Austin Crum And Family

Posted January, 2016

 

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The interviews that grace this webzine are normally of iconic, legendary, or up-and-coming artists. Big names, so to speak. This month, you are going to learn about a talent well before the rest of the world is turned on to him.

His name is Austin Crum and believe me when I say that this sixteen year old guitar prodigy is definitely the next Stevie Ray Vaughan or Joe Bonamassa. Rock. Blues. Country. You name it, Austin nails it.

Born to Gina and Chad Crum and raised in Newport, Austin literally cut his teeth on the guitar. To hear Austin’s parents tell it, they discovered that their son was gifted on the guitar at a very early age. Chad said: 

To hear Austin’s parents tell it, they discovered that their son was gifted on the guitar at a very early age. Chad said: 

“We knew he had talent when he was a baby. He could keep rhythm.”

Gina chimed in and said, “Yes! He had a little toy guitar. I’m talking little bitty. He was, probably, one. We gave him a pick and he would play along.”

Chad added, “He always carried a pick. When we would get ready to go to church, he would make sure that he had a pick in his little pocket when he was old enough to walk around.

“At our church we have a lot of music. We have a lot of drums, the bass, guitars, acoustics, piano; we had an organ at one time. We had a lot of music. Austin would watch the guitar player and he would actually have his pick. We’d be singing in the choir and he would be over there playing the guitar player’s licks.

“He sung his first song in church when he was four – ‘There’s Been A Change In Me’ – the old Gospel song.”

Gina added, “I sung it to him when he was little – taught it to him. When he was four, he learned the whole song and stand in church and sing it.”

The church they’re talking about is Centerview Free Will Baptist Church in Newport, Tennessee, and is where Chad Crum was “born and raised” in. 

I asked the Crum’s if they thought that pre-natal learning factors in to Austin’s talent. They both share a story in answer to that question.

“When World Championship Wrestling was really big, Hulk Hogan was really into wrestling. Gina has two brothers and when we first started dating at a real young age – and her nephew was thirteen. He was at a very impressionable age and me and him just kinda clicked. He was like my first son or little brother, whatever. We got to

     

where we were watching wrestling. The boys would come to our house and stay the weekend and watch wrestling with us. 

“We got to noticing that Hulk Hogan was walking out to ‘Voodoo Chile’ and we’re, like, ‘Man! That’s just a rockin’ version of Voodoo Chile! We gotta figure out who that is. We actually went to a CD store to look for it. The guy there told us that it was probably Stevie Ray Vaughan. He recommended ‘Live Alive’ and was the very first album I bought. 

“I worked at a body shop and a guy that I worked with – an older gentleman – he kinda dabbled in guitar just a little bit. He said, ‘Stevie Ray is an unbelievable guitar player. You just wouldn’t believe how good he is!’

“The first time I’d seen him was on the Johnny Carson Show. He had his initials on his guitar and he just wore it out! I got addicted to listening to him. Every time that I was in the car when she was pregnant, I was really, really hard core into Stevie. I bought all of his records and went back – even his earlier stuff. I went back to Texas Flood – just couldn’t get enough of it. I mean, really. I don’t know if that had anything at all to do with it. Ha! Ha! 

“But it all started with wrestling and Austin – he got RSV whenever he was three weeks old and really sickly. When he had trouble sleeping at night, we would put Pride And Joy on headphones and (snapping his fingers) he would go out just like a light. It’s truly his favorite song. 

“I don’t know. I guess only God knows if that had anything to do with it.”

I asked Gina and Chad how they’ve nurtured their son’s talent once they noticed that there was something special there. Pointing to Chad, Gina said, “He’s gone over and beyond anything he (Austin) has ever wanted due to that.”

Chad added, “You know the little toy guitars that you can buy from Wal-Mart? He used to get those. We use to have to buy the ones with steel strings because he’d know that when he drug that pick across them, it had to make a noise. The plastic ones, he just broke. He’d know that they weren’t real. 

“I played acoustic at the time in church. Whenever you’d had him the acoustic when he was small, he would actually try to strum the strings versus most of the kids would just jingle and jangle away. But he would actually look and try to give a rhythm. 

     

“But the little guitar’s she’s talking about that he had, he’s still got it. We probably wouldn’t sell it for anything!”

Later in our conversation, Chad mentioned, “When I noticed that he had rhythm was when I was listening to Pride And Joy and he was chunkin’ with Stevie in the song. No gettin’ out of time. No nothin’! I can actually remember being at a mall parking lot – Gina had run in to get something – and I was trying to work with Carlee (the Crum’s daughter) – she was real small – working on the groove. Austin was just little. They’re just two years apart. Austin was, like, ‘No, Sissy! Like this! Like this!’”

Surely, with all of this talent, there have to be some challenges that are faced.

“I guess people not taking him serious because of his age. I’ve seen him get mistreated a lot. Disrespect and envious of his talent. ‘You’re just a kid.’ He don’t play like a kid. They just look at him and disrespect him.

“Austin’s got a tremendous ear for tone. I mean tremendous! Most of your kids – most of your guitar players that you’ve got in high school – I teach high school now – they take a twenty dollar guitar pedal and plug it up. It’s just a racket. Austin’s like, ‘That’s not what I’m looking for.’ He’s got an ear for what he wants. All of his pedals are boutique pedals. The newest pedal that he’s got that’s a store bought pedal is the Mini Tube Screamer because we built him a small pedal board to travel to Nashville. The rest are boutique pedals that we’ve YouTubed and ‘I’d like to try that. I like that overdrive sound.’ Then we get it and, sometimes, he don’t like it. Then I put it on eBay and lose money on it. Ha! Ha!

Coming back around to the challenges faced, Chad concluded, “I guess trying to keep up with the sound that he’s looking for in his head. I think we’ve nailed it ‘cause people thinks he’s a Stevie Ray Vaughan prodigy; like he’s mimicking Stevie. But I’ve listened to Stevie so much, I hear Austin covering some Stevie songs with a Stevie lick here and there – it’s not note-for-note Stevie Ray Vaughan. I see kids on YouTube try to do that and it’s not. His (Austin’s) music tastes is getting so vast and so wide now, he’s venturing out into jazz. He’s a country picker. He can do some country stuff. It’s not just this box of Stevie Ray wannabe. I don’t want him to get painted that way. I don’t want him to get painted with that brush because I think he’s too talented to get painted with that brush.”

As a dad, myself, I know that I’ve run interference on things that involved my daughter. I asked Chad and Gina if they’ve had to do that.

“I’m real a real easy going kinda guy. You’ve got to do a lot to get under my skin. I think that’s a lot of the reason that’s kept people from getting hit in the mouth. There was one guy that talked down to him pretty bad and I didn’t even know it. Austin was eleven or twelve. He talked down to him. We had actually gotten in the car and Austin told me what he said. Who downgrades a kid? You should be wanting to be encouraging a kid that’s wanting to do and play. 

“A couple of weeks later, I got back around that man. Austin was doing some recording. I walked in to the sound engineer and I said, ‘Look, man, I’m not trying to tell you how to run your business but that guy better leave or I’m gonna whoop him right here in front of everybody. I haven’t gotten over how he talked to Austin last time. He needs to go somewhere. It’s either him or us. Whichever one you want it to be. No hard feelings either way but that’s my son.’ He left. We’d done what we were supposed to do. 

“But that’s probably the only time that I can say that I was about to lose my Christianity. I was fixin’ to hit somebody with the hand of fellowship! Ha! Ha!”

After getting a feel for the background and upbringing of this guitar prodigy, I turned my interviewing guns on Austin and began by asking him his earliest memories of loving the guitar.

“Well, everybody in the family plays. My cousins, Matthew and Steve play. I use to watch them growing up. Learned a lot of stuff off of them and just kinda built on it to

     

my own. That’s basically it. Everybody else was doing it at the time and I guess I wanted some of it, too. It led in to more than I thought, I guess.”

Austin couldn’t remember the first song that he learned but proud momma, Gina, knew: “Folson Prison Blues. That was the first song you ever performed out somewhere besides in church. And, you played it on a flat top.”

And Austin’s first gig?

“We’d done a kind of a talent show thing at school. We did Folsom Prison and he played bass and I played guitar and my granddaddy – he sings bass in church so he sung Johnny’s part on Folsom Prison. That’s probably our first thing we’d ever done out in front of many people like that.

“I was probably pretty nervous. It was in front of, probably, twelve hundred high school kids, or so. I liked it. I really enjoyed it. I wanted more of it.”

Kids can sometimes be pretty tough on each other – especially if they’re jealous of a peer for whatever reason. Responding to my question of whether his peers gave him a hard time or not, Austin said:

“They treat me really good, actually. They think it’s cool that I can play. They ask me to play. We have some guitars in the back of the chorus building. They tell me to get one out and play something. I mean, they’re actually pretty supportive about it. There will be a couple every now and then. They’ll be, like, ‘Betcha can’t play as good as my cousin.’ I just shrug it off my shoulder. It don’t bother me none.”

Chad added:

“In grade school, he entered a talent show four years in a row. He won First Place four years in a row. In his eighth grade year, he and Carlee entered together and did Sweet Child of Mine. She sung it and he played it.

“But most of his buddies are, like, ‘Austin’s the baddy on the guitar.’ I’ve not ever seen any jealousy or envy because I know of two guys that he went to school with ever since kindergarten and Austin’s told me that they’re the best basketball players he’s ever seen and they’ve said the same exact thing about Austin and the guitar. Mutual support and respect.”

As if I didn’t already know from hearing what all Gina and Chad had already said, I asked Austin who were his biggest influences on the guitar.

“I’d have to give it to Stevie. I mean, I’m straying into different kinds of music now but he’s the one who started it. I remember having a VHS of him and put it in and just watch him with his music videos and try to learn. I just have to give it to him. Austin City Limits, El Mocambo, Live in Tokyo – we got ‘em all, as far as I know.”

As we kibitzed about SRV, Chad added this little morsel of trivia:

“Austin actually got to share the stage with his (SRV’s) keyboard player, Reese Wynans. You couldn’t have washed that smile off of his (Austin’s) face. Austin was sitting in with Whitey Johnson at Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar in Nashville. It sounds awful but it’s a family atmosphere. He shared the stage with Whitey Johnson and Reese was sitting in with Whitey. Austin come off stage and I remember him telling us, ‘Man, that was such a weird feeling to look over at Reese and nodding off to him, like, ‘Go ahead, Reese, take that.’”

The list that Austin gave me when I asked who all he’s jammed with is impressive. 

“Bart Walker. We jam all the time. Any time he’s in town, he always asks me to come play with him. He calls me his little brother all the time. I’d love to play with Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Jack Pearson. Brent Mason. I’m listening to them more and more all the time. Of course, Kenny’s still got the good stuff but I’m venturing out to new things.”

Austin obviously has a good head on his young shoulders – the product of a solid family and strong upbringing. So, I asked him where he wants to be in five years. He answered without even so much as a nanosecond of hesitation.

“Nashville. I want to be a studio musician. I plan to move there when I’m eighteen and just play all the time and have a good time.”

East Tennessee has produced a lot of amazing, world-renowned talent. Mark my words: Austin Crum will be known as one of them. Because of that, I suspect that Austin will be nodding to many more great musicians in the future.

Marty Balin Discusses New Releases And Current Career

Posted December, 2015

     

It’s hard to believe that the iconic San Francisco band, Jefferson Airplane/Starship, took off fifty years ago but it’s true.  To commemorate this big anniversary this month, the band’s co-founder and key songwriter, Marty Balin, is releasing a two CD set of newly arranged old hits spanning the entire life and mutation of the band.  It’s entitled, “Good Memories. Then, in February, he’s releasing a CD of all new songs that he’s written, “The Greatest Love.”

I recently called up Marty at his Florida home to chat about both CDs, whether or not there would be any new work from his former band mates, and what his future plans are. 

We started off by talking about whether he had any idea the band would be remembered and listened to for fifty years and counting.

“No, I had no idea. Who would’ve ever thought that far ahead, anyway? It was fun to redo them all. I’ve been doing some of these things live. The audiences loved it and have wanted it on a record. It happened to be the 50th anniversary and it was a good idea. Put ‘em on a record. Why not? And it was a good set up for my next, new record, you know?”

With, “Good Memories”, Balin tackles the classics with some different spins, arrangement wise. I asked him if these are variations that existed back when he originally wrote the songs or are if they are relatively new.

“They’re not new ideas. They’re how I do them now, live. I don’t have all these instrumental breaks and everything - none of the musical interludes. I give them the body of the song. I make it a ‘song’ song. I don’t go off on all these jams.”

Speaking of the fans being the catalyst behind “Memories,” Balin said:

“They inspired me to do it. They’d call out these old tunes and I started doing them. My guitar player is hearing these songs around and asking me about these different songs; jogging my memory. So, we started doing them live. People were getting off on it. It coincided with ‘fifty year later,’ so we said, ‘Hey, let’s spit it out. What the hey?’”

Knowing that artists don’t like to pick a favorite song it’s like picking their favorite child, I did ask which song would he point to as a calling card to get fans to pick up

     

the album.

“Good Memories, itself, would be a good calling card. Reflecting on the people and the times, you know?”

I then asked the same question regarding “The Greatest Love”.

“I would say, The Greatest Love. The song, itself, is a good example of what’s going now, for me, musically. And, that song, Waves, is a good one. Everything goes in waves, right?”

Speaking of “The Greatest Love”, I asked Marty to tell fans what this album is, from his perspective, and what he hopes they get from it.

“I hope that they get the same joy I get out of the songs. The connection I get when I do them live with people is why I put them on the record. The fans wanted to have them on record – or download them – whatever you want to call it. They got the joy out of hearing them live. I get the joy out of doing them that way. The reaction from the audience has been great. It showed me that they accepted the songs. It’s good to get them all down while they’re hot.”

I shifted gears with Balin for just a moment and asked what kind of changes has he seen in the audience in his fifty years of rocking.

“I pretty much get the same kind of reaction in my live shows. There’s nothing like a live show to be at or to perform at. I think that hasn’t changed at all, no matter what’s going on. People still love to be in the presence of a performer and hear the songs fresh. I think that’s a thrill. You get a thrill out of that. You don’t get it anywhere else.”

He’s seen a lot of changes in both recording as well as the music business so I was curious what have been the biggest changes – both positive and negative – that he’s seen in recording albums as well as in the music business.

     

“I think the most positive change has been the Internet – the way you can spread your music. It’s probably, also, the most negative thing about it. You gotta be careful. I think it works both ways. I think it’s great – all the new ways to get back with people and communicate with the people; get your songs across. There’s a lot more variety to do that with today than it was in the past.

“In the past, you had to work through a company – a promo man and all that stuff; the radio stations – we used to go around to all of the radio stations. I mean, you still have some of that today. Now, it’s a lot easier, I would think.”

His comment begged the question of whether Marty found that these changes make it easier for him to connect with fans these days.

“Yeah! I think it’s much more direct. Instantaneous, in fact, on some of these things, you know? On Facebook, the web – everything’s right there!”

Switching to the positive and negative changes in the music business, Balin added:

“Well, you know, I don’t know much about the industry as it exists today, to tell you the truth. I’m running now like everyone else is. I use the Internet, talk to fans, and all this stuff about downloads. It’s an all-new world out there but I’m not knocking it because I’m using it. I guess it’s the way of the wave. The way you do things now. Why knock it? They’re still putting out vinyl for us old guys. We still got our stuff out there. You can still go see live shows and still buy a vinyl record, if you want. So, things have changed but they’re still the same.”

A reader/fan wanted me to ask Marty about an early 70’s project that he did called, “Bodacious D.F.” Specifically, he wanted to know if “D.F.” really stood for “dope funk”.

“It stood for ‘Dopey ****’. Sometimes, we would play and we’d tell somebody, ‘Hey, that was bodacious, man.’ Then, sometimes we’d play and they’d go, ‘Dopey ****!’

     

It became our name, Bodacious D.F. That’s how it came about.”

I knew Balin is always asked if there’s any chance of getting Jefferson Starship getting together to do another album. I knew it would annoy him to be asked the question but I knew you readers wanted to know so I asked him.

“No, I don’t think so because Grace doesn’t ever want to sing again and the other guys have their own projects. Hot Tuna’s got Hot Tuna and Paul’s got his Starship . . . .”

Marty then added:

“If we all got together, I’d have to be in charge. I can’t do the other people’s way of doing things. I don’t think they want to get together. Why try to do it again, anyway? We’ve been offered millions if we’d come together but nobody’s gonna do it, you know? That’s why everybody’s doing their own thing. They’ve got their own interests that they want to do. Me? I’m into new songs and new music - living some of the old songs but mixing in new stuff. Hot Tuna is doing Hot Tuna stuff and Paul’s doing the same ol’ Starship songs. I’m not into that.

“I like to be running my own show because people call songs out from the audience ‘Yeah! Okay! I’ll do that one!’ I’ll go right into it. I don’t have to wait for people to change guitars or have an instrumental break in every song. I just bam, bam, bam, hit ‘em with the songs. 

“People say, ‘Wow! You did thirty something songs in that set!’ Well, gee, when you don’t have an instrumental in every damn song . . . I’ve been doing 2 ½ to 3 hour shows and people ain’t walkin’ out on me because I give them a great variety of tunes – one right after another. I don’t waste time. I’m not losing any audiences by doing a long show.”

Since a Starship reunion isn’t in the works, I asked Marty if there were any particular people he would like to collaborate with.

“There’s many people I’d love to work with. Sure. I’d like to cut an album with Bob James. He’s a great keyboard player. I love his work. People like that. There’s a lot of people I enjoy and would love to work with. But, you know, at the moment, I’m just doin’ me. I’m not looking for anybody to work with. I’m just kinda happy doing my thing, like everybody else.”

As for any new talent that are catching his attention these days, Balin replied:

     

“Oh, god! Are you kiddin’, man? There are a lot of great stuff out there. I’m amazed. There’s so much good stuff. I’m just happy they’ve got a little niche for me, somewhere.”

In sharing what is on his radar in the next one to five years, Marty said:

“To just be playing. Making a few more albums. I’ve got a few more ideas that I’d like to finish off. Just go out playing like I’m playing. Just enjoy myself like I’ve been doing. Having fun. Keep on writing and see how people like my songs. I’ve not made any major plans except to keep playin’. That’s all.”

Tour plans?

“I’m just waiting until both albums are out and then will go out and do a bunch of gigs.” So keep your eye on Marty’s website, MartyBalinMusic.com, to see if he’s going to be performing near you.

Wrapping up our chat, my final question centered on how does he want to be remembered and what does he hope his legacy will be.

“Um, geez, I don’t know. A good artist. One of the great singers. To be remembered like that. A good song writer. That would do me. I’m fine with that,” he concluded with a short chuckle. 

Be sure to pick up Marty’s 2 CD full of “Good Memories” this month and his disc of all new songs, “The Greatest Love,” in February.

Tommy Emmanuel Discusses It's Never Too Late

Posted October 2015

 

     

If you’ve been a Boomerocity reader any time at all, you already know what huge Tommy Emmanuel fans we are here. You can find our positive concert, CD and DVD reviews on Boomerocity as well as two great interviews with the legendary Australian born guitarist.

Ooppss! Strike that. This makes the third great interview with the man.

In our interview with Tommy last year, his wife was expecting a baby at any time. That healthy bundle of joy did, in fact, arrive – a beautiful baby girl they named Rachel - and our chat started off talking about her.

“That’s right! She’s eight months old. Can you believe it? She’s eight months, already! Incredible! Where has the time gone? Unbelievable.

“I have a twenty-seven year old and a sixteen year old, as well. All girls. Just the way I like it. We learn so much from them, that’s the thing.”

Wanting to not exclude his wife, he adds:

“My wife, Clara, is such an inspiration to me at all times. She’s such a good mother. She’s a hard worker and so dedicated and so helpful in significant ways, you know? She constantly shares the load with me – even when I’m not saying anything about it. She just always shares everything with me so that I can go on and do the best I can. She knows how important that is. So that’s a good partnership.”

Sharing even more about his life, Emmanuel said:

“I was divorced in 2002 and I kind of made an agreement with myself that I would not get married again. Then, I met Clara and three years after we met I just knew there was no point in me prolonging it any longer. I don’t want to be with anybody else. I can’t imagine anybody else in my life. So, I asked her to marry me and she said, ‘Oh. Okay.’ 

“We got married privately and then called all of our friends and family up to tell them what we’d done. My other two daughters – it took them awhile to get used to the idea. Then, Rachel came along and it took them awhile to get used to that, as well. It’s been an interesting ride the last few years, you know, just personally. I think it’s helped me focus better on my playing, my writing and all that sort of stuff. And I’ve got new management, new business management. Everything has made a big turn and I’m really looking forward to this next couple of years; with a new album out and some great shows coming up.”

A Boomerocity reader said that he saw that that Emmanuel established a new record company, CGP Sounds and wanted to know if it’s for Nashville based and/or American artists or was he looking to open up opportunities for Australian based country bands who may be hoping to knock on doors in the U.S.

“Definitely, I’m looking for real talent around the world. CGP Sounds, at the moment, we have released two albums, so far. One is called, ‘Just Passing Through”. That’s’ some duets with another guitar player and a violin player. It’s in the Django Reinhardt style – like the swing/gypsy jazz style – which I recorded ages ago. We decided to put that out. Then, my new album, ‘It’s Never Too Late’ – via Thirty Tigers – it’s on my label, CGP Sounds. So, that’s the first two products.

“I’m not planning on rushing into too much too soon. I’m just going to kinda ease into it and then make some decisions on who I’ll sign and what I want to do with them as we get more organized down the track. 

“My managers are in on the label, as well. They’re the ones really driving everything. We all have to be unanimously in agreement on who we want to record and put out, promote and all of that sort of stuff.”

Knowing that Tommy had been on the Steve Vai owned label,  Favored Nations, I asked if CGP Sounds is modeled in the same fashion.

“Steve’s label is Favored Nations and Favored Nations is underwritten by Warner Bros. It’s a big company and he’s got a little bit of it. It has a niche market, you know?

     

We wanted to have a much better situation. I’ve got Jensen Communications as my promotion team and Thirty Tigers and Red are the label and the distributor. Red is Sony Company. They’re all over the world. Thirty Tigers is going to be driving this album for me and Red will make sure that the distribution is done right. But it’s the first time that I’ve had a product that’s had this much and kind of people behind it and people actually doing their job. It’s been fantastic! 

“Already, this is the first week in and we got the Americana chart yesterday and I’m number two as the most added artist on the Americana format. So, it’s really, really exciting for me. We’re hoping for a Grammy nomination in several categories, including Best Instrumental Composition. So, keep your fingers crossed, brother!

“It just feels that we’ve got a great team, now. I feel like we can all really move forward and really go for it!”

We at Boomerocity LOVE LOVE LOVE the new album. I asked Tommy to tell me a little bit about what this particular album means to and for you and what you hope fans will get out of it.

“Well, first thing, I recorded it in bits and pieces because I had a really hectic schedule last year. When I was home in Nashville, I had to get back in the studio and record some of the songs. Then, I wrote more songs when I was away. 

“When we knew that Rachel was coming, I wrote, ‘It’s Never Too Late’. I thought it was exactly what I needed for my album. That song and that saying – that’s why it ended up being there. It’s never too late to live happily ever after. That’s what the saying is. 

“I have a sign in my house when you walk in the front door, the first thing you see is a sign saying, ‘It’s never too late to live happily ever after’. It’s a very positive message to put out there to people and to remind them to get on and find what makes you happy and run at it with all your energy.

“Every song on the album means a lot to me. A lot of people have commented that they felt that these songs are some of the best that I’ve come up with. That’s nice to hear people saying stuff like that. My songs are like children to me and they’re always precious to me. They’re like little jewels and I try to keep polishing them. 

“The other good experience with this album was I decided that I would record some of the songs and mix it with a guy named Mark DeSisto. He’s in Los Angeles. He used to work for me back in the nineties. He specializes in mixing and mastering but he’s a great recording engineer, as well. I thought it would be good for me to have a change of pace so I came here to L.A. for a week and I recorded, I think, four or five songs with him. Then we spent a couple of days mixing and mastering the album. I was really pleased with the work. 

     

“The actual artwork and the photos were put together by my management team. They just did a great job. The cover of the album has little clues to all the song titles in the artwork. If you look at the cover, you’ll see that I’m standing there, looking at a clock. I’m inside the clock. The clock actually goes to thirteen, so you can never be too late. 

“My shadow that comes off my figure – my shadow is actually wearing a cowboy hat so that’s El Vaquero, which is Spanish for ‘the cowboy’. It could also be for The Duke. There’s a song on there called The Duke which is John Wayne. I’ve been a John Wayne fan all my life. I just imagined that, if I went back in a time machine back in the forties and somebody asked me to write a theme for a John Wayne movie, that was my operandi. It was my modus operandi that gave myself that challenge. That’s what I wrote. 

“Blood Brother was a song – I had a very powerful dream that was just like a movie. I woke up from the dream with that song in my head. I wrote it when I was in Spain. It tells a story, really. It’s a double-edged sword. It’s about brothers who watch each other - who watch out for each other – in the military. They’re fighting a war and they’ve got each other’s back. So, there’s that part of it and, then, the other part of the story is I read a story about a guy who was helped by a very poor Mexican family and he went to try and pay them for their help. They gave him food and they helped him get back on the road again, finally. He tried to pay them and they wouldn’t take anything. The old guy said, ‘Today you, tomorrow me. Today, it’s your turn for an act of kindness. Tomorrow, it might be me who needs it.’ There’s that kind of message in the song, as well.

“It’s Never Too Late, I wrote for Rachel because I turn sixty this year and I have an eight month old daughter. I just never thought that this would ever happen to me. It’s, actually, the best thing that’s ever happened to me and I can’t believe how she’s changed my life. Talk about a reason to get going and to get on with things. You’ve got a baby to bring up and to enjoy. It just reminds you that family is what it’s all about.”

What song from the disc would Emmanuel suggest as a “calling card,” if you will, to entice people to pick up the album?

“It’s Never Too Late – the title song. Definitely.”

Two other tunes from the album that Boomerocity absolutely loves are, “Hellos and Goodbyes”, and “Old Photographs”. Tommy shared the stories behind those songs.

“Hellos and Goodbyes, I did the rhythm guitar and then just played the song over the top. I co-wrote that song with a friend of mine back in the nineties. I arrived here in L.A. and I had a dream and in the dream this voice said, ‘Life is just hellos and goodbyes’.  When I woke up, the song that I had been writing, I somehow knew that that was the right title for that song. That is what that song is about. 

“So, the guy that I co-wrote it with, I rang him, firstly, to tell him about the title and, secondly, to say that it’s on my album; that he could break out the champagne now. Ha! Ha! I said to him, ‘The song is called Hellos and Goodbyes’ and there was silence on the phone. I said, ‘What’s up?’ and he said, ‘I just came from the hospital this morning. My father passed away last night in one part of the hospital and my sister had a baby, this morning, in the same hospital.’  He had a hello and a goodbye. It was powerful. It gave me chills. 

“Old Photographs I wrote after I watched the movie, Lincoln. It just transported me, that film. Not the story. Just the movie. It transported me because it’s so authentic. It reminded me of when I used to sit with my grandmother and I’d look at photographs of all my family and of my uncles who never came back from the war and all that kind of thing; and how precious that time was with my grandmother. I wanted to write a piece that sounded like it was from, I don’t know, the thirties or forties. Like some old guy sitting at the piano, playing  for his grand kid. That’s kind of like I wanted to do with that song.

“I heard that everybody who gets the record – I heard that people get a really good feeling from the music and that it brings good feelings to them; good memories. They make of the songs whatever they will. That’s the good thing about a song that has no lyrics. You can, in your own mind; you can imagine what it’s about, yourself. The writer wants you to listen to what he’s writing about through the title. Like Blood Brother. Old Photographs. It’s Never Too Late. Those kinds of titles. 

“Some of my earlier work were songs like Determination, The Journey, Don’t Hold Me Back – they are titles that I come up with years ago that speak a lot about what I’m writing about. It’s telling stories with words.”

When I commented that this is evident of an innate musical genius, Tommy’s genuine humility was unequivocal in his response.

“Well, thanks. I wouldn’t call myself a genius. No way! But I definitely – I channel stuff. When I feel inspired and I know I’ve got an idea that I’m excited about, I don’t quit on it and I use every resource I can possibly can to make sure that I get the right feeling across and the story told in the right way. 

“When I played in Madrid and Barcelona and Valencia in Spain a few years ago when I wrote Blood Brother, a guy I know who is a local flamenco player, Antonio Rey, he knew no English whatsoever. After the first show, he came to my dressing room and he had his guitar in his and he said, ‘Tommy! Tommy!’ and he played a little bit of Blood Brother and he said, ‘It’s flamenco! Your music is flamenco!’ He felt that that song was flamenco song and it totally spoke to him. Yeah! You never know, do you?”

In preparing for my interview with Tommy (and in hopes of seeing if he was going to be performing within driving distance so that I could mooch some tickets from him), I checked out his tour schedule. The guy’s calendar is jam-packed! I asked him if his family was going to be joining him at any time during the tour.

“Yeah. Well, I won’t see my daughters in England until Christmas. But my wife and my new baby will join me. I’ll see them next week in Las Vegas. They’ll then fly on to

     

San Francisco. My wife will be with her sister and her mother will come in from Australia so all of that side of the family will be together in California. Then they’re going to fly ahead and be in Korea. I’ll fly out of San Francisco straight into China and I’ll do China, Taiwan, then Singapore, Hong Kong and then I’ll do Korea. When I do Korea, we’ll all be together there. Then, my wife and my daughter are going to fly with me to the Japan dates. Then, we’ll go home from there.

“The Christmas tour will be with John Knowles, Pat Bergeson, and Pat’s wife, Annie. She’s going to sing, as well. I’m going to do a Christmas tour where the first hour is me solo – all the stuff from the album. Then, the second hour after intermission will be all Christmas music.”

Realizing that his time comes at a premium, I asked if there are any new albums and/or DVD’s in the works.

“There’s a lot of new performances that’s been uploaded in the last couple of weeks. There’s a brand new video for the song, It’s Never Too Late. It’s just been put up about an hour ago. So, yeah, there’s a lot of new stuff to look at. Go to my YouTube channel. There’s a lot of stuff to look at there. 

“We’ve got to do a follow up, instructional DVD for Milestones. I did a course for beginners called, Milestones, which really slowly led you through to becoming a finger style player. I broke everything down into small bits and made it accessible. So, we’re going to do a follow up on that one. That probably won’t be until early next year.

“I’ve got a duets album in the works at the moment. We’re talking to a lot of people. I’m really hoping to get some great artists on my album – that duets project.”

As with past albums from Tommy, Boomerocity eagerly awaits this project. Check out his tour schedule – as well as any news – at www.tommyemmanuel.com. You will definitely want to catch one of his shows. They’ll dazzle and amaze you. Guaranteed.

Beth Hart Discusses Better Than Home

Posted November, 2015

Photo by Greg Watermann

     

To say that Beth Hart is one of the most amazing new female singer/songwriters of the new millennia would be an understatement. 

Literally discovered in the 90’s while performing on the streets of L.A. by David Wolf (who became her close friend and manager). He managed to land her a record deal with Atlantic in a matter of weeks.

Her talent has landed her on TV (both performing as well as her songs being used on shows) and even in front of our current president (along with the iconic Jeff Beck). 

Because of her openness about her battles with booze, drugs, bad relationships and being bi-polar, Beth Hart has inspired many to fight the good fight against their own personal demons.

I was first turned on to her work four years ago by way of a duet album she recorded with guitar great, Joe Bonamassa, entitled “Don’t Explain”, in 2011. She won me over with her treatment of the Etta James hit, “I’d Rather Go Blind”, making permanent and me an instant fan. A couple of years later, I had the thrill of conducting my first interview with this incredible artist. 

I was recently afforded yet another opportunity to chat with her about her latest CD, “Better Than Home” (an album I absolutely love, by the way), prefaced my first question about it by stating that I felt that it was quite an introspective album from her, then asking if that was an accurate observation.

“Yes, I would say so. I mean, I typically tend to be pretty vulnerable and open in my writing, anyway. But this record, in particular, went a little deeper there. I turned in a lot of songs to Rob Mathes and Michael Stevens. A lot! These are the ones that they felt the strongest about recording.  I think that the chose a collection that just happened to be on a super personal level that they thought would work together for a record.”

I shared with Beth that my favorite cut from the disc is “Tell Them To Hold On” and asked her to share her story behind it.

“Thank you. I love that song! I started writing that a few years ago – several years ago, actually. What inspired me was that I went into the hospital and I really

     

Photo by Greg Watermann

wasn’t doing that well. As I started to come around and feel better, I saw a lot of people there with me that hadn’t started feeling better, yet. I felt so much compassion for them because I had just been through the same thing. So, I was kinda, in part, thinking, ‘I swear to God, it gets better, guys! Just hang on in there! No matter how bad or dark or scary it gets, it always gets better! It’s so worth holding on because it just gets better.’ I think that’s where that came from.”

When I told Beth that I thought that God’s hand was on her when she wrote that song, she said:

“Thank you. I’d like to think that because I really feel like it’s such a spiritual experience writing. It’s such a healing and wonderful experience. I’ve always felt like God and the angels kinda help me out there, you know? Kinda show me the way. I need to believe that, you know?”

Realizing that artists don’t like to pick a favorite song from their albums because it’s like picking a favorite child, I asked Ms. Hart which song she would point people to as a calling card for “Better Than Home”.

“It would be, ‘Tell Her You Belong To Me’.  It was by far the most challenging. It took the longest time to write it. I didn’t know what it was about in the beginning of writing it even though I had lyrics and I had all of the melody. I had all the music done first, which is what I usually do, anyway. But, I had a lot of lyrics and I couldn’t figure out what were the right lyrics. I pondered over it a couple of years. Then, finally, I realized why I was struggling with the lyric because I finally realized who it was about. It was about my dad. That’s why I was afraid to talk about those feelings. Once I figured out what it was about, then I said, ‘Okay, now let’s get this song done!’ I just love it. I love this song so much! I dedicate the album to my dad. I never dedicated a record to my dad before.”

The title song is truly soul stirring. Beth shared with me the story behind it and how it impacted fans.

“I’m close with a few of my fans and, when I say that, I mean that they’ve become really good friends of mine and they’re usually people who deal with similar things from difficulty in childhood or mental difficulties. So, yeah, they’re always a part because I know they’re my sounding board. I get to talk to them and say, ‘Hey, this is how I’m feeling,’ and they say, ‘Yeah, I’ve been going through the same thing, lately! This is what I’m doing to get better and this is what I’m doing that’s making me feel better.’ It’s a fantastic thing – especially when I’m writing a song about that. 

Photo by Greg Watermann

“For me, ‘Better Than Home’ came from a childhood place of having dreams about things being better; things being different; me taking a different course in my life; the way that I looked at myself and the way that I looked at my own family and the way that I looked at life and creating a new family. I like to think that having a band and, then, also getting married and my manager, David, is like my father. He’s like a father figure to me. I like at that as my new family that I created later in life. 

“But it’s really standing before God and what I see as spiritual healing and something that looks over me and guiding me and having the courage to say, ‘This is what I want for my life.’ I think it’s hard when you have such low self esteem to say, ‘This is what I really want for my life’ because you feel like you don’t deserve it.

“So, ‘Better Than Home’ is getting to that place where you realize, despite my insecurities, despite my warped thinking, I absolutely deserve to have everything that I’ve ever wanted: love and health and being able to be responsible for myself and letting go of feeling sorry for myself. All those kinds of things. Music and experiencing life like when you wake up and you go outside and you’re, like, ‘Wow! I’m alive! I’m really lucky and I’m really thankful!’ Those kinds of things. 

“What I did, though, when I wrote it, was I made it about the road so, that way, I wouldn’t have to explain that personal thing that I add to the song but I could use the road as an example. What the road means to me is just getting out of your house. It doesn’t necessarily have to be singing and doing a show. It just means getting out of where you’re hiding from and experiencing life again. And THAT is better than home – better than hiding.”

I discovered Beth Hart from her first duet album with guitarist, Joe Bonamassa. She’s also worked with the legendary Jeff Beck and others. A Boomerocity reader who knew I was going to be chatting with Beth wanted to know whom else she would like to work with sometime.

“You know? I would really, really love to do something with Tom Waits. I don’t know him and I’m sure he doesn’t know who the frick I am but I adore him! I adore his writing. I adore his whole vibe. He is so vulnerable and, then, the next minute he’s absolutely hysterical. He’s got such a broad sense of being able to find art in every form of emotion and the way he does it is so brilliant. I would love to even be a fly on the wall in his room when he’s working. That would be amazing. It’s always been him. Whenever I get that question, I always say Tom Waits.”

In my interview with Joe Bonamassa last month, I told him that I was going to be chatting with Beth and asked him for a comment about her, to which he said, “I think Beth Hart is probably the most naturally talented singer and musician that I’ve ever been on stage with. She has such a wonderful sense of timing and phasing, vocally, and has an infinite capability, vocally. She commands attention. There’s some people who can really sing. They stand up there and sing. She stomps up there and she takes control of the stage. You can’t teach that kind of stage power and that presence. She’s a very, very, very special individual and I’m very proud of the records that I’ve made with her.”

When I shared those comments with Ms. Hart, her response was bubbly and from deep within her heart.

“Oh, my god! That is so amazing! Oh, my god! I love him! He’s so sweet! This is how I feel about Joe: I think that Joe is one of the most extraordinary people

     

Photo by Greg Watermann

because, like Jeff Beck, he really works at his craft. He doesn’t just assume that he has all this talent and that’s all he needs. He works at it. He’s on the road. He’s practicing at home. He’s making records. He’s writing songs. He’s covering songs in a brilliant way. And he’s got a HUGE vocabulary. 

“I think it’s, obviously, a great talent there, but it’s like Jeff. Jeff’s got a great talent but he works his ass off at it. He doesn’t take it for granted in any way. He’s striving to always learn and takes on new challenges. I mean, you can see what he’s done with his career. He’s someone who’s never had Pop success; tons of radio play Pop stations and look at his career! It’s phenomenal and it’s because he works at it. He puts it out there. He never takes it for granted. That’s something that really inspired me when I met him was that I saw his work ethic and his total commitment – not only being an artist but really being someone that gets out there and works the shit out of it. That inspired me so much!

“Also, he’s incredibly humble and the easiest person to work with. He really inspires the people around him by allowing them to be themselves and showing them that respect and that love. He focuses on his side of the street. I think what that does is you work with people and you let them see that they’re there because you believe in them and you love them and you’re focusing on your thing and you know that they’re going to focus on their thing. And, when you bring it together, it makes it this amazing chemistry. You get the best out of people. That’s another thing I really saw from him and made it a conscious effort to do that in my life, as well. I love his flavors and his styles on things. 

“Obviously, as a player and as a singer - love him as a singer! I love his voice. I love how he doesn’t push and do that whole showboating bullshit thing. He really has faith in the material and he allows those songs to be played and to be sung for the sake of the song instead of for the sake of showboating and showboating is bullshit. We know that, you know? That only goes so far. After three or four songs, you’re done. You’ve seen the showboating. It’s over. With him, you don’t get that. You can watch him for two hours and it’s always special and it’s always something that is humble and comes from a real place of love for music instead of having to show you how amazing he is. His amazement is in how respects the music and at it from that place.”

In addition to what she had shared earlier, Beth shared what else is on her radar for the next year.

Photo by Greg Watermann

     

“Well, you know, what I decided is doing nine months on the road a year is just too much. It’s getting in the way of my relationships with family, with friends, with being able to be a wife to my husband, and it’s getting in the way of writing. Even thought I work with my husband on the road, it’s still all about the Beth Hart Show. At home, I want to be able to cook for him and go to the beach and ride bikes with him. 

“I was telling this to my manager recently. I was saying as a writer, I’m not going to write about airplanes and hotels. Who gives a shit about that? I gotta write about real life and in order to write about real life, I have to be connected to real life. 

“So, I think what’s on the focus for me is, like, seven months out of the year on the road, living a real life and being able to write from that place. Being really healthy. Really balanced. I’m forty-three, now. This is the time where you’ve really got to take care of yourself if you want to live to be old and I want to live to be old! I want to have a long life. I want to be able to be there to take care of my husband when he gets really old the way he’s taken such amazing care of me through all my difficulties. So, I’m kinda reprioritizing things and I think it’s a good thing! I feel really good about that.”

If Beth’s future is as full of life as she sounded during our call, then, happily, we should be hearing from this beautiful and amazingly talented woman for many years to come . . . and that’s a wonderful thing.

Joe Bonamassa

Posted October, 2015

 

Photo by JamesPattersonsGallery.com

     

Several years ago, a friend of mine gave me a large stack of CDs. The collection consisted of a variety of different bands and artists from all sorts of genres. I can’t tell you who all but one of the artists were in that stack because only one person I had never heard of actually commanded my attention: Joe Bonamassa.

The albums were two studio discs and a live one (Black Rock, The Ballad of John Henry and Live From Nowhere In Particular, respectively). What I heard was a young man who played rock, rhythm and blues with a fervor, passion and intensity that I had heard in, well, never. 

I became an immediate fan, acquiring all of his work that I could lay my hands on and reviewing his new releases on Boomerocity, starting with Dust Bowl and pretty much everything he’s released since. 

The same buddy who introduced me to Bonamassa’s work joined me in Dallas in 2012 to catch his show at the Music Hall At Fair Park. As amazing as his concert DVDs are, to see him perform in person is even more incredible. Since that show, I have seen him twice in 2014 and hope to see him many more times in the future. 

Joe has been called a guitar prodigy by many. He opened for B.B. King when he was only twelve years old. He’s played – and is playing – some of the most prestigious venues in the world including the Royal Albert Hall, the Vienna Opera House, and the Beacon Theater, to name a mere few. He’s produced fifteen albums – all on his own label, J&R Adventures, and all in the last thirteen years. 

Of course, since becoming a fan, I lobbied for an interview. Persistently. For years. 

Recently, persistence paid off and the interview gods heard my effectual, fervent prayers and allowed my first interview with the guitar maestro to happen.

Joe called me from the road. Actually, he called about an hour before hitting the stage at the USANA Ampitheatre in Salt Lake City as he was wrapping up the last few dates of his “Three Kings” tour. I asked about that tour and the tour that he’ll begin next month that will include shows close to yours truly.

“The Three Kings Tour ends August 29th. The Three Kings Tour was only twelve shows. The show that’s

     

 

Photo by Christie Goodwin

going to be happening in November is going to be a hybrid. I’m actually going to be playing my material. It’ll be horns and a different configuration of the band. There’ll probably be a few tunes that will carry over from the Three Kings but it’s not a tribute to the Three Kings. We’re almost wrapped up with it. 

“The show in November will be promoting more like some of the stuff off of the new album; some of the stuff from this tour; some of the stuff from the Muddy Wolf CD; some of the back catalog. It’s going to be more of a soup to nuts gig.”

Bonamassa has always surrounded himself with musicians who are as excellent in their craft as he is at his. In answer to the question about who his band line-up for the upcoming tour will be, he said:

“It’s a completely different line up. Anton Fig’s playing drums. Michael Rhodes on bass. Reese Wynans’s on keyboards. Lee Thornburg, Paulie Cerra are in the horn section. Depending on the material we choose, there may be a couple of other players. We haven’t really put together the line up, yet, but it’s going to be close to that.”

As for what Joe hopes fans take away from this tour, he said that:

“Every time you go on a different tour, different show, obviously, you want people to go, “That was the best show I’ve ever seen you do.” That’s the goal. This show, like last year, we were doing a hybrid; a forty-five minute acoustic show and then we did the electric show. This fall will be mostly electric. It will be all electric. It’s going to be more of a thing where – I haven’t even put the show together so it’s hard for me to talk about it.” 

Joe’s last CD, “Muddy Wolf at the Red Rocks”,  is especially fascinating especially. In addition to him paying moving homage to Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, there’s a DVD that shows him and legendary producer, Kevin Shirley, taking a road trip to the crossroads (both of them) that factors in to so much blues lore. I asked if more projects like that one are in the works.

“The Three Kings is an obvious extension of where we were. But we didn’t take a road trip this year. It was a lot of fun to go to the crossroads, though. It was a lot of fun.”

Bonamassa is doing a lot to promote music education in the schools – especially the blues - with his “Keeping The Blues Alive” foundation. I asked him why does he think it’s so important to promote the blues as he does.

“At the end of the day, how else are the kids going to be hip to what’s going on? I used to do blues in the schools all the time. It was something that, for me, was part of my day. I mean, now that my days are pretty hectic, I can’t do it any more. It’s really important to keep the music going for another generation. Continuing to champion it one thousand percent. You know, sometimes it feels like a thankless kind of job but it really does pay dividends if you can take the time.”

Photo by JamesPattersonsGallery.com

     

As a gifted “musician’s musician”, Bonamassa seems to always have some sort of project going on. When he doesn’t, he’s pulled in to work on someone else’s. One such project is one headed up by one of Joe’s main go-to drummers, Tal Bergman. The band just released a CD/DVD combo which absolutely incredible.  I asked Joe about it.  

“Well, that one is definitely more produced. It’s less ‘jam.’ It’s more ‘song.’ It’s very concise. We have Randy Brecker on there. Billy Gibbons makes a couple of cameos. It was a fun record to make and, also, a fun record to record. It’s a great side project for me. It’s a great experience to be with those master musicians. I’m just a member of the band. It’s not my group at all. I’m just a member.” 

As for tour plans to support it, Joe said:

“No. No. I mean, we play the Baked Potato. Ha! Ha! It’s not about touring. This is a fun project. We took the gig to New York to record the DVD a couple of years ago. That was fun. When you’re in a jazz band and you want to record, you’re on a jazz budget. It is what it is. At the end of it all, it becomes more of a situation where it’s really just a labor of love for us.”

Among the international readership of Boomerocity, there are a lot of musicians who would love this piece to be all about gear and technique. Those conversations are better left to the gear related magazines. However, I did ask him if there was a guitar that he considers the “holy grail” and, if so, does he own it.  

“The holy grail is whatever you deem. To some people, it’s ’59 Les Paul. To some people, it’s a ’52 Telecaster. To some people, it’s an ’82 Charpel that looks like

     

Photo by Christie Goodwin

Eddie Van Halen’s guitar. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. 

“As far a celebrity guitars, as for as ‘formerly owned” guitars, I don’t get into that. I collect really nice examples of 50’s and early 60’s Fender/Gibson stuff without celebrity association. If I bought Eric Clapton’s guitar, I’m not going to make me play like Eric Clapton. It really isn’t. You’ve got to play what’s within yourself. A guitar is a guitar.” 

Another talent who Bonamassa has been associated with – in fact, he introduced her to his fan base, elevating her popularity to a whole new level – is the lovely and talented, Beth Hart. Having an interview with her in the near future, I asked Joe what he thought about her.

“I think Beth Hart is probably the most naturally talented singer and musician that I’ve ever been on stage with. She has such a wonderful sense of timing and phasing, vocally, and has an infinite capability, vocally. She commands attention.

“There’s some people who can really sing. They stand up there and sing. She stomps up there and she takes control of the stage. You can’t teach that kind of stage power and that presence. She’s a very, very, very special individual and I’m very proud of the records that I’ve made with her.”

Photo by Marty Moffatt

     

As for future work with her, Joe shared:

“She’s going to be on my cruise this year. That’ll be fun. As far as making another record, I have no idea.”

Joe Bonamassa can arguably be viewed as a workaholic. He’s almost always on the road or in the recording studio and his output of work reflects it. His work ethic is unmatched, his volume of work prolific and the quality of it is flawless. Does he worry about being able to keep things fresh?

“You try to keep everything in perspective. You try to keep everything separated and you try to keep everything in a sense that you can, basically, manage it. Do it well. The whole work ethic thing doesn’t work if you can’t do any of it well or if you burn out.”

What’s next for Joe Bonamassa in the next year and the next five years?

“I have no idea. Ha! Ha! The next year? I have a new album coming out in June next year that I just finished. We have tour dates up into 2017. I’ll be playing Carnegie Hall next winter. Next five years? Don’t even ask. I have no idea.”

Wrapping up our chat, I asked Joe a question I ask many artists who have been around quite awhile or have a large body of work as he does: When you’ve stepped off the tour bus of life up at the great gig in the sky (to borrow from the Pink Floyd tune), what do you hope your legacy is and how do you want to be remembered?

“To be honest with you, there are a lot of people that I see fight to try to get their faces chiseled into the great Mount Rushmore in the sky as far as rock and roll is concerned. As long as I have a positive impact on music inspire a few kids to play the guitar, I’m good. I’m good. You always play your last gig like it could be your last. One day, you’re going to be correct.”

His last two sentences to me summed up his passion:

“I didn’t get into this to get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I didn’t get into this to make the part – to make the team. To me, I just like to play the guitar.”