Feature Interview

Fred Eaglesmith

This is a transcript of an interview I did with Fred Eaglesmith in the summer of 2006. I’ve been moving and relocating it seems since that time and its just now that I’ve gotten around to transcribing it.If you aren’t familiar with Fred Eaglesmith you’re missing out on something special. He’s as real as they get these days. I had gone a couple of nights prior to see Fred’s last stop on a Western Canada tour before he and the band headed home. A few days later we did this interview. I enjoyed my conversation with him immensely. He’s personable, down to earth, intelligent, passionate and loves to talk about music. My kind of people. 

My son and I traveled 3500 miles to Texas about a week or so after this interview and Fred’s music made the trip with us and I remember that we were both so impressed that Fred’s music was at home no matter what part of the journey we were at. This Canadian talent is indeed universal in the very best sense of the word.

Full transcript

An Interview with
Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Ten Days Out (Blues from the Backroads)

Ten Days Out DVD Trailer

Audio Stream: “The Thrill Is Gone” (feat. B.B. King) high / lo

INTRO

TCB: Who was the very first blues artist you heard that turned you onto the genre? Do you remember the song?

KWS: I’m not exactly sure who the first blues artist was I heard. I know the first blues concert I went to was Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker hen I was 3 yrs. old.

TCB: Do you a have preference as far as which style of blues you have a particular fondness for?

KWS: I love all types of blues, but I tend to gravitate towards the Texas blues.

TCB: Obviously, Stevie Ray and Hendrix are two of your more contemporary influences. Who are some the earlier blues greats who’ve had a great influence on you?

KWS: Robert Johnson, Leadbelly, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Albert King, B.B. King, Albert Collins, Buddy Guy, Elmore James, I could go on for days…

TCB: We seem to have entered an age where music’s become something of a “disposable” commodity- where the focus is far less on the actual music than it is on “looks” and profit margins- and there’s seems little overall interest in preserving the roots and keeping legacies alive. For quite sometime, you’ve been very active working to preserve the history and legacy of the roots, not only of blues music, but also of country music. What prompted that intense interest with you?

KWS: Well, I believe in giving credit where credit is due, and the innovators of Blues like the musical influences I mentioned before, and the innovators of Country like Hank Williams Sr. & Jr. George Jones, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, again, I could go on and on… (by the way these country artists have also been an influence to me over the years. I was raised on Country music just as much as I was the Blues) Artists like these are the originators. They opened the doors for those that have come after. I feel like the core of the music has gotten diluted over the years in favor of what is “trendy.” The difference is, these people CREATED trends, they didn’t follow them, and that kind of attitude is inspirational to me.

TCB:How did the idea for the 10 Days Out project come about?

KWS: My producer Jerry Harrison suggested that we go down south and find some authentic blues musicians and go make some music with them. This idea came about while we were recording my third album. Several years went by and it never came up again until I recorded my fourth album “The Place You’re In” That record was turning out to be a rock album so we knew we needed to follow it up with something for all of my blues fans.

TCB: How did you arrive at your starting point? Did you know right away the artists you wanted to approach and work with first, or did you have a general idea and it branched out from there with suggestions from others?

KWS: I had several artists in mind, but I knew there was probably more artists out there that I was not aware of, so we put the word out in the blues community about what we were going to do and I started receiving artist submissions. I went through everything I got and made a list of who I wanted and the result is what you have here.

TCB: How did you come to join forces with Tommy (Shannon) & Chris (Layton) for the project? Was it something you guys had kicked around in the past that would be great to do together someday, did you know from the outset that they were definitely the people who you wanted to work with on the project, or did they approach you with the idea?

KWS: I think Double Trouble is one of the best rhythm sections ever. I knew the moment we started this project that there wouldn’t be any better rhythm section to be on this project than them.

TCB: How did you go about contacting the artists that are featured in 10 Days Out? What was their initial reaction about the project?

KWS: We just called them up and explained the project to them and told them we wanted them to be a part of it. Every artist we called was very excited about being a part of this project. We got everyone we wanted to get.

TCB: What was their initial reaction to you? How about your reaction to them- what was it like being around and working with these legendary artists and all the history that surrounds them?

KWS: Sometimes I still encounter the occasional look from someone like “who’s this young white guy who wants to play the blues with the real guys” but as soon as I pick up my guitar and play, they realize what I’m all about.

TCB: What lessons did you learn from them, both musically and about life in general?

KWS: Well, I just learned a lot from playing with these guys each day. They all had different styles and I had to find my place within the song and really contribute something. I also learned that there’s no excuse to just sit around and do nothing the older you get. Some of these people were in their 90’s and still as active as ever.

TCB: After being around these artists steeped in so much history, did the experience affect your own perception of the Blues?

KWS: It reminds me that the blues is alive and well. I learned a lot from playing with these people and listening to their stories. It’s an experience I will treasure forever.

TCB: What are your thoughts in regard to the fact that since the project was started, that what was recorded on tape captured the last documented performances of several of them…”Gatemouth” Brown, Wild Child Butler, Neal Pattman, Cootie Stark, and most recently Etta Baker, have since passed on.

KWS: So far 6 have passed. It saddens me and it’s a reality check. It just magnifies the importance of this project and reminds me how much these artists need to be appreciated while they’re still here with us.

TCB: Part of the proceeds from the 10 Days Out project are being donated to the Music Maker Relief Foundation. Can you tell us more about the Foundation and it’s mission?

KWS: They do a lot of things for blues artists and music. They give artists an opportunity to record their music and sell cd’s to make a living with their music. They help book gigs for those that can work. They help keep a roof over their heads, and for the ones that have fallen ill, it helps them with their medical bills. There’s much more to the organization, but these are just a few examples.

TCB: Rumor has it that you’ll be doing another instalment along the lines of 10 Days Out. Any truth to that?

KWS: I would love to, and we are definitely leaving the option there for it to happen. It just depends on the reaction to this project. If the people want another one, I would love to give it to them. There’s so much talent out there just waiting to be captured.

TCB: What are your hopes for the 10 Days Out project? It’s gotten critical acclaim and has created a lot of very positve buzz. Do you think it’ll be enough to raise awareness and spark a renewed interest in the Blues genre?

KWS: I hope so. I hope this project introduces a whole new audience to the blues, and I hope the Blues fans get to meet some artists they were unaware of as well. I feel like this is a very unique project. There’s nothing else like it out there right now. It’s something that’s made for all generations. I guarantee you’ll love it.

TCB: What are the differences you see between the Blues of previous generations and the current Blues of today?

KWS: Well, the people are different and the sound has changed a bit. Today, people incorporate rock into the Blues. Rock is just an offspring of the Blues, so that’s why it works so well. People like Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan left a big mark on the Blues and the way it will be played.

TCB: The Blues genre gets little attention and recognition these days. What do you think can be done to attract more attention to the genre that would spark the interest and passion of the music in more younger people to become involved to insure that the torch is passed to future generations to keep the blues and it’s roots alive?

KWS: There are young people every day popping up that are playing the blues. This music really appeals to the younger generation; they just need the opportunity to hear it. I think as long as there’s someone out there doing it, and doing it for real with passion, the Blues will live forever. It has already been here for almost 100 years. If I have anything to do with it, it will be here for at least 100 more.

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