Walter Trout‘s scene is one where he is able to “relax man”. Off the back of his latest album “We are all in this together”, award winning, accomplished blues legend Walter Trout talks to Rhys Goldberg about near death experience, blues collaboration, ice-cream, the road and getting back.
Was it always the concept for this album from the start to create a collaborative blues album or did it come later where you just got these special guests in?
You know it just sort of happened, the way it started was I did a gig at the Carnegie Hall a very famous venue with Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Edgar Winter and Buddy Guy and I was sitting in the dressing room with Kenny Wayne. We were talking and I said we ought to record something together and he said yeah I know I would love that. Then a little later I was hanging out with Edgar at the same gig, you know Edgar and I have had too different drummers that have gone through both of our bands so we kind of talked about our sharing of drummers and I said “man we ought to do something together Edgar” and he said “Yeah I’d love to do that.“ So now I got these two guys that’s awesome! Two weeks later I played in Toronto with Sonny Landris and Randy Bauchman and we were all kinda hanging out and I said Sonny man, cause Sonny’s a good friend. So I said lets record somethin sometime he said that’d be awesome! I kept getting this list of guys and then one night in LA I was having dinner with Warren Haynes and Robert ford, good friends of mine, I brought it up and came home to my wife one night. I said I got 10-12 of these awesome players and their ready to go, hey I think I got an idea for an album. I ended up having 18 guests and the record label asked me to keep it to 14 so 4 guests I had to cut out but they were awesome players too you know (Laughs). It just all fell into line man. It was uh, it was great.
I’d love to hear, growing up, what were your influences ?
Well ah I kinda went through an evolution with the guitar, I started off when I was 10 playing Bob Dylan songs, my brother brought home Bob Dylan’s very first album then I started playing folk music. Then along came The Beatles 3 years later and by that time I was getting pretty good on strumming chords and stuff. I went out and got an electric guitar, then I had to be in a band and then 2 years after the Beatles my brother again brought home an album by the Paul Butterfield blues band, it had Michael Bloomfield on it when I heard that I immediately said to my brother this is what I want to do. I never looked back and um I really delved into the blues after that. Really the blues kind of became everything.
What is the best jam you have ever been involved in?
(Laughter) Oh man that’s hard there’s been so many of em. I can say one that I remember was that there was a documentary about B.B. King. It’s called The Life of Riley. It debuted in London and they had a big party afterwards. I was asked to play the party with my band and at one point I was jamming with Mick Taylor and standing right in front of me holding a glass of champagne literally two feet away was Jeff beck and well I remember that being a hell of a night. (Interviewer Laughs)
I remember playing with John Mayall, Mick Taylor, Albert King and John McPhee on the bass and that was a great jam. Jamming with Luther Allison at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in 1986 was an awesome experience. There is just so many of em man.
You have been very fortunate to play with a lot of guys that you admire but is there anyone that you didn’t get to play with that you really wanted to.
Ah well If I ever had a chance to play a song with the Stones, I think I’d be almost ready to die. (dual laughter) At that point, I’d be done and I would have done everything I ever would have wanted to do. Big fan of the stones.
Have you been down to Australia? Have you toured here yet?
Well you know something, when I was in Canned Heat we toured Australia constantly. I have a lot of friends there and we used to come down there for 3 months at a time. We used to park ourselves at the Diplomat Hotel near Bondi Beach and we would commute ourselves to gigs all around that area and I’ve been all over your country with Canned Heat and also John Mayall.
The bummer for me is that in 2014 I was booked at the “Byron Bay Bluesfest” and then I got sick, I got ill and that’s when I had to cancel an entire year and I was in the hospital for 8 months. I am hoping to get back there I really am.
Do you still practise guitar every day?
Yes… yes I do, and you know I had to practise. I have to tell you when I got out of the hospital you know I was out of commission for almost 2 years, I had to get a liver transplant and I was basically dead. I developed a liver disease I lost 140 pounds in 4 months stayed in a hospital bed for 8 months, I got brain damage and could no longer talk. I couldn’t walk or recognise my own wife and children, they gave me a liver transplant and they saved my life but when I got out of the hospital I still couldn’t speak, couldn’t walk and I also could not play the guitar. So I really had to start over. It took me a year to get back, I practised 6 hours a day, every day for a year to get it back. So I still like to practise. I think I play different now since I lost the ability and then relearned, I think when I hear the stuff I did 15-20 years ago I play different now, I hear different licks in my head.
I did an album “Battle Scars” it was my concept album about my illness and it won album of the year at the Blues Awards. The whole album is about being ill and fighting my way back in recovery so give that a listen sometime and that tells the whole story.
Do you feel all of this has changed you as a player?
I feel like I have a little more to put into it, I have more to say, with each note. I have a different appreciation of life, as music was lost to me and I had to fight get it back I had a new appreciation for being able to play. You know so its…. It is different now to which it used to be.
Do you have any on the road anecdotes you could share with What’s my Scene?
(Laughs) Ohh I don’t know how many I can … Ohh god (laughing) I could tell you some stuff during the old John Mayall days although a lot of that is not for publication. You put me on the spot on that one. I can tell you that John never wanted to spend money on food on the road so there was always food in the dressing room and he collects it and carries it around in little containers so he doesn’t have to buy it. One time in his bag he had some ice-cream and it had melted into his meat and then there was pieces of ice-cream covered out on the desk and he was wiping the ice-cream off with toilet paper. He offered me some but I said no John I am okay. He is a unique individual. (Laughter) That is one of the ones that is G rated.
Appreciate it, we will have to talk about the others another time. Before I let you go what do you do when you are not touring, what is your scene when you are not touring?
I relax man, I have a beautiful wife I love, I have 3 sons I like to be at home. I try and be a normal person, be a dad and take care of my family. Cause I have to leave a lot I’ve missed a lot with my kids, I’ve been touring for 40 years as you know. My kids are bigger now, you know ones 44, ones 21 and 16 I missed a lot with them, so I like to be with them as much as I can.
Have you pushed the guitar on them a little bit and are they into that?
They have gone for it, my eldest son plays in my band and he’s my road manager and he’s got a cut on the new Album. Walter Trout and John Trout on “Do you still see me”. My middle son is in an Americana band touring and my 16 year old is a drum instructor. Yesterday he told me he’s been working harder on guitar, I showed him some Led Zeppelin licks and he was playing his ass off. So that’s how it goes.
Well I must say It was a pleasure talking to you Walter, we hope to see you down here in Australia.
Ok thanks Rhys, Thanks a lot and I hope I get back down there, I’d love to come back.
Check out our Q&A / Track-by-track with Walter Trout here.
Before you even hear a note, We’re All In This Together has your attention. Drafting fourteen A-list stars – including Joe Bonamassa, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, John Mayall and Randy Bachman – and writing an original song for each – Walter Trout has made the most tantalising blues album of the year.
We’re All In This Together sees Trout finding solace after a run of solo albums that chronicled his near-fatal liver disease of 2014. “Now was the right time for this record,” he says. “Battle Scars  was such an intense piece of work, written with tears coming down my face. I needed a break from that, to do something fun and light-hearted. This album was joyous for me.”The album is sure to be a joy for blues fans as well – seeing such a legendary artist returned to good health and able once again to celebrate life and the blues with his friends and fans.
Purchase the album HERE.
DOWNLOAD THE FREE TRACK “DO YOU STILL SEE ME AT ALL”
Walter Trout is the beating heart of the modern blues rock scene, respected by the old guard, revered by the young guns, and adored by the fans who shake his hand after the show each night. After five decades in the game, Trout is a talismanic figure and part of the glue that bonds the blues community together, at a time when the wider world has never been so divided.
He’s also the only artist with the vision, talent and star-studded address book to pull off a project on the scale of We’re All In This Together. “It was quite a piece of work to get this record together,” he admits. “But I guess I have a lot of friends, y’know…?”
Before you even hear a note, We’re All In This Together has your attention. Drafting fourteen A-list stars – including Joe Bonamassa, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, John Mayall and Randy Bachman– and writing an original song for each, Trout has made the most tantalizing album of the year, and found solace after a run of solo albums that chronicled his near-fatal liver disease of 2014. “Now was the right time for this record,” he says. “Battle Scars  was such an intense piece of work, written with tears coming down my face. I needed a break from that, to do something fun and light-hearted. This album was joyous for me.”
Scan the credits of We’re All In This Together and you’ll find nods to every twist and turn ofTrout’s electrifying backstory. There’s keys man and long-time friend Skip Edwards, who came up on the same early-’70s New Jersey circuit where Trout cut his teeth as the precocious lead guitarist for Wilmont Mews. There’s organ wizard Deacon Jones, the West Coast bandleader who brought a twenty-something Trout into the orbit of blues titans like John Lee Hooker and Big Mama Thornton. “Deacon sorta discovered me when I moved to LA in the ’70s,” reflects Trout. “So I owe him.”
Trout also welcomes a fistful of compadres from recent all-star project Supersonic Blues Machine, in the form of Warren Haynes, Robben Ford and Eric Gales. Then there’s John Mayall: the ageless British blues-boom godfather who hired a troubled Trout for the Bluesbreakers 1985 and now blows harp on “Blues For Jimmy T.” “Am I proud to call myself a former Bluesbreaker?” Trout reflects. “Yeah, of course. What a credential. That is a very exclusive club, and I know that when I’m gone, that’s gonna be one of the big things that they’ll remember me for: that I was a Bluesbreaker for five years.”
Since he struck out alone in 1989, Trout’s solo career has been every bit as celebrated. Touring tirelessly and spitting out classic albums that include 1990’s flag-planting Life In The Jungle, 1998’s breakthrough Walter Trout and 2012’s politically barbed Blues For The Modern Daze, he’s won international acclaim and enjoyed ever-growing sales in a notoriously fickle industry. Years on the road have also brought him tight friendships, as evidenced by 2006’s cameo-fuelled Full Circle album and this year’s unofficial sequel, We’re All In This Together. “The new album was originally gonna be called Full Circle Volume 2,” notes Trout, “but I wanted to make the title a positive statement in this time of madness.”
In another departure, whereas Full Circle saw each guest visit the studio to track their part, the advance of recording technology in the intervening decade meant Trout’s collaborators on We’re All In This Together were able to supply their contributions from afar. “In the studio, it was the core band of me, Sammy Avila [keys], Mike Leasure [drums] and Johnny Griparic [bass] on every cut, with Eric Corne producing,” he explains, “and then, for most of the tracks, people sent us their parts. But it’s very hard to tell we’re not in the studio together. If you listen to the Warren Haynes track, when we get into that guitar conversation on the end – it sounds like we’re looking each other right in the face, y’know?”
They say you can judge a man by the company he keeps. If that’s the case, then We’re All In This Together is further proof of Walter Trout’s position at the hub of the blues scene. This is the sound of an artist not just getting by with a little help from his friends, but positively thriving, on an album that is sure to light another rocket under his blooming late career. “I’m 66 years old,” considers Trout, “but I feel like I’m in the best years of my life right now. I feel better than I have in years physically. I have more energy. I have a whole different appreciation of being alive, of the world, of my family, of my career. I want life to be exciting and celebratory. I want to dig in. I want to grab life by the balls and not let go, y’know…?”
“Gonna Hurt Like Hell” featuring Kenny Wayne Shepherd
“Ain’t Gpin’ Back” featuring Sonny Landreth
“The Other Side of The Pillow” featuring Charlie Musselwhite
“She Listens To The Blackbird Song” featuring Mike Zito
“Mr. Davis” featuring Robben Ford
“The Sky Is Crying” featuring Warren Haynes
“Somebody Goin’ Down” featuring Eric Gales
“She Steals My Heart Away” featuring Edgar Winter
“Crash And Burn” featuring Joe Louis Walker
“Too Much To Carry” featuring John Nemeth
“Do You Still See Me At All” featuring Jon Trout
“Got Nothin’ Left” featuring Randy Bachman
“Blues For Jimmy T.” Featuring John Mayall
“We’re All In This Together” featuring Joe Bonamassa