May 23, 2024

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Interview with Jeff Dale: Blues music was meant to transcend time and place

Interview with Blues guitarist Jeff Dale. An interview by email in writing. – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music. How exactly did your adventure take of? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?

Jeff Dale: – All of my family loved music, so I was always surrounded by it. I grew up in Chicago in the ‘60s and loved the British Invasion bands, but then my older brother started bringing home albums by the Siegel Schwall Band and the Butterfield Blues Band. These were bands he was old enough to go check out live in Chicago.

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One of the first albums I bought with my own money was Muddy Waters “Fathers and Sons” when it came out. That led me as a young teen to seek out blues shows I could get in to, being underage for the clubs. I saw Siegel Schwall at a high school auditorium, but I also saw Muddy Waters, Hound Dog Taylor, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, Sam Lay, Son Seals and many more when they played at an American Legion Hall. I started playing guitar when I was 12 and wrote my first song at 14. I left Chicago and traveled around the U.S.A. for three months and ended up in Los Angeles, playing solo shows in folk clubs and restaurants, even bars that I was still too young to get in to.

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

JD: – When I first started playing the blues, I just wanted to play the music of the masters and I hoped that I was duplicating their sound. But at the same time, I felt like expressing my own thoughts and feelings and it seemed like I was not singing or playing anything that exactly copied the records I was listening to. This was a perplexing and frustrating thing for me initially until I met and started playing with the masters themselves. Every single one of them such as Lowell Fulson, Pee Wee Crayton, even B.B. King and Muddy Waters all told me to play like me – not them. I started to understand more and more as time passed that while the original blues masters loved that they were inspiring so many younger musicians to play the blues, they didn’t love being copied. It felt like being stolen from. The blues is music about feeling and you can’t feel like anybody else but yourself. It was a relief to me to hear from the masters that I needed to do my own thing and leave their thing to them. I have spent a lifetime writing songs that express what I want to say. I am always listening to music old and new and always finding things that inspire me to write more.

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

JD: – I don’t practice. I pick up my guitar all the time and I search for sounds. My only discipline is to keep writing. I listen to classic blues, but I also listen to a lot of world music. African rhythms, Latin Rhythms. I also read a lot.

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

JD: – I think the blues can be an expression of both intellect and soul. It can be angry or sad or joyful and humorous. The performer has to balance their capability on their instrument with playing with the feeling that the song itself evokes.

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

JD: – Nothing can replace performing live with an audience. I love making people dance or making them laugh or making them reflect. I am always cognizant when I’m onstage that I owe the audience a good time and will make adjustments throughout my set to be sure I’m giving them a memorable experience.

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

JD: – Honestly, this is such an important question that really needs more effort to address. And yes, I know that people are trying with such programs as Blues in the Schools and such but it’s just not enough. Blues music was meant to transcend time and place, and it does when people hear it – no matter their age. The problem is not enough younger people are hearing it and I’m sorry to say that if there is no major movement to expose younger folks to the music it can become relegated to the mists of time like ragtime music or the Charleston or Rudy Valee or anything that was popular 100 years ago.

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

JD: – Professional performing musicians don’t always get paid what they’re worth and younger players are always getting hit up by individuals and companies who take their money with unfulfilled promises of fortune and fame. I suppose the music business has always been this way but if it were possible to make it more fair and equitable, that’s what I’d change.

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

JD: – Lots of African music. Artists like Mdou Moctar, Vieux Farka Touré, Oumou Sangare and Tinariwen to name a few.

Interview by Simon Sarg

Note: 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.

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