LIVE BLUES INFO TALKS TO WILL WILDE

Will Wilde, who has been nominated as the best blues harp player in the British Blues Awards three times. He has appeared twice on the Legendary Blues Cruise playing with veterans such as Sherman Robertson, Michael Burks, Earl Thomas and Taj Mahal.

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He signed to the European label Rock The Earth Records and now, on 30th August 2013, releases his third studio album

 

What got you started playing blues harp? 

 

I was seven when I first heard Sonny Boy Williamson sing “Help Me” and it changed everything. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the moment I officially fell in love with the blues. There was something about his harp sound that felt like home. I’d grown up listening to my dad’s huge collection of blues and soul records and each one had its own personality. Big Walter’s playing on Jimmy Roger’s “Walking By Myself”, still remains my favourite harp solo ever. But that day, in my parents’ living room when I was seven, Sonny Boy blew my mind and set me on the path I’m on today.

 

It wasn’t until I was 16 that I actually picked up a harmonica and tried to play it.  I’d found a cheap plastic Guinness version on the table at a party and stole it.  Of course then I had to figure out what to do with it. My dad used to play a track called “Work with me Annie” by Snooky Pryor, on an Alligator compilation CD. It sounded to me like he was only playing a few simple notes, but with great effect.  So I figured if I could find the right notes on the harp, all I had to do was work out how to make them sound good too.  I found that came from how I felt just as much as hitting the right notes. And that was that, I was hungry for the genre, searching out more blues, feeling with every record I was another step home. I spent hours playing along to Muddy Waters, particularly the “King Bee” album with Jerry Portnoy on harp and the “Hard Again” Album with James Cotton.

Will Wilde Small image

I didn’t listen to any other music; I was a purist, going deeper and deeper into the music.  Then I discovered Charlie Musselwhite and that opened me up to a whole other world of possibilities within the blues harp. For a year I lost myself completely, practising for ten hours a day until my lips were bleeding. Before long I started playing harp as a sideman in my sister, Dani’s, band and later started singing myself and formed my own band.

 

You have a new album coming out, tell us more about it and how it is different from your last one?

 

The new album is called “Raw Blues” it’s out on the 30th of August 2013.  My Last record “Unleashed” was quite an eclectic album, showcasing all of my influences from blues, rock, funk, soul, gospel, even rap.  As the title suggests “Raw Blues” is much more of a traditional blues record, paying homage to the stripped down Chicago blues that first inspired me to play. Raw Blues  features Richard Newman on drums (Rory Gallagher, Steve Marriot), Stuart Dixon on guitar (Geno Washington, Marcus Malone) and Victoria Smith on Bass (Girls with Guitars, The Ramonas). Raw Blues has a bite to it; rushes of adrenalin and an intensity that other records in the genre don’t generally have.  I hope that people like it.

Do any songs on the album have special meaning to you?  If so why?

 

All the songs I write have a special meaning to me.  I have never been able to write songs just for the sake of writing songs; I can only do it if I have something I want to say.  For example, the opening track “Paranoia” is about a friend of mine who smokes too much marijuana and gets so paranoid he can’t leave the house.  The song “Thirty-Eight” is about the relationship with my girlfriend and our fifteen year age gap. “Citalopram Blues” is a song I wrote when I was taking an anti-depressant drug.  “Numb” was when the drugs stopped me from feeling anything at all.

 

What is your songwriting process?

 

I’m not one of those people who can decide to just sit down and write a song.  It has to come from the heart, and when it comes to me I have to get it down straight away or I loose it. I have loads of lyrics written down on little scraps of paper, or saved as draft messages in my phone.  Usually when I get an idea for a riff or a melody, I record it on my phone (this happens a lot when I’m driving) or on the sound recorder on my laptop.  I don’t follow the same process for every song I write; sometimes I’ll start with a lyric, sometimes a melody or a riff, every song is different.

 

Who has been the biggest influence on your playing?  and singing?

 

I have so many influences it would be too difficult to narrow it down to just one.  On the harp I am inspired by all the greats; Big Walter, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Carey Bell, Junior Wells, James Cotton, the list goes on.  My more contemporary influences include Charlie Musselwhite and Pierre Lacocque.  Pierre plays in a band called Mississippi Heat and he’s been a huge influence on my style.   He has a unique approach,  he’s very precise; his harp sounding like a piccolo at times.  My playing has also been inspired by a lot of guitar players:  Buddy Guy, Lurrie Bell and Peter Green, to name just a few, as well as sax players like Louis Jordan, Jr Walker and Maceo Parker.  As a vocalist I am primarily influenced by soul singers like Sam Cooke and Bobby Womack.  Sam Cooke is my favourite singer of all time: I love his tone and the melodies he used.  He could be singing the phone book and he’d still sound great.  Earl Thomas has been a big influence on me too.  Earl’s voice is the perfect blend of blues, soul and gospel and I think he’s one of the best singers of his generation.  I’ve covered his song “Get Me Some” on my new album and last year I was lucky enough to perform with him on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise.

 

 

What was the worst moment you have ever had at a gig?

 

I was playing at a UK blues festival once and we had to be there for a 2pm load in.  My bass player Vicky and I were travelling up together from Brighton and my guitarist Stuart and the drummer (who shall remain nameless) were supposed to be travelling down to the gig together from Northampton.  On the morning of the gig Stuart couldn’t get hold of the drummer, they were supposed to be leaving Northampton at midday, but it turned out the drummer had gone out partying the night before and didn’t wake up until 1.30pm!  When they eventually left (an hour and a half late) they got massively held up in traffic on the M25 and it didn’t look like they would get to the gig in time.  As a precautionary measure I poached a drummer and guitarist, who I had never met before, from another band and set up ready to do the gig with them.  Luckily Stuart and the drummer arrived literally one minute before show time and we were able to play the gig as planned. 

 

If you could have the chance to do anything at all with music, what would it be?

 

I would love to tour America with my band.  I particularly want to play in Chicago as it’s where all my biggest influences are from.  My dream is to play with Lurrie Bell, my favourite Chicago blues guitarist.

 

 

What do you have planned for 2014?

I will be touring the new album in the UK and Europe throughout 2014 and working on new material with my band.

 

 

Finally, what would you say to a younger person wanting to start out in the blues?

I would say to follow your heart.  Make music that is true to you and never try to be something that you’re not.

 

 

 

 

 

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