June 22, 2024

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Interview with Charlie Morris: The Blues is in any danger of dying: Video

Interview with a bad musician, as if singer, problematic person Charlie Morris. An interview by email in writing.

JazzBluesNews.com: – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music.  How exactly did your adventure take off? 

Charlie Morris: – I grew up in Georgia and Tennessee, but I’ve lived in Florida since 1980. My first musical influence was Schroeder (from the comic strip Peanuts). At age 6, I was listening to classical music, and gave a party to celebrate Beethoven’s birthday. I also started writing songs at this time, although none of these are in my current repertoire. My older brother was my biggest musical influence. He was a heavy blues fan, and when I picked up the guitar as a teenager, he showed me the basic 12-bar blues, and explained how it’s the basis for all modern popular music. This was the solidest foundation a musician could have, so I’m really thankful that he got me started on the right road.

JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?

CHM: – I’ve always been interested in a wide variety of musical styles. Over the years, I’ve gotten into bluegrass, jazz, folk and even stuff like flamenco. All those elements have found their way into my style, although when it comes to blues, I’m pretty much a traditionalist, and a disciple of the masters — Muddy, Elmore, Wolf, Ray.

Our US/EU Jazz-Blues Association Festivals 2023 with performances by international stars: Photos

JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?

CHM: – I do do some technical exercises — scales and harmonic progressions — but these don’t apply that much to my blues playing. When it comes to blues, if I have a gig coming up and I’m feeling rusty from not playing a lot.

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JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

CHM: – You got to have both — in everything in life, but especially in music. Some styles tend to be more technical, some are more about raw emotion, but the head and the heart both have to be there.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?

CHM: – Absolutely. I’ve been performing since I was a kid, and I can’t really imagine playing music if it’s not for an audience. I seldom play for any huge crowds, but as long as there are a few people who dig what we’re doing, and feed that energy back to us, it’s magic.

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in blues when most of standard tunes are half a century old?

CHM: – It’s tough, and this is a constant theme among those who love the blues. I go to a blues show, and 90% of the people there are old white men. Nothing against old white men—I’m one myself, as you may have noticed—but there’s two problems: one, most of us don’t buy many drinks anymore, and two, all of us are going to be meeting Papa at the crossroads in a few years, so we need to make sure there are some younger cats to keep the sound going. The Blues is in any danger of dying, but it could definitely use an infusion of new energy from a younger, more diverse demographic. The blues press and radio tend to lionize the few young blues players that are out there, and that’s OK — we’ve got to encourage those folks.

JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?

CHM: – I think trying to figure out the meaning of life is like trying to figure out the meaning of a piece of music. It is what it is, and it means what it means. What I love about music is that it’s transcendent—it’s much more than just the notes that are being played. You can’t describe it, you can only hear it.

JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?

CHM: – Well, I could wish that listeners were a little more adventurous: that people put more value on hearing new, original stuff instead of the same old songs that they’ve heard a million times; and that they would listen with their ears more, instead of with their eyes. But most any musician would probably say the same, and it’s a pipe dream. I’d like to see us get paid a little more too, but we’ll see how that works out…haha!

JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?

CHM: – The way I listen to music has totally changed from when I was young, and I think most of us could say the same. Technology has given us the ability to hear anything, any time, so now instead of buying a record and listening over and over until we wear it out, we listen to something one time, then move on to the next new thing. I listen to a huge variety of music — on the radio, online, on CDs people give me — but I seldom listen to the same thing more than a couple of times. Some of the old masters have come out with new albums lately — Buddy Guy, Charlie Musselwhite, Keb’ Mo — and I check all that stuff out. There are also loads of cats who aren’t famous, and probably never will be, but they’re fantastic — I never run out of new stuff to listen to.

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?

CHM: – For the hard-core blues fan, it would have to be Chicago in the 1940s and 1950s, when you could go out and hear cats like Muddy Waters, Elmore James or Little Walter in the clubs. But then London in the 1960s, when the Stones and all those other great bands were discovering the blues, that might have been pretty cool too.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Note: You can express your consent and join our association, which will give you the opportunity to perform at our Jazz and Blues festivals in Europe and Boston, naturally receiving an appropriate royalty. We cover all expenses. The objectives of the interview are: How to introduce yourself, your activities, thoughts and intellect, and make new discoveries for our US/EU Jazz & Blues Association, which organizes festivals, concerts and meetings in Boston and various European countries, why not for you too!! You can read more about the association here. https://jazzbluesnews.com/2022/11/19/us-eu-jba/

Charlie Morris Band, Firehouse Cultural Center, Ruskin, FL, 15 October

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