Jimmie, one of the most respected blues guitar players performing today, is a throwback to the 50's. His "greaser" style haircut, his love of hot rods and vintage cars and his style of blues music all harden back to a time, nearly 50 years ago, when life and music appeared a whole lot simpler than it does today. Jimmie comes from the "less-is-more" style of guitar playing that is powerfully demonstrated on his new album.
This interview was conducted from Jimmie's cell phone outside a restaurant in Orlando, FL where he had just gotten off his tour bus getting ready for a show later that night. Jimmie has been touring in support of his new album, Do You Get The Blues? On Artemis Records.
Ray: Describe the content and how the new CD came about?
JV: I think all of my songs have a common thread. I pretty much go for what I like. I was listening to a lot of jazz and things like Sarah Vaughan, Theloneos Monk, Little Jimmy Scott, a lot of those kind of artists. And I just thought it would be great to do sort of a real raw, simple album that had the dirty blues guitar but it was a little romantic like some old blues or jazz records are. That was my original idea. So I sorta built from that.
Ray: You had some guest musicians play with you on the album…
JV: James Cotton, played harmonica on Off The Deep End. That was sort of a tribute to Muddy Waters. I played slide on it, I sorta played in his kind of style. I took a nod of my head to him on that one and remembered him on there.
I also had LuAnn Barton sing with me on three songs. You know we've done a lot together over the years. I also had a guy named Herman Green from Memphis, TN, he played flute on a couple of songs. Basically when I make a record I just go and I'll get an idea for a couple of songs and I'll write a song and they start addin' up and they kind of feed off each other. I just really play what I want to hear. I try to play what I'd like to hear if I could hear anything in the world. That's the goal. It's very simple, I mean I don't have a big…I just ah...that's it. I want to attempt to play what I want to hear.
Ray: Some of the people that you mentioned as inspiration for this album, are they some of the people that you have been listening to recently in the past year or so, that type of music?
JV: Yeah, I mean I always listen to that kind of music. Also I listen to all the blues greats. But I've talked about them so much that everybody kind of knows I'm already listening to them. If you would go to my website, www.jimmievaughan.com, you will see Jimmie's Picks, that's what I listen too. I put 'em on there just because somebody asked me what do you listen too and I said well, okay I'm going to write it down and share it with everybody. Because I think ah…I mean these are all records that have changed my life and really brought me a lot of enjoyment and inspired me a lot. I look up to most of these people and you know, there you have it.
Ray: How about some of the newer players out there today that you have played with, what do you think of their playing?
JV: Yeah, well you know, they're really good, there coming up…so I look forward to seeing more. You know I was a younger player at one time (laughs).
Ray: I understand you started out as a teenager with some of your first bands, the Swinging Pendulums, The Chessmen…
JV: Yeah, I saw a guy the other night at a gig that said he saw me in my first band at a dance in junior high. (Laughs when I say that dates him.)
Ray: You mentioned at one time talking about your guitar playing, you had an analogy where you tried to speak in sentences as opposed to just playing notes?
JV: Yeah, all those people that I just mentioned and talked about, most of them play as if their telling a story. And that's the goal, as opposed to just playing a bunch of licks you learned or a bunch of stuff that's not connected. Its like…if you threw a bunch of words in a bowl, they wouldn't make any sense would they? But if you play in paragraphs and sentences, with beginnings and ends…you know, that's the aim anyway. You know its really difficult to talk about music, I mean its something you do, and then when you go and try to figure it out and dissect it and talk about it, it comes out sounding like this (laughs). I understand that we have to do it, but it's not as romantic in words as it is when you hear it.
Ray: Do you like paying in clubs or festivals better?
JV: I like to play big places, the more the merrier. I just like to play, so I'm just happy to have a gig and I'll play just about anywhere they want me.
Ray: Even overseas, you will be going to Japan soon?
JV: Yeah, the T-Birds used to go over there, many years ago.
Ray: What's your impression of the overseas audience compared to the U.S.
JV: Well, there's no place as good as playing in the U.S. A lot of people like to talk about, yeah I'm big in Europe, and I did this, and I go to Europe and I do this. Well I do that too, but there's no place like here. This is the best place. I mean Europe is fun, don't get me wrong, I like to play there. They have great audiences and they have a lot of people that are checked out about the blues, but you have that here too you know. I like playing here the best.
Ray: I understand you son Tyrone plays music now?
JV: Yeah, Tyrone, he plays the guitar, he's really good and he sings. He's quite a song writer. I did a song on my new album that he wrote and he played guitar with me on the song.
Ray: The song Without You?
Ray: How old is he?
JV: He just turned 30.
Ray: So he's not that young.
JV: Well, it sounds young to me (laughs). That's still pretty young.
Ray: Where does he play in Texas?
Ray: When you recorded and released Family Style back in 1990 (with your brother Stevie), was that around the time that you left the Thunderbirds too?
JV: Yeah, about the same time?
Ray: With Stevie's death right before the release of that album, was that part of the reason you left the Thunderbirds or was that already happening at that point?
JV: Well, there was a lot of reasons. Mostly it was my own…I just had burnt the candle at both ends too long and I just wanted to go home, I wanted to get off the road. I just needed to take time for myself and rest. I actually made the album (Family Style) as I recall, before I left the T-Birds and then I left after that. But it was about the same time.
Ray: Do you every get together with Kim Wilson?
JV: Yeah, actually I see him every once in a while. We usually see him every year at the Antone's Blues Anniversary. And I just did the Home Mountain Stage with Kim.
Ray: As far as talking about the direction of your music, you pretty much described it as playing what you feel and what you like and this new album is the result of what you have been listening to recently. Is there any particular direction you see yourself heading or is it continuing on the same line?
JV: Well, I like to think that I've got my own sort of trip and I'm just expanding that. The thing about it is, music is free so it can go off in any number of different directions. But my stuff has roots so it all comes from the same place-which is blues. Definitely blues, no matter what you call it. I call it blues. But you know other people like to call it this or that. It has a lot of influences from gospel, R&B, soul, jazz and everything like that. You know I grew up in America, listening to American music so that's what I like, and my favorite stuff is blues and that's what I play. But I mean you can't walk down the street without looking around, you know? I play this music because I love it. It grabbed my ear the first time I can remember hearing this kind of music and I never could think of doing anything else.
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