Interview with JW Jones: Blues has always evolved, and it continues to: Video, Photos

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Interview with Canada-based blues musician JW Jones, fresh off the heels of winning “Best Guitarist” at the IBC 2020 released new album.

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

I think I am a sum of the parts, so to speak. My initial influences as a drummer were really Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix before I switched to guitar and dove in to the blues greats like B.B. King, T-Bone Walker, Albert King, Howlin’ Wolf, Hubert Sumlin, and then to the following generation like Kim Wilson and Jimmie Vaughan of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Anson Funderburgh, Little Charlie Baty, Junior Watson, Kid Ramos, etc. There are bits of all of these guys, from Chicago to Texas and West Coast to pushing the boundaries of rock-blues. I like to bounce around from super traditional to more of a free-form, jam-band style, to keep things interesting for the musicians on stage and the audience alike.

Creatively, when it comes to songwriting, I usually write from my own experiences, but sometimes enjoy taking someone else’s story or perspective and working from there. When it comes to playing music, it’s about staying fresh and constantly bringing new songs and ideas into the setlist.

Are there any memories from new alum “Sonic Departures” studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

There are so many! This album literally has more instruments playing at one time than anything I’ve ever recorded thanks to the 17 piece big band including 13 horn players. What a sound! Working with Eric Eggleston to create loops from existing parts… pieces of horn lines, drum parts, bass lines, and creating what could almost be considered a song within a song as the intros to Blue Jean Jacket and Snatchin’ It Back.

For the tune Drownin’ On Dry Land, so I just said to the horn section “whoever wants to solo, let’s just all solo together and see what happens”. When you’re playing with pros like that, everyone knows that the most important part is listening. You’ll hear me playing guitar lines that are similar to what a trumpet played right before me, and you’ll hear the horns working off each other, and how it becomes a sort of organized chaos. Every time I listen to the ending solo section of that tune, I hear something new which is special to me. That was recorded in the first and only take because if we rehearsed it… if we had time to think about what we might play, it would take all the magic out of it. What you’re hearing there is a seriously inspired performance, and it just doesn’t get any cooler than that in my books!

Finally, having my wife Brit sing on the record, and sampling my then 15-month old daughters voice was really special and wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for recording from home during COVID lockdown.

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

Blues has always evolved, and it continues to. I am not sure that I miss anything, but rather celebrate the amazing recordings that the legends left for us, and be part of the movement to keep the music alive and introducing blues to younger audiences.

What would you say characterizes Canadian blues scene in comparison to other European and US scenes?

I have been very fortunate to tour all over the world, and the international blues community is an incredible force. We are all linked by the love of the same music, and there are blues societies in every corner of our great country as well as across Europe and in the US where it all comes from. Instead of comparing them, I think of them as all being part of the same team. “It takes a village” as they say!

What touched (emotionally) you from Buddy Guy, George Thorogood and Chuck Leavell?

It’s the little things that mean the most to me. Being on stage with Buddy Guy when he says “I hear you”. That doesn’t mean he CAN hear me, it means he hears that I am playing the right riff, an appropriate riff, a riff that shows the influence from the greats, at the right time. Or just hanging with him at Legend’s in Chicago, sitting at the bar talking about our mutual hero, B.B. King. Touring with Thorogood was incredible! We didn’t hang much because there were some tight schedules, but he was very kind to us, and we were thankful to be invited to join him on tour. I met Chuck Leavell backstage at a Rolling Stones concert in Quebec City, and we exchanged contact info. He’s been an incredible supporter since then, and what I love about him is that he always takes the time. He’s never missed replying to a message, and is one of the sweetest guys in the business. I hope to work with him on a live show or recording someday, but he’s a busy guy with his solo career, being a tree farmer and conservationist, and a gig he’s had for many years… being on-call with that little blues band from England!

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

It’s a slow climb, but it’s worth it. The most important moments to musicians and artists are always deeply entrenched in the music and art. Those are the times that our hearts are bursting and we feel like we belong, that we are loved. These moments are the core reason why we started this journey in the first place. No one learns their first song on an instrument thinking they’ll win awards or play on big stages. They do it because they are excited about hearing the results. It’s always about the music. It’s also important to pay it forward. I wouldn’t be here today without support of so many people… and I feel that it’s my duty to pass that on as they did for me.

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

Some musicians and songwriters are deep into the political side of things, and I respect that. I just want to play music, have a good time, and bring joy to the people. Along the way, if I can tell stories that resonate with the listener, that is fantastic.

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

It’s November 5, 1966, and I am in the audience at the International Club in Chicago to see B.B. King. The live performance that resulted in the album Blues is King, which to me is the most soulful performance by anyone, anywhere, that I’ve ever heard. The chills I experience listening to it would only be amplified to a whole other level. What a feeling that would be, to see the King in his prime!

Interview by Michael Limnios

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Interview with Lisa Mann: My musical philosophy is to give yourself freedom … Video, Photos

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Interview with powerhouse bassist and front woman Lisa Mann: mastering everything from rock to rhythm and blues.

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

First, let me thank you for the opportunity to answer these questions! Blues is a music born in the American south, created by the black community, however it has become a source of pride to all of America. When I travel to the EU or UK and see how popular blues music is after so many decades, it warms my heart. It just goes to show how music is a universal language that can be enjoyed by all people, and how it can help cultures reach out to each other across the world.

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

I like to describe what I do as “Tough Girl Blues.” It was a fan that gave me that phrase- she had a playlist of blues female artists with that name, and she told me she had put my songs in it. I’ve had some hard times, and I have made decisions both bad and good. I have also seen friends take difficult turns in their lives, and written songs about them. So lyrically, I like to write about real life. Musically, I love to draw from many influences, from straight ahead blues to blues-rock, rhythm & blues and soul music, country and Americana, and even hard rock and metal! My musical philosophy is to give yourself freedom as a songwriter to play whatever you hear in your head and heart. I don’t know where that drive comes from, but it is definitely there. I would be very unhappy if I didn’t follow that drive!

Which meetings have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

I have had the opportunity to meet and work with many amazing musicians. The best meetings are on stage. I’ve been able to jam with Candi Staton, Bob Margolin, Janiva Magness, Bobby Rush, John Nemeth, the late Frank Bey, Sugaray Rayford, and so many more. Sugaray Rayford is a friend, my husband plays bass in his band. He and his musical director Drake Shining have given me some wonderful advice over the past few years. Also, John Nemeth gave me some great advice at a large festival many years ago. I was working on a new CD and we ran into each other over breakfast. I asked him if he had any advice for an emerging artist, and he said to me, “Make the best possible CD you can.” And that hit me right in the heart- that was exactly what I wanted to do. I just want to put my heart and soul into the music and create songs that will touch people.

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

I am very sad to see so many of the classic blues artists pass away, so what I miss most is the people. I have seen Etta James, Koko Taylor and BB King perform, and have worked with many of our local Oregon talents like Paul DeLay, Linda Hornbuckle, and Janice Scroggins. It is very hard to see them grow old, or get sick, and pass away. But my hopes for the future are the people who studied the great blues masters, especially young artists like Ben Rice, Larkin Poe, and Christone “Kingfish” Ingram. My fears are that it will continue to be more difficult for talented young artists to make a living in blues music, and they will turn away from it.

What touched (emotionally) you from the late great Sister Rosetta Tharpe? Are there any memories from “Old Girl” album’s sessions which you’d like to share with us?

I didn’t know much about Sister Rosetta Tharpe until she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I have a dear friend who puts together a women’s blues review, she suggested we do a tribute to Rosetta Tharpe. All the women involved, including myself, did a lot more research on her in the process, and now we are all huge fans of her music! She was such a spirited and fiery performer. She really let the spirit move her, and that is very inspiring. It is also inspiring that she mastered her instrument, and became very proficient at playing guitar. Especially since it wasn’t something women were supposed to do at the time. Recording her song “That’s All” was a special session at Primal Studio in Portland Oregon. Guitarist Jason Thomas, drummer Dave Melyan, and I recorded that song live, in one take. I usually like to multi-track songs. I had intended to track the music live and then come back and sing vocals again on top, but the engineer Kevin Hahn suggested we keep the original vocals. I messed up a few words, and didn’t sing some parts the way I wanted to, but it was spirited and lively, in the way Rosetta herself performed. So, we kept it as a live take, without mixing it down too much. It is very raw, but we were “in the moment” so it worked.

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

When I was a young musician, I often had a hard time sticking up for myself. Sometimes young female artists get taken advantage of. Working with my friend Sonny Hess, and other women who have been in the business for a long time, helped me learn to stick up for myself, and also to stick up for my band. As a bandleader, you have to make so many important decisions. It takes time and experience, and often failure, to learn how to properly manage a band.

What is the impact of Blues on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

I really want people to appreciate the fact that Blues music came from the African-American community, especially now. And I want white blues musicians to stand up for the black artists out there, many of whom are suffering, or their loved ones are suffering. When I was in the International Blues Challenge many years ago, I was competing against Lionel Young in the finals, who won the entire challenge. Before his winning performance, he had been briefly arrested by police in Memphis Tennessee because he was running down the street so he wouldn’t be late. He was arrested for running while black! It took a white fan to vouch for him in order for the police officer to let him go. All because he was running, because he was late! White blues artists and fans need to say that Black Lives Matter, not just because we benefit from their artistic contribution, but because it is the moral thing to do.

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

That’s a hard question! I think it would be amazing to go back in time and attend one of the historic music festivals, like Woodstock, or Wattstax, or Monterey Pop. Or to see BB King Live at the Regal!

Interview by Michael Limnios

Photos by Miri Stebivka & Kelly Ralph

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Interview with Rick Berthod: Meeting BB King & Albert Collins was life changing: Video, Photos

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Interview with Nevada-based blues guitarist Rick Berthod: High energy and soulful blues with Peripheral Visions.

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

Music has made me into the person I am today. It has taken me upon many journeys, from my first guitar almost 40 years ago to when Rita King inducted me into the Las Vegas Blues Hall of Fame in June 2017. One of the best moments of my life. Music has defined me my entire life.

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

I would describe my sound as Blues based guitar music with some soul in there. It’s about the entire band playing the shit out of their instruments and about being in the moment of the music.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Meeting BB King & Albert Collins was life changing. I’ll never forget when BB told me “Just do what you love & people will see your passion”. Albert Collins work ethic had a huge impact on my life. Albert would drive his bus and you could find him under the hood working on the motor before a show at the venue or hotel parking lot.

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

There was just something special about old school recording. All musicians in the studio, live recording, the warmth of analog tape, laying down tracks until you get that magical recording.

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

The first time I opened for BB King… BB was booked for two nights in a row at The Strand in Redondo Beach. I opened for BB that first night and it was an amazing show! Later that night, we were in BB’s bus and he asked me if I was opening the show the next day. After I told him they only booked us for theone night, BB replied”I want you to open for us tomorrow”.

Needless to say, I opened up for Mr. King the next night and 3 more shows in Southern California. A highlight of my career and life.

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

I would like to see younger people accept and embrace live music. Technological advances have changed the music world. The young kids of today need to experience the raw honesty of live music in an intimate setting. Backing tracks, lip-syncing, auto tune need to go away.

What would you say characterizes Nevada’s blues scene in comparison to other local scenes and circuits?

The Nevada blues scene is alive and well. We have venues where you can see new artists as well as famous players. Las Vegas has a history which represents glamour of Vegas as well as the hunger, pain and sadness that also exists on the streets here.

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

Magic happens through creativity and spontaneity. Success is achieved through communication and collaboration.

What is the impact of Blues on the racial and socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

The Blues, (as is all music) is artistic expression. Some think of the Blues as sad and lonely music, but it can bring joy and happiness as well. Music can take people to a place where they forget about their everyday problems & make people smile more often.

Interview by Michael Limnios

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