|JST's latest CD - live, one take stuff|
Now, she’s based stateside, by no means the only Brit to have moved countries to further a career. More recently, Davy Knowles, from tiny Port St Mary in the Isle of Man, relocated to the
further his blues career, while Birmingham’s Toy Hearts – familiar to Joanne from their sets at the Roadhouse in Stirchley, South Birmingham - are
currently in the middle of a very extended spell playing Western Swing and
Bluegrass and working out of . Austin,
It's not the first time that British musos have taken their versions of
music back to the mother ship. Rewarding though it may be, it’s not the easiest of
paths to travel.
Joanne Shaw Taylor It’s been a slow process. I’ve been gigging since I was 14, playing professionally since I was 16. It wasn’t overnight. There’s a lot to be said for enjoying the process, and I’m very lucky to be able to do what I do. I was fortunate when I came over to the
US. It was very difficult – even my record label couldn’t get me UStour. It was part-naivety and part blind stupidity that made me decide, well, I’ll just do it myself.
So I started phoning venues in the
USfrom my parents’, and wherever I was. I knew a band out of Detroitthat had opened up for me, and so I asked if they could find me a rhythm section… a cheap van… that sort of thing. Fortunately, I’d secured enough dates to give me a work visa.
I found when I was working in the
was that the overriding criterion for success is: can you do the gig? If you
can, you’re good to go, you’re in; everything else is secondary. Which, frankly,
is different from the way we do things in the UK.
There is a really nice mentality over here, which is, I guess, The American Way. Everything is there for the taking. You just got to work hard for it.
So you’re in the
US plying your
trade… while over here there are not that many young blues players. Plenty of
guys in their 50s and 60s, reliving Clapton is God with John Mayall’s
Bluesbreakers… But I’m actually not sure exactly how close to the blues that
really is. I always felt the stuff we sold to the US in the 70s was a whole different
thing. Our boys got the sexual and power element, the strutting, all that. But
they didn’t get anything of the human element, the sadness…
Hendrix too – he was very much the new pioneer of the blues guitar, very unlike the traditional blues player.
Even though he had to come to the
to make it.
Yeah! But I think there is something to be said for all that. And I also think there really is a good scene in the
UK, with lots of new guys coming through. More than when I started. Virgil and the Accelerators, Matt Schofield, Ollie Brown, Chantel McGregor. Maybe they are not seen as real blues. A lot of them gravitate – like myself – to a rockier aspect. But that’s not any different to what Robert Plant was doing in the 70s. Singing with his shirt off.
So on the last studio album, I worked though it looking for a 12 bar blues, and it’s like you just said… apart from Jealousy, which seems to be a signature song for you.
It is a focal point of the set, yes.
Do you still use a power trio format – because that’s not how you recorded?
We added a keyboard. It’s interesting that you picked up on the lack of traditional blues. Adding a keyboard has really opened up different material – soul ballads that I couldn’t do live as a 3 piece. I don’t think it’s fair to say that I’m a blues artist – no blues shuffles, after all.
When you come back to the
how does it feel? Are you treated as a returning hero, or as a traitor who has
fled these shores?
I’ve always had a good reaction. I love coming back. It’s still home. I’m very fortunate – I can tag on a couple of weeks with the family, so it’s always really nice for me.
Over here, your hometown gig is
Hall; In London, the Shepherd's Bush Empire. What level of gig do you play in America?
We build it up slowly. We’re getting off the bar blues scene where we can. It’s really hard to do in
America, actually. There’s a really good scene for blues in the US, but it’s kind of a plateau. Really it’s only Joe Bonamassa who’s managed to get off that juke-joint blues club level. So we’ve done a lot of festivals, and now we’re booking and promoting our own shows in smaller theatres and clubs.
When I was last in the
US, I worked with some guys who had their own bands. Their stuff was
good, too - proper music making, good ideas, all that. . But when I asked them about gigs, the reaction was pretty defeatist: 'We can
only get gigs doing covers'. This was in a town 20 miles outside of New York, which is one
of the most exciting music cities on the planet!
There’s a lot of competition. A lot of venues just want a band to turn up and play for four hours, to entertain the customers in the bar. That means covers.
You had to do those gigs to start with?
So that means you can handle a crowd?
Yeah. And if not, that Les Paul I play is pretty heavy! I can only speak of my experience. There’s partly an attitude at the venues of turn up and play and keep the customers happy. It’s a shame, because many of the bands are worth that 20, 25 dollar ticket price, and can put on a great show. But they often don’t get the opportunity.
Stage right, all in white - JST with Annie Lennox at the Queen's JubileeMaybe that’s one of the reasons that the best
It’s ironic that the USA, the home of so many brilliant genres of music that we in the UK regard with awe and respect, is so often so difficult a place for musicians to make their way… But it also holds a welcome that we in the UK simply don’t seem to be able to offer.
Toy Hearts head for the epicentre of Western Swing
Gigs and Links
Her full US/UK/Europe list is here
Joanne Shaw Taylor's website