Q&A Scene: Guitarists’ Special ~ Fiona Boyes

Tell us about your new single/ album/ tour?

My brand new album ‘Voodoo in the Shadows’ is launching the week of the Melbourne Guitar Show!!  I’m excited to have the chance to play solo at the show, as well as a set with my bandmates, Tim Neal and Mark Grunden, who are on the album.

The new project is a lush, blues musical ‘road trip’ from Mississippi down into New Orleans, Louisiana.   It features swampy electric guitar, Reso-Lectric baritone – and no less than 3 different cigar-box guitars.

Great performances from multi-instrumentalist Tim Neal (Hammond, piano, bass, baritone sax) creates a range of moods, and New Orleans musician Johnny Sansone adds tasty harmonica and accordion to a few tracks.

How long have you been playing guitar?

Starting out as an acoustic country blues finger-picker in coffee shops, I’ve been playing since 1988.  I hadn’t been playing professionally for very long when I had the opportunity to join a band, so that’s when I picked up electric guitar and bass.  Recently I’ve expanded my ‘guitar love affair’ into baritone, slide and various cigar box guitars.   It’s about 25 years now since I’ve had any other job but playing the Blues!

Why did you first start playing?

I was a passionate blues fan for many years before I took up guitar myself.   Somewhere along the line I decided it wasn’t enough to listen to the music, I wanted to try playing as well.

Which guitarist most influenced your playing?

Melbourne’s own Godfather of the Blues, Dutch Tilders, was a big initial influence for me.

My first point of contact with the Blues was traditional early recordings.

I was listening to the albums of the old blues players, but Dutch was the first guitarist that I saw playing that stuff live.   It’s one thing to hear a recording, another to see and hear a musician playing live, especially in an intimate venue.    Dutch, like many of my other blues guitar heroes, was a finger style player like me too.

Describe your favourite guitar.

That’s a cruel question because I have several favourites, depending on my mood!

I absolutely love my custom Maton Mastersound electric; it’s such a great all-rounder and it’s definitely my go-to instrument for most touring applications.

Most recent favourite is a quirky one-off 4 string cigar box guitar, the ‘FB Australian Classic’, made by Shayne Soall in Yackandandah.  It has a very high action and I play it lap-style, using a small whiskey bottle as a make-shift slide.  It’s always a hit at my shows.   I think people are surprised at how interesting it looks – and how great it sounds.

How do you prepare for a show?

It depends on the gig.   I’ve been on the road a lot, most recently returned from 6 weeks in the USA. There’s not usually much time for any fancy pre-show rituals.

I play a lot of solo shows, which can be quite demanding – from rowdy gigs, with people dancing, to concerts and theatre shows.  Other shows are with my band – my main guys are in Melbourne, but I have regular line-ups in Europe and both coasts of the US.  Most preparation is just getting the logistics right:  travel, gear, strings, communication with venues, sound engineers and other musicians.

Tell us a quick, on the road or studio, anecdote.

One of my fondest memories in the studio was recording with legendary Delta piano player Pinetop Perkins.    He was such a character and quite the ladies-man.  When we played together on my ‘Blues Woman’ session, he was a spritely 95 year old – but he still tried to pick me up!

Another time we went out together to his favourite joint in Austin, Texas, to hang out.  In the end I got so tired, I went back to my hotel room – leaving him holding court in his usual spot in the bar.  He was still actively touring and working, winning the Grammy for ‘Traditional Blues Album’ a year or so later.

What, or who, inspires you?

Having the opportunity to play with some of the original older musicians, like Pinetop Perkins and Hubert Sumlin, and to travel a lot – particularly to the traditional birth-places of the Blues – has been immensely inspiring.

Last month while I was in America, I played a guitar belonging to Mississippi Hills blueswoman Jessie Mae Hemphill.   You can feel the Blues spirits moving when things like that happen.  The guitar had a bullet hole right through the top bout, where she shot at it.  She was one tough gal.

Which song do you wish you wrote?

I’m a big fan of Howlin Wolf’s legendary guitarist, Hubert Sumlin – so I’m going to say “Smokestack Lightning”.  I remember the thrill of hearing it for the first time.

It was beyond my wildest dreams that I would actually meet Hubert, let along tour and play with him.  Players such as Eric Clapton and Keith Richards cite Hubert as their biggest, seminal influence.  Hubert was very encouraging to me, and a think of him every time I play that song.

 How would you describe your sound in food form and why?

A spicy ol’ gumbo with lots of influences and ingredients.  Filling, hearty and deceptively complex – it’s the musical food that sustains me every day.

What’s next for you?

Australian touring and promotion for the new album ‘Voodoo in the Shadows’ – then the Durban International Blues Festival in South Africa and an October tour in Europe.

I’m working towards an October USA/Worldwide release date for the new album too, via Californian record label Fresh! by Reference Recordings.

What’s your scene?

Good friends, good music, good food – and a nice glass of Chardonnay J

Catch Fiona Boyes @ Melbourne Guitar Show:

Saturday August 4 at 11.30am Aon Mezzanine Stage Songs & Strings Feat Alison Ferrier, Cat Canteri, Zevon Hiltz, Abbey Stone
Saturday August 4 at 3.30pm Aon Mezzanine Stage in Nick Charles Blues & Roots Show with Justin Bernasconi, Phil Manning, Charlie Bedford and Ed Bates
Sunday August 5 at midday Aon Whammy Bar Fiona Boyes Band

Australian Blues guitarist and singer, Fiona Boyes, has been variously described by reviewers as a ‘musical anomaly’, ‘Bonnie Raitt’s evil twin’, or simply as ‘scaring the hell out of me’.  How did this fair-haired gal, born and raised in Melbourne, Australia, of Scottish and English heritage, become an internationally recognised and awarded recording and touring artist?   How did she come to be the first woman and non-American to win the International Blues Challenge in Memphis?   Why did some of the great Mississippi Delta and Chicago blues giants, such as the late Pinetop Perkins and Hubert Sumlin, choose to describe her as one of the best women guitar players since Memphis Minnie, record on her albums, and share stages with her at international Blues festivals?   How does it come about that the Mayor of Clarksdale, Mississippi, birthplace of the Blues, should present Fiona with the ‘Key To The City’, recognising her as an Aussie ambassador of the Blues?
The answer lays partly in Fiona’s striking and original talent; she writes, sings and plays just about anything in the Blues realm with passion and authenticity.   It is also her immersion in the wide musical and historical traditions that make up the Blues and her deep love of the art-form itself.
Fiona has been recording and performing internationally for more than 25 years, building a career that has taken her to major festivals and stages in Australia, New Zealand, North America and Europe.   A veteran recording artist with 13 releases, 6 international award winning albums, 4 successive Blues Music Award nominations in 4 different categories, 15 Australian Blues awards, as well as a string of accolades in the folk, jazz, and Americana scene, Fiona has carved out a well deserved reputation as a guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and band leader.
Equally at home on acoustic or electric guitars, her repertoire is like a Blues travelogue.   Listen to her play and you’ll hear pre-war Delta slide, wailing laments, single chord Mississippi Hills grooves, intricate and beautiful Piedmont finger picking, rollicking New Orleans barrelhouse, greasy Memphis soul, driving classic Chicago sounds, the country stylings of Texas swing, and the uptown sounds of the West Coast.
Constantly touring, Fiona divides her time between Australia, Nth America, and Europe.   Her home-away-from home is Portland, Oregon, as she follows the Festival seasons in both hemispheres.   When she’s back in Australia, Fiona lives in Gippsland, Victoria, with her husband Steve, a social activist and Anglican priest, and between them they share the joys of five children and eight grandchildren.

Online ticket prices when pre-ordered:: Adult day pass $20, adult weekend pass $30, family day pass $35, concession day pass $10, concession weekend pass $15, premium ticket** $40

MELBOURNE GUITAR SHOW DETAILS

SATURDAY AUG 4 | CAULFIELD RACECOURSE |10.00am – 6.00pm | TICKETS

SUNDAY AUG 5 | CAULFIELD RACECOURSE | 10.00am – 4.00pm | TICKETS

Australian Music Association announced the 2018 return of the Melbourne Guitar Show, set to rock Caulfield Racecourse on August 4 and 5 – and this year, it’ll be bigger than ever.

Proudly presented by Triple M and Australian Musician, the lineup boasts an impressive haul of both local and international artists, and featuring amongst the bunch is none other than UK guitar legend Albert Lee.

In addition to some killer performances from the artists on this massive lineup, #MGS2018 will also hold a monster exhibition that will feature a gigantic variety of electric and acoustic guitars, effects pedals, amps and more state-of-the-art guitar technology, both home-grown and from around the world.  It will continue to be Australia’s biggest guitar pop-up shop, and that’s not all.  The Melbourne Guitar Show will host information seminars, demonstrations, and live performances from Australia’s most talented guitarists.

 

This year will be extra special as the Melbourne Guitar Show welcomes UK guitar legend Albert Lee.  Lee’s work with The Everly Brothers, Eric Clapton, Emmylou Harris and The Crickets is renowned within the music world and cemented his place as one of the most respected and renowned guitarists in history.  Speaking on Lee’s talent, Eric Clapton enthuses, “(He is) the ultimate virtuoso.  His skill is extraordinary and he’s gifted on just about every level,” while Emmylou Harris says, “(Albert Lee) is a brilliant guitar player…his sound is unmistakable, never qualled.”  The British-born country-rock artist started his long and illustrious career during the emerging rock ‘n’ roll scene of ‘60s London, when he played in bands with the likes of Jimmy Page and Chris Farlowe.  He has received countless accolades for his work, and has been named Guitar Player Magazine’s Best Country Guitarist five times in a row.

The first lineup announcement for #MGS2018 is a big one.  Joining Albert Lee is Daniel Champagne, a prolific young guitar virtuoso with the world at his feet, and Jeff Lang, who has been described by Rolling Stone as “Australia’s best roots music artisan.”  Melbourne Guitar Show favourites Nick Charles and Shannon Bourne will also be returning this year, alongside some seriously talented women Fiona Boyes, Alison Ferrier, Cat Canteri, Nat Allison and upcoming punk rockers Rackett.  Not to mention a whole host of additional artists are set to be announced over the coming weeks.

Drawing over 5,500 guitar lovers and enthusiasts to last year’s exhibit, the Melbourne Guitar Show is growing year on year and is gearing up for the biggest event yet.  The voice of the Australian music products industry, the Australian Music Association (AMA) will be teaming up with australianmusician.com.au and presenting sponsors Triple M, 3PBS and Aon to present this year’s guitar-centric weekend.  At last year’s MGS, punters not only enjoyed scheduled performances and demos from the awesome artists on the lineup, but also witnessed surprise on-stand appearances from some of Australia’s finest artists, including Ian Moss, Darren Middleton (Powderfinger), Paul Dempsey, Oscar Dawson and Ali Barter.  Both the promoters of the show and the exhibitors are constantly wrangling acts right up until the very last minute – and who will be joining the all-star jam this year? Come on down and find out!

Thrilled to present #MGS2018 once again, AMA executive officer and MGS organiser, Rob Walker says, After an awesome show last year, we’re looking forward to continuing the tradition the show is creating.  We’re very pleased to present Albert Lee on his 75th birthday tour, as well as the usual host of wonderful players we present.”

Not only will the 2018 MGS provide a hands-on chance to see, hear and play a broad range of the world’s favourite brands, it will also see exhibitors offering great show deals, plus an opportunity to get close to some hand-crafted, locally made instruments and epic guitar and gear collections.  Describing the exciting developments, Rob continues, “Our exhibition welcomes back some big names this year and the learning opportunities are plentiful.  If you’re in the market for guitars and gear, great live music from some of the best players. the Melbourne Guitar Show is the place to be.”

The first artist line up announcement includes: Albert Lee, Daniel Champagne, Jeff Lang, Nick Charles, Shannon Bourne, Fiona Boyes, James Ryan, Phil Manning, Nat Allison, Brett Kingman, Alison Ferrier, Cat Canteri, Scott Darlow, Rackett, Van Larkins, Justin Bernasconi, Rohan Stevenson, and more to be announced over the coming weeks.

The Melbourne Guitar Show will be held at Caulfield Racecourse on August 4 and 5.

Tickets are on sale NOW!

Online ticket prices when pre-ordered:: Adult day pass $20, adult weekend pass $30, family day pass $35, concession day pass $10, concession weekend pass $15, premium ticket** $40

MELBOURNE GUITAR SHOW DETAILS

SATURDAY AUG 4 | CAULFIELD RACECOURSE |10.00am – 6.00pm | TICKETS

SUNDAY AUG 5 | CAULFIELD RACECOURSE | 10.00am – 4.00pm | TICKETS

 

WEBSITE                 FACEBOOK              #MGS2018            TWITTER                 INSTAGRAM

About Mary Boukouvalas 902 Articles
Mary is a music photographer and reviewer.

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