|FEATURE -- Interview with Joanne
"New face of the blues" Joanne Shaw Taylor coming to Chicago with Bart
Walker as part of Ruf Records Blues Caravan tour
By Eric Schelkopf
She has been called the "new face of the blues."
British blues musician Joanne
will perform June 13
at Hard Rock Cafe, 63 W. Ontario, Chicago, as part of the Ruf Records
Blues Caravan 2013 featuring Taylor and Bart Walker. Jimmy Bowskill had
to pull out of the tour because of family illness.
The show starts at 9 p.m., and tickets are available through
I had the chance to talk to Taylor about her career and the current
Great to talk to you. You will be in Chicago as part of the Blues
Caravan tour. What's it like being on a tour like this? Is it more fun
to play with other musicians on a tour like this or to perform on your
It's a wonderful experience. I rarely get the opportunity to collaborate
with other artists, so it's very refreshing for me. Bart is a wonderful
talent and I think our styles work very well together.
Last year, you played lead guitar for Annie Lennox at the Diamond
Jubilee Concert for Queen Elizabeth II. How was that experience and do
you view that as the highlight of your career to date?
It was an incredible experience and more than anything a wonderful
highlight of my life more than career. How many people get to say they
attended a historical event such as that let alone perform at it? Plus
working with Annie was a dream come true.
Considering that Lennox is best known for being a member of The
Eurythmics and that her former bandmate, Dave Stewart, was the one who
listened to your demo tape when you were 16, was playing with Lennox a
case of life coming full circle?
Yeah, I like to think so. It's funny in a way, because although my time
working with Dave was an experience that certainly shaped my style,
writing ability, etc., the label went bust before I could release an
So 10 years later, once I'd established myself and had my career on
track to have the opportunity to work with Annie and someone associated
with Dave at a time in my career when it was hugely beneficial was a
funny turn of events for sure.
I understand that when Stewart first heard you, he said, "She made the
hairs on the back of my neck stand on end." How did you react when you
heard that comment? Did you give you further proof that you were
supposed to be a musician?
I think at the time I thought 'he's mad' :-) Personally speaking, I've
always felt very blessed to have received such support from Dave and to
have such a great deal of his respect, so at the time, I was probably
shocked he thought of me so highly.
Jim Gaines produced your first album, "White Sugar." Gaines has worked
with a variety of musicians, including the late Stevie Ray Vaughan, who
I understand is one of your inspirations. Did you feel an instant
connection with him?
Yes, it was easy to work with Jim. Dave Stewart had actually put me in
touch with Jim when I was 17. We had a long phone conversation while I
was at Dave's house about working together.
Ten years later, I finally got the opportunity and we both remembered
that chat 10 years earlier and thought it funny it took us so long to
get around to making an album!
You released your third album, "Almost Always Never," last year. What
were your goals for the album and do you think you accomplished them?
I just wanted it to be a progression. I always want to do something a
little different. It makes no sense to me to make the same album twice.
I think the songs were a lot more diverse on this album and I was really
pleased that I managed to achieve that and that it still sounded like a
continuation of the previous two albums.
You now live in Detroit, which like Chicago, has a strong musical
made you want to move to Detroit and how has it impacted your music?
My first U.S. band was from Detroit, so it was an obvious base for me as
we started touring over here more and it became apparent it would be
beneficial to move to the U.S.
I think it's widened my music tastes. Musically speaking, Detroit is a
very diverse town. It obviously has got the Motown/rock history, but
there's a strong country/rap/blues scene here too.
What was the music scene like growing up in Birmingham, England? What
made you want to pick up the guitar in the first place?
My dad and brother. I was surrounded by guitars from a young age.
Much to my mother's dismay, the allure of my dad's Fender and Vox AC30
won me over more than the ballet shoes and Barbies.
Do you feel added pressure as a female guitarist to prove yourself in a
field that is still dominated by men? Are there other female guitarists
out there that you admire, blues or otherwise?
I think the main thing I'll never understand is people's need sometimes
to compare me to other female players rather than male players who I'm
more similar to just because we're the same sex and have completely
Someone the other day was comparing me to Ani DiFranco. That's like
comparing B.B. King to Steve Vai.
There are a few I know of, Laura Chavez (Candye Kane's guitarist) from
the West Coast is a wonderful player and a good friend. Debbie Davies
- "Blues Matters" magazine called
you the "new face of the blues." Do you consider yourself the new face
of the blues? Do you see yourself helping the blues gain a bigger
Ha, it was a lovely compliment but I'm not sure I'm in a position to
confirm or deny myself the new face of the blues.
I think anyone out there playing blues or promoting their blues
influences must be helping introduce new listeners and help maintain the
genre. Hopefully, I'm doing that in some small way.
Eric Schelkopf has covered the arts and entertainment scene in Chicago
for over 25 years. Visit his informative blog at: