Ronnie Baker Brooks Talking Why
Times Have Changed
BD: I was delighted when Mascot Label sent me your latest album Times Have Changed to review. It is an album full of blues strong guitar that makes compelling listening.
BD: What were your first musical influences growing up in Chicago?
RBB: It has to be my Dad Lonnie Brooks. He taught me how to teach myself. I grew up listening to music from Country to Gospel, Rock n’ Roll, R’n’B and of course the Blues. I started playing at six and the first time on stage with my Dad I was 9. At 19 I joined him on the road, I rubbed shoulders and played with and was given advice by some of the greatest. Albert Collins embraced my playing and I saw him as an Uncle. Whilst Ko Ko Taylor gave me a shout out I played with her on stage and she was my Blues Mom.
The list is huge from Albert King. BB King, Little Milton, Buddy Guy whose first wife was my Mom’s best friend, Otis Rush, Magic Slim and so many more. What an experience so special. BD: You have to write a book a lifetime of music experience drenched in the Blues. RBB: You are not the first to mention that perhaps I should!
To me it was natural they dropped by and played in my home friends with my Dad, we went to their homes, was taken to shows. At the time I didn’t realise that it was so different from normal.
The best tour of my life, was with BB King, Buddy Guy, Ko Ko Taylor, Junior Wells and Eric Johnson wow what a time. It was for me like going to school or college the experience was a unique situation in which to learn and study the blues.
BD: Times Have Changed is your first album for ten years. How did you decide on the mix of self-penned and covers?
RBB: Steve Jordan produced the album I trusted him. I always wanted to work with him as I loved the way he played. It was the first time I had included covers on an album, normally I wrote all of the tracks. Steve said the advantage of covers is people recognise the songs quicker hopefully they will engage quicker with the album and get into my own songs. Hopefully, we have chosen the right tracks we discussed what I would like to do Old Love was the first, it was Mum’s favourite song. That inspired me to play the number live always big fan of Eric Clapton and Robert Cray. I knew that if ever I was going to record a cover that would be the one. Curtis Mayfield’s Give Me Your Love always a beautiful song and was the first track recorded. The Second was the instrumental Twine Time.
BD: That leads nicely on to my next question, You included an instrumental that is more than about guitars. How did you select Twine Time featuring your father Lonnie?
RBB: Steve Jordan chose Twine Time and as I said it was the second track we recorded. It was a spontaneous thought we need an instrumental. First, we thought about a Freddie King thing or something I had written before. No, let’s do something different not necessarily something for guitar players but one with wider appeal. So Alvin Cash’s Twine Time became the instrumental. It set the album on fire. Once the track was recorded I thought I have to get my Dad on the track. Alvin Cash lived in Chicago and Dad was probably in the Studio when he recorded it. I was in Memphis at the Royal Studio and Dad was in Chicago. So he went round to a friend’s laid down the music and emailed it to me.
BD: Does the Title of the album Times Have Changed have a special meaning for your first album in ten years?
RBB: I wrote the tracks reflecting that I do feel that times have changed. At one time there would have been fifteen bands from Chicago on the road at any one time. We would run into each other at stops, now lots of the guys are no longer touring or not with us anymore. The reasons are varied, aged, economy, changes in technology times have changed and that seemed appropriate for now reflection that Times Have Changed for definite on so many levels. It is also about how special it was being on the road with BB, Junior Wells, Otis Rush some no longer with us but it was special. It is a celebration of that sound it comes from the heart and reaches the heart of the listener. There are elements from previous records with emphasis on that style a little bit more. Wherever I play it will be the Blues. But to get some attention you do have to do things differently, change keeps you going. Personally, I am very proud of what has been achieved on the album and I hope everyone will enjoy it as much as we have recording the album. For me, it is a platform to grow from you never stop learning as I was told by BB you never master the music, but you can master your approach to music.
BD: I have always been interested in the lyrics of a song. Where do you get your inspiration for your songwriting?
RBB: Inspiration for my songs all my lyrics relate to true life situations. Can be something I have gone through if not something I can closely relate to. You have got to feel it if you can’t feel it the song will not work. Might be a great feeling or sad, you have to tell it to make people feel the essence of the song. For instance When I was We the last track of the album was a line from a conversation when I was talking to a friend in Florida. She had just broken up with her boyfriend hanging there and ended the sentence you know When I was We. Instantly I knew what she meant. I sat down and wrote the song immediately. I just had to write it. It was in the cut for Gold Digger CD my first , but never released it. Was right for this album. Willie Dixon taught me that to sing the Blues it comes from the heart to deliver the song and that is my philosophy.
Ronnie Baker Brooks premieres official lyric video for
‘Times Have Changed’ (feat. Al Kapone)
BD I am sure you have many plans for 2017 and beyond for Ronnie Brooks Baker and his band
RBB: Well this album is definitely a platform to jump from and grow. I have plans to tour the world. BD: so you have plans to tour Europe? RBB: Yes, definitely but nothing concrete yet. The album hopefully will open doors and push be to be a better musician, songwriter and singer. Build a platform with Mascot and inspire future musicians.
BD: If you were putting together the perfect band with members from across the years (dead or alive) who would you have playing
Guys got on this record dream working at Royal Studios, Memphis with producer Steve Jordan It was a dream come true work a joy to work
Guitar: Steve Cropper, Teenie Hodges, Lonnie Brooks, Eddie Willis, Lee Roy Parnell,
“Big Head” Todd Mohr
Rapper: Al Kapone
Keys: Archie Turner
Organ: Charles Hodges
Jazz Saxophonist: Lannie McMillan
Bass: Leroy Hodges
Vocals: Angie Stone, Felix Cavaliere
Plus the delight of having Bobbie Blue Bland on the album a friend of Dad for many years to have his sound captured on the record was another dream come true.
I could have had Jim Hendrix love his playing Stevie Ray Vaughan who I did play with once, BB King etc. But I can’t complain about what I have got right here now. This is a band that works no one is intimidated by each other we love playing together as Times Have Changed shows.
I remember a huge jam back in 2012 Howlin For Hunert I was part of with a great cast. Including Keb Mo; Eric Clapton. Buddy Guy, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks. Steve Jordan, Jimmie Vaughan, Lonnie Brooks, Kenny Wayne Sheppard and many more. Yes the sound was fantastic but everyone held back not wanting to upstage. We didn’t wat to push we had too much respect for each other. There was something lost by the respect. Learnt a lot from that jam, not all about the music, not your take but the collective feel of the band.