June 17, 2024

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Interview with Paul Steward: There’s nothing wrong with being stuck but we must understand and accept that

Interview with Blues guitarist Paul Steward. 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? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?

Paul Steward։ – I was raised on Elem Indian Colony, a Native American reservation on the shore of Clear Lake in Northern California. I am a member of the Pomo tribe. I lived there until I was 10 years old, then moved to Santa Rosa California when I was 12 years old.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Festivals 2023

I always liked Blues, R&B, Rock & Roll, and Country music since I was a little kid. I used to sing songs to my grandparents. When I was 13, I listened to B.B. King for the first time with my dad and uncle. I thought he was great, and I wanted to learn to play guitar like him so I asked my dad to teach me guitar. My dad got me my first electric guitar when I was 14 on Christmas Eve of 1998. I have practiced nearly every single day since then and I love making music, since that day it has been the foremost thing I want to do.

JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound? What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?

PS: – When I was younger, my sound was very imitative. Mostly I copied from Stevie Ray Vaughan whom I got interested in in my teenage years (as so many guitarists have). My songwriting was very simple and a little immature, very basic Blues with Blue lyrics. My second electric guitar was a Fender Stratocaster style guitar that I had customized. I played if for many years but upon hearing the artists Joe Louis Walker and Luther Allison, I became interested in the Gibson Les Paul sound. In 2012, by great luck, my dad again stumbled upon a rare find, a Gibson Les Paul Custom that was on sale at a garage sale for super cheap! It needed some repairs. He bought it for me and we paid to have it repaired, later finding out that it was a special design from the actual custom shop. This guitar became my main guitar and favorite guitar for the next 10 years. My sound began to grow with a more R&B, Soul and Jazz flavor in my chords and scales. I learned a lot from my bassist at the time (Robert Watson) who taught so much about musicianship, performance, and the artists as he had had a vibrant career working with many greats such as James Brown, Joss Stone, Dionne Warwick, Joe Louis Walker, Robert Randolph, MC Hammer and more. My songwriting grew and began deepening my lyrics, topics, and chord progressions.

I just use my off-gig time to study new music or rehearse. In terms of warming up, I run scales up and down; trying to play them faster, smoother, and “prettier”. Same with my voice.

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

PS: – It’s hard to say. Generally, I agree that a musician should be well studied to understand theory of harmony so they can avoid “wrong notes” at the wrong places but sometimes there are ways to play them that works. Soul can be interpreted in so many ways and each person’s expression is unique, so I prefer not to judge others as better or worse. As long as they are happy, I’m happy. I do know the sounds that I prefer and I hope to find audiences full of people that agree with me.

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

PS: – Absolutely, when I’m performing live I hope to see reactions of joy and excitement from the audience. I try my best to evoke these feelings from the people by talking with them, improvising the music, or changing the song order to fit the mood. It also takes the audience to not be shy and communicate their interests.

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

PS: – We pay young people to learn computer coding and work at Facebook, do the same for music. Share “Jazz” as we know it to young people, let them interpret how they want to, and accept their interpretations. If we can’t accept it, then we are stuck in the past.

There’s nothing wrong with being stuck but we must understand and accept that. Generational change has always been. The only constant is change. Dare I say that perhaps some of todays Jazz and Blues is actually Heavy Metal and Rap. I recall that Muddy Waters hated slap bass, and Louis Armstrong hated Bebop. But, they were not required to change their style, nor did they blockade other new styles coming along. All styles simply found their audiences and did the best they could to co-exist. Just like humans and cultures. Stop fighting and start appreciating.

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

PS: – Break the big monopolies that control the music industry such as Spotify, the Grammys, The Voice (TV show), the big record labels, Ticketmaster and LiveNation so that they would give more opportunities to unfamous artists.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Association 2023

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

PS: – Judith Hill!!!! Love her. Jatayu, a Rock band from India. Mareo! From Chile. Country music singer Joe Diffie. Slam Allen, a Blues artist from New York State. Ariana Grande. Branford Marsalis. Magic Slim & the Teardrops. The Jackson Southernaires (Gospel).

JBN: – Do you like our questions? So far, it’s been me asking you questions, now may I have a question from yourself…

PS: – I like your questions! Very thoughtful. My question to you is may I come to Europe and play a concert for you, please?

JBN: – No, never, because you don’t appreciate the work of the media, and above you wrote that you are very famous, nobody knows about you, maybe only in India.

Interview by Simon Sarg

Note: https://jazzbluesnews.com/2023/03/19/useu-jazz-blues-association-festivals/ You can express your consent and join our association, which will give you the opportunity to perform at our Jazz and Blues festivals, 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/useujba/

Paul Steward - Blues & Americana Tickets, Sun 10 Sep 2023 at 15:00 | Eventbrite

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