British blues-rock star Joanne Shaw Taylor set to play Geneva on Saturday night
Acclaimed British blues guitarist and vocalist Joanne Shaw Taylor comes to Geneva on Saturday night to perform at the Smith Opera House.
A native of England’s West Midlands (aka “the Black Country”), Taylor has been living in the United States for 15 years and is currently based in Nashville, Tennessee. She’s touring to promote her latest album, 2022’s “Nobody’s Fool.”
It’s her most diverse album to date and features guest appearances from Joe Bonamassa, Tina Guo, Carmen Vandenburg, and Dave Stewart of Eurythmics. It was Stewart, in fact, who discovered Taylor when she was just 16 and invited her to tour with his supergroup D.U.P. And Bonamassa, a longtime friend and mentor, signed Taylor to his Journeyman Records label and co-produced “Nobody’s Fool.”
Earlier this week, Taylor called from a tour stop in North Tonawanda, New York, for a quick chat with The Route.
Q: I’ve never seen you perform before, though I’ve read a lot about you in various British and American guitar magazines. But I’m a longtime fan of Joe Bonamassa, who grew up in Central New York – it must be cool to have him as a mentor, both musically and business-wise.
Joanne Shaw Taylor: We’ve been best friends for 14 or 15 years, so to be able to now work with him and with his team, which are people I've known as long as I've known him, you know, it's family. What better way to work than to work with your dear friends?
Q: How do you like touring around the United States?
JST: Oh, I love it. I mean, I've been living in the States now for 15 years. So it's a wonderful country, but it's also such a great country to tour. It's so convenient here. It's so big. And it’s a pretty easy place to tour. There are no boundaries or language barriers – unlike Europe, where you can go through several countries in a day. So it's a pretty comfortable place to tour.
Q: You’re known as a great guitarist, but I'm also really impressed by your singing – it's very soulful, passionate, and powerful.
JST: Well, thank you very much. Yeah, it's taken some time. I will say it was an unnatural singer at first. But I put the work in and it’s genuinely something I really enjoy doing now.
Q: When you were growing up, how did you first get into the blues? It’s not always easy to find, especially on Top 40 radio or television.
JST: Yeah, particularly when you grow up in an era when boy bands are the most played on the radio. It was my dad – he had a really big record collection, he played guitar and harmonica, and was a really big blues fan. And he liked classic rock, and the Rolling Stones, and the bands from the British blues boom, so I just got exposed to it through them and fell in love with it.
Q: And what made you decide to actually try to play it?
JST: I saw a Stevie Ray Vaughan video when I was 13. Like a lot of kids my age, I just fell in love with him and the guitar. And from then on, there wasn't much chance of getting me to go to school or to put my attention to other things other than the electric guitar.
Q: You worked with producer Kevin Shirley on your latest single, "Black Magic" – he’s done many albums with Joe Bonamassa, as well as two with John Hiatt, who's another one of my favorites. They both credit him with being sort of a studio genius, but also very supportive and collaborative. What was your experience like with him?
JST: I love working with Kevin. Again, I've known him for several years and we're really good friends, which really does benefit you in the studio in the artist-producer relationship. Essentially, I'm handing my songs over to him and he's gonna dictate how they sound so you've got to have a certain level of trust there. To work with someone that is so incredible at what he does and so good at what he does well respected but also someone I love and trust, it's a win-win situation, really.
Q: As I mentioned, I’ve been following Joe Bonamassa for a long time, and have interviewed him a couple of times. And he admits it took him a long time to figure it out. Like a lot of young blues guitar slingers, he would get up on stage and just wail endless solos, and it wasn’t too interesting after a while. But nowadays, he really knows how to put on a good show and mix in various styles, grooves, and vibes. Is that something you keep in mind when putting together your live sets?
JST: I certainly relate to that. Me and Joe started doing this when we were just young teenagers. So you've got to allow time for growth – you're not going to get it right when you're straight out the gate. You need years of experience on the road and collaborating with other good musicians and producers to help you find your voice. I'm very lucky that I've got those wonderful people supporting me that I can just work with, basically.
Q: How do you go about writing your songs? Are you always doing it in your head? Or do you set aside specific times to do it?
JST: I used to just write specifically for an album – I’d take a few weeks off before we started recording and just sit down and write. But these days I do tend to like to do it on the road, actually – I just kind of take like an hour before soundcheck because it warms up my voice and my fingers nicely for soundcheck and just see if I can get some ideas together. But I love writing. It's such a therapeutic thing to do, you know?
Q: Can you tell me about your touring band?
JST: We have a five-piece band at the moment, with drums, bass, Hammond organ, and a second guitar player. And they're all guys I've known for some years from Detroit, They're just great. They're great musicians, and they really play what's right for the song, you know, as opposed to just trying to make it their own. They’re very respectful of the songs. And they're all just really great guys to tour with, so I genuinely enjoy being on stage with them, and offstage as well.
Q: As far as your future plans, have you thought about your next record yet?
JST: We've actually got an album ready to go. We're just releasing singles at the moment, and I'm gonna get back in the studio next year. I’ve kind of started working on some songs. And I think I'm one of those artists who found it frustrating not being able to do anything during COVID, so I’m kind of making up for lost time.
If You Go
Who: Joanne Shaw Taylor
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16
Where: Smith Opera House, 82 Seneca St., Geneva
Cost: $29-$99, available online here