Interview – March 2015
Although Ian Siegal had already been on my radar for several years; nothing prepared me for his 2012 album Candy Store Kid; which was released under the moniker Ian Siegal and the Mississippi Mudbloods. That heady mix of top quality Southern fried Blues and Swamp flavoured Country music was my soundtrack to that particular Summer and the timeless sound means it will remain in my car for many years to come.
As I’m prone to do, I then re-visited Ian’s previous albums and subsequently reviewed the next two; so jumped at the chance to chat to the gruff voiced singer as part of the launch for his latest release; the live album; One Night in Amsterdam.
I started by talking about the recent resurgence in Blues music in the UK and Europe, but Ian’s response took me by surprise.
“In my experience it’s been thriving for years; but I’ve never regarded myself as just being a Blues singer or musician; it’s part of what I do; an important part, but I see myself as more a….Americana? Roots singer? Songwriter? But, I suppose it’s all ‘Roots music’ isn’t it? The Blues, Folk, Country even Jazz? I draw on all of them at one time or another and I’ve been touring the UK and Europe for years now and never really had problems finding gigs, as that ‘Rootsy scene’ has always been around; and I’ve pulled good crowds in most countries; but in the last few years I suppose bands like Mumford and Sons have introduced a whole generation to Rootsy music; and loads of Films, TV programmes and even adverts are using that type of music; which all helps bring people to gigs of all types; so it’s all good, for everyone.
Over the years I’ve played every type of club and bar you can think of from Concert Halls and Blues Clubs to biker bars; and I just do my own stuff which is a bit of everything – Country, Blues, Folk…whatever; and it always seems to go down well; it’s the magazines and newspapers who pigeon-hole musicians; most fans are quite open-minded.
When I was growing up I loved Pop music (T Rex, Slade, Mud) and then I got into Classic Rock and Roll; especially Little Richard who blew me away; and still does and I first heard Tom Waits when I was about 11; and then I began delving back into the history of music, discovering Muddy Waters and the greatest guitar player the world’s ever known – Charlie Patton and that’s what these kids will do today; not all of them; but some will stick at it and still be going to gigs in 20 or 30 years’ time like every generation before them.
I suppose Dusty Ciggaar (the guitarist in the current band) might come across as a Blues guitarist; but if you see him play you’ll find there’s so much more in his playing. Dusty’s only 23 or 24 but he’s a truly phenomenal guitarist and is one of the best players I’ve ever shared a stage with; very technical but plays with great feeling and touch, which is quite rare. I first heard him when him, Raphael and Danny were just kids and I invited them to support me on some gigs in Holland; they tore the place down; and we’ve kept in touch over the years, and they invited me to their tenth anniversary party last year.
When I started planning my last tour I needed a band so asked them to join me; and they’ve really refreshed my playing; their technical ability and influences are so broad we can go off into a million directions every night; and having Dusty playing lead leaves me to concentrate on my singing and playing rhythm which I’m probably best suited to. It’s been a great year; and the reason I felt that the time was right to record a live album; as they aren’t as easy to produce as you’d think.
If you want to do it properly; and I did, you’ve got to choose a venue with a great sound and vibe; plus a partisan crowd and that all came together at the North Sea Jazz Club; which I’ve always loved playing at. After releasing the Man & Guitar solo album from last year’s Festival at the Royal Albert Hall, I wanted to do something completely different and mix the songs up – something old; something new….that sort of thing.
A live album gives you the opportunity to do things like that; which is why I included a couple of my older songs like Brandy Balloon and Queen of the Junior Prom from way back and I Am The Train from Candy Store Kid sitting them next to songs like Tom Russell’s Gallo del Ciello and I also got to play the Gram Parsons role on Love Hurts with Tess Gaerthe being Emmylou; which isn’t something I get to do every day. The album also gave me the opportunity to finally record one of my favourite ever songs, Writings On the Wall by an old friend of mine from Nottingham, Harry Stephenson.
When I first started visiting clubs to hear bands as a teenager with a harmonica in my jacket pocket, Harry was the local star and it took me a year or more to pluck up the courage to even say “hello.” Eventually he took me under his wing and we became close friends; and a few years ago I needed a driver for a UK tour and Harry volunteered without hesitation. We had a great time; but I still feel a bit embarrassed at having one of my heroes driving the van; but he loved it.
I’m really looking forward to bringing this band to the UK in the next few months; like I said earlier, they’ve really rejuvenated me and this feels like it’s going to a really exciting tour, then it’s off to Europe for quite a few Festivals and then if I can find the time hopefully there should be a new album out by the end of the year. There’s nothing written down on paper; but it’s all brewing inside my head…..so ‘watch this space’; as they say.