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CHERRY LEE MEWIS – ROOTS AND COUNTRY BLUES GAL


Cherry Lee Mewis is a fast rising name on the UK blues circuit – a wee dynamo who has worked very hard to get where she is, she’s worked in Europe and the US. She’s been aided and abetted by long term musical partner Max Milligan. The resultant sound is very refreshing in the light of the endless stream of blues / rock guitar trios – and is a much rootsier sound with elements of country / country blues and swing. Cherry was very bubbly and obviously very excited about the new album

 

The new album is being well received?

HEARD IT HERE FIRST is my third album that I have produced with my long-time musical collaborator and guitarist Max Milligan, and has been described as ‘an 11-track-breath-of-fresh-air in a somewhat predictable blues music scene.’

 

I would say that it takes the solid roots of my debut album; 2007′s Little Girl Blue and the foot-stomping vibe of my second,  2009′s Southbound Train, and we’ve pushed the boundaries even further. We really went to town with it, had fun and poured our heart and soul into it, and I feel it really takes you on a journey. You can dance, you can sing-a-long, or you can chill out and reflect. There’s songs about good times, love, jealousy, humour and there’s even a short instrumental where my dobro player Nick Slater beautifully chills you out before the album’s final track, a pick-me-up after the rollercoaster! This album feels like a life raft because I was in the middle of it – it was all done in real time – while I was writing it, which was a different experience than writing in retrospect like I had done previously.


 

It’s different but how would you describe it?

Blues powerhouse meets hillbilly swing! It’s an acoustic swing blues album, but it’s defintely not just for blues purists. A lot of the tracks could easily crossover into the mainsteam.

 

 

 

Where do you think you are at this time career wise?

Can’t wait for the festivals to start! We’ve got some great ones lined up this year; Big Wheel Blues Festival in the Isle of Man in May, we’re headlining Hebden Bridge Blues Festival in June, as well as performing at Blues on the Meadow Festival, Rhythm Festival and more to be confirmed. I recently joined Bernie ‘Whitesnake’ Marsden onstage at his sold out shows in Buckingham and Bernie has asked me to bring my band over in June to perform at a special Jubilee festival that will be on. Plus a return trip to Memphis in October! I guess we’ll see what happens with my album aswell, it’s early days still with it just being released Feb 2012 so watch this space!

We’re interested in who you’ve got on the record and also how you go about writing…

The players on the album are my live band. My guitarist who i’ve been working with for 8 years now, Max Milligan, who is also my collaborator and producer of all 3 of my albums. There’s Nick Slater who plays resonator guitar, Robbie Stewart-Mathews plays double bass and a mean blues harp, and Flow on the drums. They’re the fuel to the ignitor – they’re my musical family and we have so much fun on the road, just watch some of the video blogs i’ve put on my Youtube channel!

The writing process does vary from song to song – I sometimes write lyrics on my own and come up with a melody straight away or Max and I will write music and lyrics together or Max will already have some music and I’ll write to that – lots of different ways of bringing a song to life! I’m always scribbling down interesting words/phrases or maybe i’ve heard a conversation and I use the guitar to write with aswell.

What sources would you say that you draw on?

I have such a huge range of influences..I’m a fan of story-telling lyrics, unusual lyrics and topics and Alanis Morissette’s songs just blow me away. The voices I admire are Janis Joplin, Jeff Buckley and also an amazing soul singer Marsha Ambrosius. I’m into so many different styles of music and listen to all sorts – Mississippi Fred McDowell, Son House, Howlin’ Wolf, Karen Dalton, Judy Roderick, there are so many! I also love Ike & Tina, Etta James, Koko Taylor, Bette Midler when she played ‘The Rose’ in the film of the same title..so many great artists – i’m a fan of the big powerhouse-type singers and artists that are different and really push the boundaries..i’m a fan of songs too, not 20 minute solos all over the show, and just real good performers that entertain the crowd. Blues artists today that I really rate are the Gerry Jablonski Band and Marcus Bonfanti – great songs, great performers and a whole heap of energy!

What about melodic inspiration?

There’s a track on my new album called Long Distance Lover and the melody is from an old Russian gypsy jazz tune and I discovered it on good ol’ Youtube performed by a ragtime band from the 1920′s and I instantly loved it. My boyfriend at the time had just finished with me out of the blue so I was experiencing all these emotions, anger, hurt and so on so I wrote the lyrics really quickly, to the melody of this gypsy jazz tune. It’s actually called ‘Dark Eyes’. We’ve totally done our own arrangement of it. A similar thing happened with another track on the new album called Legend. It’s a poem that my dad wrote that stunningly sums up my grandad who passed away last year and I wanted to share them on a wider scale so Robbie (my bass player) and I put the poem to the melody of a traditional mountain song and totally stripped it to just Robbie’s banjo and I’m extremely pleased with the result. It’s not a new thing, bands have been doing the same thing for years. But I love a good melody and Max and I have come up with some decent ones ourselves!

 

What’s close to your heart in terms of subject matter for songs?

Real life situations, relatable stuff but I try to not write in a negative way too much. When you come to see us at a gig, I want people to have a ball, to toe-tap, foot-stomp, clap, dance, sing-a-long and most of the time they do and they leave with a big smile on their faces..it’s about entertaining as well. I would hate to go watch a band or artist with the idea of trying to leave any issues I may have at home and go to have a good time and just end up sitting there listening to a whole load of songs that are depressing and make me feel worse! When you’re an established, well-known act I think you can get away with writing about most subject matters but when you’re a new artist you don’t want to put people off at the first hurdle!

 

What do you like most out of your back catalogue?

The title track from my last album, Southbound Train is a real favourite at the gigs, to the point where it’s actually requested. Max had a battered old 3-string guitar that he rescued from a skip and he came up with this great riff. He recorded it and I had it playing in my car and wrote the lyrics to it in my head quite quickly really and it signified my move down south too at the time! Tracks from my new album just released, have been going down really well at the gigs, Man Overboard, Goin’ Down (To Memphis Tennessee), Long Distance Lover and Way To Your Heart are particular favourites – all original tracks that Max and I have written.

Do you think there’s a future for the CD in general?

They will always be around, just like vinyl is. I personally prefer a CD or vinyl to having an mp3, just having the product in your hand, it’s all part of the experience of buying an album. I like looking at the artwork and appreciating it and I always like to read the credits, who wrote and played on what and so on. It’s the way the music industry is adapting to the digital movement that will make or break the future of the distribution of music. They got on the bandwagon too late really I think.

Your ambitions?

To tour to as many different places and countries as possible – to spread my music as far as I can – to make enough money from my music to buy my own milkshake chain! I’ve already met and shared the stage with some pretty influential artists and bands already but would love to meet more of the artists I admire.

Career highlight so far?

Finally going out to Memphis with my dad back in 2010 and getting asked to do the Howlin’ Wolf Festival was pretty special. I met Howlin’ Wolf’s two daughters and neice there and they watched my performance – I had to pinch myself! I had an amazing bunch of musicians who were my band out there including Grammy award winning Billy Earheart on keys who plays in The Amazing Rhythm Aces and Little Richard’s guitarist, Kelvin Holly!

Just being able to play regularly and at some pretty special places with my band is always a highlight for me and I feel very privilleged to have the best of the best with me!

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