Joanne Shaw Taylor Interview

As the first night of the Marquette (Mich.) Area Blues Society’s eighth-annual Blues Fest closed, a storm rolled into the park from the middle of Lake Superior. The rain hitting the stage and the lighting silhouetting Marquette’s lower harbor were easy to notice, but no thunder could be heard over the powerful riffs coming from Saturday night’s headliner Joanne Shaw Taylor. Brice Burge was able to sit down with her for an exclusive interview after her performance.


That weather got really rough there at the end. What was it like to play in that situation?

It was a lot of fun until the last two songs. Then the equipment started getting wet and there was an executive decision made that I didn’t want to die on stage. Mother Nature is unpredictable at best.

What kind of influences did you have as you got into your music?

I grew up in Birmingham, which is kind of like the Detroit of England. I was able to get into the classic rock music there and the rockier areas of blues through Cream and Hendrix.

The last song of your set was by Hendrix and you just killed it. I think you took a lot of people by surprise with how talented you were, because even though you can see stuff on YouTube, its really different hearing it live.

Yeah, YouTube can be a blessing and a curse. Often its with a cell phone or something like that so its not good quality, but its enough for someone to say that (my music) is going to be good.

What do you do for practice?

While on the road, I usually try to warm up an hour before the show. When I’m off the road I usually try something different; just cause I play blues rock on stage doesn’t mean that I want to play it all the time. I’ll play jazz, bebop, all kinds of stuff to really develop, cause even though I’ll probably never play it on stage, its always good to have more stuff in the arsenal. Sometimes I’ll just jam out to a P!nk DVD and just have a lot of fun with it.

You have a P!nk DVD?

Haha, yeah. Like 50 fans are going to go out and get the DVD now that I said that, but she is truly great live. She dances and sings great.

After your first song, one of the fans up front shouted out “Ted Nugent” real loud. I don’t know if you’re aware, but he has a deer camp nearby and to get the Nugent shout out is a real compliment.

That’s interesting, but if you’re going to shout out a name why not someone like Kid Rock since he is from Michigan or anyone else? Sometimes people shout out and I might not know what that meant, but I’m gonna take it as the highest compliment.

The road to where you are now had some rough beginnings but has really started to stabilize lately.

Yeah it has. I started when I was 16 and a lot happened, but I equate it to things out of my hands, but also some of them were my decisions. There’s no reason to release a debut album at 16 or 17 when you can really wait til your talent can mature. I viewed the time before (my first album) “White Sugar” as my education.

You have some large fan bases not just in the U.S. and England, but in other spots in Europe and Australia. What’s it like to be known around the world?

It definitely is an honor, but it doesn’t seem that daunting either because with everything like the internet its easy to relay that information. But you do travel a lot. You see a lot of hotels and airports and after awhile you don’t always realize you’re in a different place. I’ve been all over including Norway, Bulgaria, even Sweden lately and its a privilege. It’s really nice that everyone wants to see you live and its not until you’re off the road that you realize it and appreciate it all.

Sounds like living on the road can be  pretty challenging.

It can be. I remember one time in Holland the stage was on top of a pool table. While touring in Canada I was taking two flights a day to get set up for each bit. But ultimately you do what you have to do. We get paid to make those flights and stay in those hotels, but the only part of the bit that we’re not getting paid for is when we get up on the stage and play.

You were recently nominated for Rising Star at the Blues Blast Awards. What’s it like to be nominated for the award?

You know, I’m not really one of those people that go for awards.  To win those, there’s a lot of “vote for me” on Facebook and MySpace and that’s not really for me. Unfortunately awards start to become competition and this is not the Olympics; there are no gold medals. It is all opinion. However it means a lot to be nominated and I think its cool to be on the radar with other great singers. But I hope I don’t win anything haha. If you win, you have to go up and speak and I would just screw everything up. Its tough to be onstage without a guitar in my hand.

A lot of people get a little nervous on stage. If you win, have you thought about bringing a guitar up with you for that extra confidence?

Haha, oh no! I might send up my grandmother because she has a really thick English accent and I think it would be funny to see how many people could understand her. Either way, the award would be appreciated.

Any final words for your fans in Marquette and at BluesRockReview.com?

Just thank you for the support, see you next year and eat your vegetables.

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