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| 20 July 2016 | Reply

Blues man Joe Louis Walker has been a mainstay on the Blue circuit for decades, and  he isn’t slowing down anytime soon as he is still out promoting his latest release, 2015’s Everybody Wants A Piece.  We were able to spend some time with Joe via the phone lately and had a killer conversation…


Toddstar: Joe, thank you so much for taking time out for us today. We really appreciate it.

Joe: No, thanks for having me.

Toddstar: Let’s talk about what’s going on in your world. You’re just about a year out from the release of Everybody Wants a Piece, which you’re still out promoting. How’s that album still coming over with the fans? How’s that translating live for you?

Joe: Live we get a great response because we were playing these songs before we recorded them. These are a collection of songs that me and the band have been doing at sound checks and everything and working on ideas and stuff like that, so we sort of road tested them. Some things connect with people more than other things, but we’ve got a good response from it.

Toddstar: Looking back, you’ve been doing this a long time. This isn’t your first rodeo. You’ve been playing and recording for years and years and years. What’s it like to go out on the road now and still deliver this music that you love and find that there’s still that need for it?

Joe: I think you know that roots music, in particular, it goes in and out of… People begin to discover it. It’s sort of like a rite of passage. You have to get to a certain maturity, I think, as a fan to try different music, to listen to different things, to be able to sit and… People have the tendency to listen to the same music, whereas the generation I came out of, came out of the Fillmore district in the 60’s. The shows that we had there was like if you liked the Grateful Dead, Muddy Waters would also be on that show a lot of times. If you liked Muddy Waters, the Charles Lloyd Quartet might be on the show. You would get a taste of all kind of music. I think to answer your question, nowadays blues in particular has a wide, wide, wide, wide net of everything that’s called blues. I think if somebody’s coming to it in the last ten years or whatever, or even fifteen years, what their experience is what is called blues is different from mine. I have to expand my range of what’s been called the blues. I think somebody who’s new to it would have to go back and to see what is called blues now, where it came from. If that makes sense.

Toddstar: Oh it certainly does. You talk about roots and blues and just music in and of itself is constantly evolving and changing. What’s it like for you to go to some place… I know last month you were just out in UK. How different is your music accepted there or your live performance received there than it is say in New York or down south?

Joe: Well you know I’m sort of fortunate. I’ve been making records for thirty years, longer than that actually, but under my own name for about thirty years. People can Google me and see the amount of stuff that I’ve done and the amount of different genres that I’ve been involved in, not just blues. For me it’s not as hard as someone having to come and define their self now. A person can Google me and see well oh this guy did that, he did this in the eighties, and he did that in the sixties. They can see. For me I mean somewhere like England, I used to live in England in the eighties, so it’s like my second home. People know about my music there and know about my legacy. It’s always refreshing, you go overseas and it’s a different sort of appreciation and that’s very, very refreshing. At home in the states, I think there’s a tendency in the states to go for the latest, greatest thing. The latest, greatest is the latest greatest. I think when you’re talking about France, England, things like that, they look for the history of an artist and they go back when it comes to music like this anyway. They will go back a little bit further. I think the United States is very knowledgeable and it’s a good place to play.

Toddstar: What’s changed in you over the years? Your approach to writing, recording, has that changed at all from back in the mid-eighties when you started doing this under your own name?


Joe: For artists like me, I think the times that just say the 80’s alone, you didn’t have to worry about getting twenty-five thousand Facebook followers. You didn’t have to worry about every club, every venue you play, where the venues say well you know can you put up this video, put up that Facebook, put up… Nowadays it’s really like you just can’t be a musician alone. I know a lot of my friends and compatriots, we spend a lot of time dealing with social media, spend a lot of time dealing with stuff that we never had to deal with. I think that that is also, that there’s now what I call Facebook musicians. Musicians that are… I might write a song called “Facebook Musicians” where it’s virtual. It’s virtual musicianship. You get your numbers up, you get your so many likes, you network, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and the next thing you know you’re second on the festival bill. Just think about it, be honest, how many groups have you heard of in the last five or six, seven, eight years that you never heard of playing live? You never heard of them making a record. You never heard of them in anybody else’s band, and all of a sudden they’re the biggest thing going. That to me, that’s to me social media music. I’m not saying it’s right or it’s wrong but it is what it is.

Toddstar: Sure, sure. When it comes to the blues, it’s funny for me to hear Bay Area. I mean I know you’re from the Bay Area originally. The first thing I think is jazz and fusion and kind of a progressive style like you prior mentioned the Grateful Dead, and I think of Santana and I think of Journey, and I think of bands like that. What were some of your influences, especially in the Bay Area when you were coming up just picking up a guitar for the first time?

Joe: Well when I was picking up the guitar for it seems first time in the 1960’s, something like that, it was where my friends’ dads, like my dad was from the deep south and so I go to my friends’ house and their dads would be playing really serious down home blues. You know three or four guys in a room playing on a Saturday afternoon. Their only off day. That’s what my first experience with it and then fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, me and my cousins we all played at all kinds of things, all over California, as part of like a family band. Then I think about fifteen, when I was fifteen, the hippies started coming to our area in Fillmore District. About sixty-five I think they had the first show at the Fillmore Auditorium, the hippies did. The Fillmore Auditorium before that was like our community playhouse and then the dynamics of it changed. The geographics of it changed, and it became something else. It was still a lot of music and people mingling and what have you and even on up to the Haight-Ashbury. It was a good ground for me to learn because we already had our music before the hippies came. Well we did. When I was playing in sixty-two, sixty-three, sixty-four there was no Grateful Dead there was no Creedence Clearwater, there was no Jefferson Airplane. None of that was happening. I got a chance to see it sort of morph and be a part of it to a big extent. I like to say that I had a really good musical education because it was inclusive of all styles of music and I like it like that.

Toddstar: That’s what I like about your music is as bluesy as it is and you hear it, but you can also hear like… You’re talking about some of that education. You get some of that jazzy progressive style, some of it almost bending to the rock side.

Joe: Well it’s all music to me. It basically is all music. I know that for category purposes, people have to lump certain artists in with genre that they make their name or their bones in. Nobody can tell me that Taj Mahal is pure blues. Nobody can tell me that Mike Bloomfield was pure blues. It was a lot of other things going on as well. It’s like nobody can sit here and say that Keb’ Mo’ is pure blues or that Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi is pure blues, because they’re not. If you listen to the music, it’s great. I prefer, I like variety. All the pure blues guys, like Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf and those cats, they always had in their bands, they may be playing blues but their drummer’s a jazz drummer or the bass player’s a gospel player. It was all mixed up as American is I think.

Toddstar: That’s awesome. You’ve played with so many of the big names, Joe. Who’s still out there that you’d like collaborate with in the studio?

Joe: Well I’ve worked with a lot of people and I like to play with people when it’s fun, and people that I have fun with independent of music, do you know what I mean? Where you can just joke and kid around, because you can joke and kid around with somebody and when you get in the pressure cooker of the studio then you can it’s just something. I’d probably like to do a track with Keith. I like joking and kidding around with Keith. I’d like to do something like that, it’d be fun.

Joe Louis Walker A

Toddstar: Sure. Sure. Hey Joe, again, you’ve had a long and storied career. You started up in the mid-sixties, you’ve ventured out and started doing your own stuff in the mid-eighties. Looking back over your career, are there any missteps or is there anything you wish you could change?

Joe: Well you know if you start changing stuff, then you don’t become the whole of what you are. I’m a firm believer that you learn a hell of a lot more from your failures than you do from your successes. Maybe in my personal life, but as far as my career, I’ve been offered some humongous things in my career and didn’t take them. I look back and think, oh man, well I’d have been well off monetarily wise, but artistic wise I don’t know. I’d have to say, personally, in my personal life, yeah, but in my musical life, on twenty-twenty hindsight I would say just take the good with the bad. No, I wouldn’t change it.

Toddstar: That’s the best sentiment you can get from anybody. Listen Joe, we really appreciate your time today. We wish you well with more promotion of Everybody Wants a Piece which everybody can grab from your website. They can also check you out on tour. You pick back up in nine or ten days at the Peekskill Jazz and Blues festival, so we wish you safe travels on that tour through the end of the year. Hoping we can get you up in Michigan sometime soon.

Joe: Oh yeah, yeah. I get up there to Callahan’s once in a while.

Toddstar: Awesome. All right I look forward to the next time you’re in town.

Joe: Thanks a lot for calling me Todd.

Toddstar: Thanks Joe.





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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