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INTERVIEW: Joanne Shaw Taylor, Blues Guitar Queen!

"...The first record I bought was Albert Collin's Ice pickin' and I spent the summer holidays when I was 12 learning the whole album note for note..."

We first featured Strat-o-Sister Jo Shaw Taylor a couple years ago, and have kept tabs on her since. She recently agreed to do an interview for Stratoblogster-- our very first interview, unless we count the afterlife one I did with Robert Johnson... Based in the UK, and hailing from Birmingham, Joanne has been touring and performing professionally since her mid-teens.

Her initial career boost at 16, was touring Europe in 2002 as a member of Dave Stewart's (Eurhythmics) project D.U.P. Currently, JST is promoting her solo release White Sugar, with more US gigs coming up in February.

Enjoy the clip and our feature interview, and be sure to check out her links at the very bottom!

Stratoblogster: In your opinion, are you a better singer or guitar player?

JST: I would say guitar player which is mainly because thats what came first and therefor that's what I think of myself as. I'm not a natural singer, it took a lot of practice/touring/hard work to get it to a level that I was comfortable with.

Stratoblogster: Obviously those talents compliment one other. Do you feel they assist each other when composing and working out musical ideas?

JST: Certainly, for me I think I'm a stronger writer for being a singer as well as a guitarist. It certainly helps when composing melodies.

Stratoblogster: Do you draw from different wells for vocal phrasing than guitar licks, or do you more often find inspiration from artists who sing and play?

JST: It was a conscious effort on my behalf to become a guitar player. It's something I set about learning, and study in order to improve. For me singing was something I had to do to improve my chances of becoming a professional guitarist. I have favorite singers but most of my vocal education came from simply standing up on stage every night and going for it.

Stratoblogster: Was there lots of music around your house growing up? Do your parents have lots of records?

JST: Yes, both my dad and brother are big music fans as well as guitar players. Coming from Birmingham there was obviously a lot of rock, Sabbath/Zepplin/Slade but my father also had quite the extensive blues collection.

Stratoblogster: The butterscotch Tele appears to be your main axe. What can you tell us about it? How did you meet it? Anything special about its set-up, mods, etc.?

JST: It's a 1966 Esquire. I brought it from Andy's guitars on Denmark street when I was 15. The previous owner had dug a hole in the body where the neck pick-up would be (A botched attempt to put a single coil pickup in it one assumes) so I gave it to my guitar tech and he put a humbucker in there for me and reworked the electrics so I have a 5 way pick up selector by picking up the tone pot.

Stratoblogster: Are you ever approached or contacted by guitar makers interested in making you an instrument or having you endorse gear?

JST: I'm actually endorsed by Hofner at the moment, I tried them out for the first time when I was in Germany with the Blues Caravan this year and really liked them.

Stratoblogster: Any particular favorite amps and pedals you prefer these days?

JST: In terms of Amps, still love my fenders, Bassman/The twin (red Knob) but also discovered BadCat and Blackstar. Both of which I love Particually for the bigger rock sound.
I still prefer to keep the pedals rather simple and get the tone from the amps and guitar. I have an old TS9 tubescreamer and a Mudhoney Tremolo.

Stratoblogster: So far is your studio set-up similar to club stage gear? Do you prefer a live in the studio sound for guitar?

JST: Yes, I try to keep both the same, When I find something that works for me I tend to stick to it for a while

Stratoblogster: Are you mainly self taught on guitar?

JST: Yes, I had some classical lessons between the age of 8 and 12 but when I picked up the electric I decided to teach myself.

Stratoblogster: What are some of your earliest and favorite guitar records?

JST: The first record I bought was Albert Collin's Ice pickin' and I spent the summer holidays when I was 12 learning the whole album note for note. took me the whole 6 weeks but growing up with summers in England I wasn't missing out on much sun :-)

Stratoblogster: Thus far in your career, which of your guitar heroes have you gotten to meet, and which stand out as very special experiences for you?

JST: To be honest I've been very fortunate there. I've met most of my idols and many of the current artists that continue to inspire me. BB King, Jimmie Vaughan, etc I've never met Buddy guy which obviously would be awesome.

Stratoblogster: Anyone you dream of recording or gigging or just hangin' out with?

JST: There's a few but off the top of my head.... Record with BB King, Gig with Prince, Hang out with ZZ Top.

Stratoblogster: Have you influenced any gals to pick up the guitar? Has anyone approached you or gotten in touch to let you know you've inspired them?

JST: Actually this year I've noticed more females in the audience I'm not sure If it's a sign that my music is reaching a broader audience or just the Blues in general. Either Is great! There was a nice incident just last week where a budding 8 year old female guitar player came up to me before a show to ask advice etc. That was really nice for me.

Stratoblogster: What about guys-- is there a typical male reaction out there to your guitar playing? Does it seem to vary between European men and American men?

JST: Not in particular, I still get the good for a girl comment every now and again which does grate me a little. I usually just say "Yes I hear we're working in the white house now and everything!". But by and large there is no typical reaction.

Stratoblogster: I know you've already gigged in the US, and see more dates coming up in November and then in February. How have you been received in the US so far?

JST: It's going really well in the States. I just got nominated for a Blues Music Award which is huge for me especially since I've only been touring there for the past six months. I do really like it over there and am re-locating there in a few months.

Stratoblogster: Do you enjoy touring? Can you picture doing it for the rest of your life?

JST: I love it! Sometimes it's hard. On one hand the nomadic lifestyle really suits my personality but the reality is sometimes you travel for 10 hours in one day which can be exhausting and then you have to go sound check/interview/gig ... but I'm starting to learn what is a realistic schedule I can stick to where I'm working a lot but not exhausting myself to the point where it effects my performances.

Yes I sincerely hope I can maintain some sort of touring schedule, certainly till my 60's plus.

Stratoblogster: With due respect to all your family and friends in the UK, if you could live anywhere in the world, where might that be?

JST: Australia.

Stratoblogster: Who are some of your favorite peers right now; artists your age who are out there workin' it?

JST: I'm not sure about my own age but in terms of young artists in the genre out there right now that I like/admire, Joe Bonamassa, Jonny Lang, Derek Trucks... John Mayer I also have a lot of respect for. There's some Detroit bands to which is my US base, The Rumpshakers, Paul Andrew Ulysses Lamb and the Muggs are great.

Stratoblogster: Which do you prefer, outdoor Summer fest type gigs or indoor club environments?

JST: I like the clubs, It's where you get the most intimate environment. I love summer festivals as it's a great opportunity to meet/see other musicians, but I prefer the indoor rooms.

Stratoblogster: Finally, what's your favorite food and beverage?

JST: Food ; Mexican or Sushi
Beverage ; Good Red Wine or English tea. Unless I'm with my Dad and then it's real ale time.

end interview



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