Bluesdoodles is delighted to have once again the opportunity to have a conversation with the invited participants for the Sixth UKBlues Challenge. The judges are going to have a real challenge in deciding which of the five bands (Ash Wilson, Connor Selby Band, Crossfire and The Achievers with band number five to be announced after Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival, Jessica Foxley stage will be choosing the fifth band!) are going to be heading off to represent the UK at the 36th International Blues Challenge in Memphis in January 2019 & 10th European Blues Challenge in Zaandam in the Netherlands in April 2020.
The second conversation in the run-up to the 2019 challenge with Liz over at Bluesdoodles is with Connor Selby, from the Connor Selby Band.
BD: Firstly, thank you for taking the time out to chat about participating in the 6th UK Blues Challenge, Blues, your music and more.
CS: No worries at all – it’s a pleasure.
BD: 2018 sees the sixth UK British Blues Challenge. Tell us what it means to you to have been nominated to participate in the challenge with the chance of representing the UK in International Blues Challenge in Memphis and European Blues Challenge in Zaandam in the Netherlands in April 2020.
CS: It’s a huge honour to have been recognized by such a prestigious organization as the UK Blues Federation and I am grateful for the opportunity to potentially represent the blues in The UK across the globe.
BD: What are the Blues to you? Do you feel British Blues has a different feel to what is being currently produced in Europe, United States and elsewhere in the world?
CS:The blues for me is the truth. This quotation by Kenneth Lee Karpe from the Linear notes of Ray Charles’ Live at Newport expresses why I love this blues better than I ever could, so I’ll just quote it.
“The great blues singer is at once a fine musician and a rare poet. He is the sum total of reactions of his people and he is born marked as a spokesman of his time. When his music is happy it glories in the happiness of self-expression. When it is sad his pleas are the cries, the very personal cries, of men in pain. When it is angry it is the anger of a multitude. There is a classical timelessness about him because he sings of human values.”
I’m not sure that the British Blues is especially different to anywhere else nowadays with the world being like it is. I can hear a player anywhere in the world at the click of a mouse and they can hear me too so it’s very easy to pick up on what people are doing all over the world. I think in the old days it was different of course and when people talk about the “British Blues” of the 1960’s it is certainly something distinct from American blues. In the 60s due to the fact that all the players had to go off of were the records and maybe a rare live performance from an American blues singer who was brought across, there had to be a certain amount of inventiveness to fill in the gaps. Also I think that since most of the up and coming players and singers in Britain were white and young they had to compensate for the lack of authority and confidence that they heard in the music of Black blues artists like B.B. King and Freddie King etc. by playing more aggressively and by playing louder.
BD: Who has influenced your playing, songwriting and performances?
CS:In terms of my guitar playing my primary influences are all players that use the guitar as an extension of their voice. Phrasing for me is the most important aspect of blues guitar and naturally, I’ve always been attracted to guitarists that are able to phrase in the way a singer would.
If anyone on the street were to ask me who my favourite player was I’d have to say Eric Clapton – particularly his playing in the 1960’s with John Mayall and Cream. I’ve always been attracted to his style not only because of the way he redefined how the electric guitar was used in popular music, being one of the first players in a pop framework to play with the level of finesse and fidelity that we now take for granted in modern guitar playing, but also because his playing is extremely emotive and soulful. There was a lot of vulnerability in the way he played in his younger days, but it was just aggressive and authoritative as it was delicate and elegant. This for me struck the perfect balance and it was his impeccable phrasing and tone that makes him my favourite.
My second favourite player is probably B.B. King for a lot of the same reasons I love Eric’s playing. He really wrote the book as far as this whole school of playing is concerned and was one of the first players to really utilize the guitar’s unique ability to sound like a human voice through his distinctive vibrato and the way he bent notes. He was also the king of playing in a conversational way, which is to say, he approached his phrasing in the way a person would approach a conversation.
In terms of singing, my favourite singer is Ray Charles and he is my all-time favourite artist. Ray I feel is often overlooked nowadays because he doesn’t neatly fit into any one particular category. When people think of soul singers they normally think of Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding etc but very few put Ray in the same bracket as these singers, despite the fact that he almost single-handedly created the genre and that all the aforementioned singers idolized him. The same is true of Jazz singers and crooners. You always hear people talking about Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole etc but Ray will often be neglected. Ray Charles existed inside his own universe and I believe that it is the complexity of his music and character that keep him from being put in any particular box. Anyway, I digress, the reason I’ve always adored him, like with my favourite players is because of his phrasing. He really opened my ears when it comes to how a singer ought to phrase and the importance of singing with sincerity and honesty. I know that it is impossible to sound like Ray Charles, but I will always strive to sing with the same amount of passion and honesty as he did.
My performances aren’t influenced by anyone in particular. When I go on stage, I can only be myself as I don’t really know how to be anyone else. I know lots of artist craft a stage persona but I wouldn’t know where to start with that and I feel people would be able to sense the phoniness of the whole thing so I just go up there and do my thing as honestly as I can.My favourite songwriters are people like Nick Drake, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan and Robert Johnson. I’ve always been attracted to country songwriters for much the same reasons as I love the blues and that is because they tell it like it is. Country singers, like blues singers capture the essence of what it means to be a human being and they express that in their songwriting, whether its about the good side of life or the bad side. There’s nothing I hate more on this earth than bullshit and I feel that country songs, like Blues songs have a way of stripping all the bullshit away and revealing fundamental truths about the subject or songwriter. I also love love songs and while I know lots of people find love songs cliché or whatever I think there’s a reason why there are so many love songs and why so many people feel compelled to write about love.
BD: The bands last album was released in 2018 Made Up My Mind do you have any plans to be back in the studio to follow up this acclaimed album?
CS: Not as of yet, although I am constantly trying to write new material and refine my sound. One thing I will say is that I expect when I do record another album It will be quite different from my first one.
BD: What do you feel The UKBlues Federation can bring to the UK Blues what would you like the Federation to be doing for Blues artists on the circuit in Britain today?
CS: I think we just need to keep on promoting the music and to remember what its all about. As long as the UK Blues federation keeps promoting the music by supporting up and coming artists then they are doing their job.
BD: If you were putting together the perfect band with members from across the years (dead or alive) who would you have playing?
Clapton on lead guitar
Steve Cropper on Rhythm
RC on vocals and Electric Piano
Billy Preston on Organ
George Porter Jr on Bass
James Gadson on Drums
Would be funny to see how that would turn out
6th UKBlues Challenge is being held on On Saturday, September 14th at Bluefunk Rhythm and Blues Club., Poynton, Cheshire. Doors at 18.30 and the evening will close at around 23.15. Tickets are priced at £17.50 (plus booking fee) seated and £15.00 (plus booking fee) standing and can only be purchased via SeeTickets.com – Tickets available HERE
<strong>Demand for tickets is already very high and there is a very limited number of tickets available so, to avoid disappointment, we do urge you to get yours now before they are all gone.</strong>