do with it. I love the culture that the blues comes from so the music is a natural extension for me. Growing up I never quite had a place to fit in so the music and the culture of the blues were an escape, a way to forget I was just some dopey kid. However for young people that enjoy the youthful culture they’re a part of, I think the blues and its culture can be pretty foreign. For some of these people, they may never come to enjoy this music but that’s completely all right. It’s only music, there’s no right or wrong about it.

JBN: – How important is it to you to have an original approach? Can you comment on the bridge between being a musician and being a composer?

NM: – For me, being a composer is still a skill I’m developing. For most of my career I’ve focused almost entirely on honing my craft as a performer, learning with songs that have already been written. I’d certainly like to have my own distinct sound at some point, and I think it’s slowly starting to develop as I mature as a musician, but it’s not something I’m overly anxious about. I feel like once I’ve written enough songs to be able throw out all the bad ones, my own sound will naturally become clear. As for now though I’m focusing on putting on the best shows I can and learning to become a better writer.

JBN: – Do you have an idea of what it is you’re trying to say or get across? Is it an idea or is it just something that we feel?

NM: – Right now, my goal is to just make music that grooves and conveys emotion. I want to make people dance, feel sorrow, feel relief, and anything that will allow people to experience all those emotions that we usually have to pack away day to day. Life’s hard, and when I’m in the audience I want something that takes me out of that difficultly and lets me feel what it means to be human. So, that’s what I hope to do as a performer too. In time, there are topics that I would like to address with my songs: inequality, climate change, poverty, but these are weighty issues. If they’re not done right I think they can sound really immature.

Recently I discovered the Alan Lomax archives. One of his recordings that really caught my ear was that of the chain gangs on Parchment Farm in the late 1940s (The Mississippi State Penitentiary). Those chants are raw. You can hear the pain in their voices. They’re singing about more than being in prison, they’re singing about a society that’s failed them. Things have improved since then, but many of the same problems still exist today. I believe music with that kind of emotion can really change the world. Look at the civil rights movement; “A Change Is Gonna Come.” I hope I’m able to be a part of that progress one day too.

JBN: – What do you see for your extended future? You know what you have going on? You have life? If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

NM: – I don’t have an exact path forward, but I know music is absolutely what I want to spend my life doing. I lead my own group, Neil Minet & the Night Flyers, and I’m also a member of the Carolyn Kelly Blues Band, both of which are incredible opportunities, but I have a lot of work to do before music can become my full-time job. I’ll be graduating from college this coming May so my plan after that is to take a decent enough job, but one that will allow me to keep honing my craft. Then, when the times comes to set out on my own, I’m going to take it.

It’d be nice if a career in music had more stability and paid a decent amount, but that’s the nature of the beast. In the past, I’ve found myself in other situations where I’ve said something along the lines of “I’d like this job, if only this one thing…” but in time I realized that was because I didn’t actually love the work. With the music though, I’ve never once found myself wanting a certain aspect of it to be different. Not that it’s perfect, far from it, but rather because this is what I love to; the nature of the business is beside the point. It’s a matter of “how do I survive?”, “how do I make it so I can do what I love?” After that, it’s just a problem to be solved.

JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

NM: – Oh man, this is a tough one to answer, namely because it changes all the time. However, John Németh is a regular in my ear buds. That dude can sing, and his band absolutely grooves! He’s a wonderful guy too. He’s very supportive of my career and I’ve had the chance to sit in with him a few times. Chris Stapleton is also someone who I’ve really gotten into recently. I’m not usually a fan of country music, but his songs are masterpieces and his vocals are golden. Not to mention that his band is incredible; they manage to say so much with so few notes.

In addition to that, I’ve been getting into some of the old Stax recording artists like Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, and so on. J.J. Cale is also someone who’s given me a new perspective on music. Not only are his songs so unique and raw, but the way he lived his life is a lesson in humility. Of course a bit of The Band and the Allman Brothers Band is good to get back to, and Ronnie Earl is by far my biggest guitar influence so I always return to him before too long as well. Out of Syracuse specifically, I can’t get enough of the Kingsnakes, Built for Comfort, and Los Blancos. All of those groups are top shelf. Both Pete McMahon, Matt Tarbell, and Colin Aberdeen all have incredible voices, not to mention excellent song selections, and the bands just plain know how to groove. Paul LaRonde, Steve Winston, and Mark Tiffault have been a big influence in showing me what it means to be a rhythm section too.

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go?

NM: – To be honest, I think I’m pretty happy living in the present. But if you really push me for answer I would’ve loved to have been around in the 50s, 60s, and 70s to see so many of the great acts of that time. To have been able to see Muddy Waters live in Chicago, or The Allman Brothers Band live at the Fillmore East (I get chills just thinking about that one), or even sat in on the some of the Muscle Shoals sessions…man that would’ve been something!

I would’ve liked to have seen the music scene in Syracuse during the 80s when it was really hoping too. Seeing the Kingsnakes or Build for Comfort live would’ve been a kick, or even some of the big-name acts when they passed through town. Syracuse used to be a regular stop for some of the national touring blues guys when they made their Chicago to NYC runs. That would’ve been a great time to be around!

JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…

NM: – Of course! After interviewing so many musicians, what personal qualities or outlooks on music do you think helps make a musician both happy and successful?

JBN: – Thanks for answers. The intellect !!!

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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На изображении может находиться: 1 человек, улыбается, на сцене и играет на музыкальном инструменте

На изображении может находиться: 1 человек, улыбается, на сцене и играет на музыкальном инструменте

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All images & transcripts are of Fair Use and copyright to their respected & collective owners. Some images copyright AP, Clipart.com.