Matt Schofield Interview
with Bob Putignano
It is not often that a very talented "young" blues player appears on the scene, but Matt Schofield at twenty-eight is making quite a mark in the USA. Matt road to the top of the charts (number one) at Bill Wax's Bluesville at XM Radio, and Matt's "Siftin' thru Ashes" was mightily well received throughout the US radio waves, with strong reviews everywhere.
I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with Matt:
BobP: After turning a few heads here in the states with your live recording from 2003, it was nice to see you go into the studio to produce "Siftin' thru Ashes."
Matt: Thanks Bob, we did get a good response to the live recording which prompted us to go into the studio, the biggest challenge for me was to work on my vocals, as up until that time I was mainly playing guitar only, and realized (with the help of my manager Richard Pavitt) that to be successful, I would have to sing, and I also knew that I would have to write strong material, as I was also pretty much a jammer.
BobP: The impression I got is that you are something of a perfectionist?
Matt: (Laughing) You are right, and I really took too much time working on "Siftin' Thru Ashes" and after some time, we went back into the studio and recorded the entire disk again in just two nights, which captured the spontaneous feeling we were going for.
BobP: Does blues do well in the UK?
Matt: It's impossible here! Jazz and funk do okay, and since we funk it up and stretch out in a jazzy way that helps. I'm labeled as a blues guitarist here, and that is an honor, but the general public looks down at the blues, as sort of a refuge for hacks. Come to think of it, I've played in Holland more than I have in the UK! Furthermore, the UK does not have a blues scene like the States and we don't get the opportunity to see the masters all that often like you guys do in the USA.
BobP: I am curious as to who are your major musical influences?
Matt: I don't think you will be surprised- B.B. King, Albert King, Freddie King, Stevie Ray grabbed me hard at twelve years old, and Robben Ford.
BobP: I heard that Robben just sent you a post card telling you that he really likes what you are doing?
Matt: Oh yeah, I was so surprised and honored that one of my idols (Robben Ford) took the time to drop me a note, what you heard is true.
BobP: What about Jazz players?
Matt: Oh yes, a lot of those Blue Note & Prestige recordings, you know all of those Rudy Van Gelder engineered records by Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, Kenny Burrell, and the horn players were important for my ears too, like Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis and I think Sonny Rollins approach to the saxophone was very much like Hendrix did with the Band of Gypsies. And speaking of Hendrix- it is safe to say that Jimi was and still is a major influence, as well as Billy Gibbons early work with ZZ Top, I also like west coast cats like Junior Watson and Alex Schultz, and the slow boil build ups and dynamics of Ronnie Earl, man I just love that Live in Europe recording of his, Ronnie just has that commitment to sustaining and controlling the note, which is amazing. John Scofield has a special musicality and strong personalized sounds, and Soulive is just bloody explosive! And Derek Trucks is my favorite of the newer young guitarists.
BobP: I just read that you are opening for Derek when he is playing his first gig ever in London? I find it amazing that it took so long for Derek to get a gig in the UK
Matt: If I may say so, I think this is a perfect match billing, and I am honored to share the stage with Derek, and looking forward to the gig. And you are right- it is amazing that it took so long for Derek to get a gig here, but ever since the UK press heard he was - going to be playing in Clapton's band for EC's European tour, well that finally certified Derek in the UK, but had it not been for Eric I don't know if he would have gotten the opportunity to play here, that's just the way it goes here.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent with Schofield and to listen to his open mind to all kinds of music. Not long ago I had the opportunity to talk to Derek Trucks, and it's obvious that Matt & Derek are definitely of similar minds in their awareness to absorb and combine many musical influences with no fears of genre boundaries. How refreshing! As the blues struggles to regain its popularity world-wide, it is so important that we have young players like Matt (and Derek,) as they could be the next new wave of blues leaders. Just like back in the days when B.B., Muddy, The Wolf and many others blazed the blues path to electrify traditional blues music, it's so important to see & hear the personalized creative process in blues music by the likes of strong artists such asMatt Schofield. You know- Pete Townsend was right when he said, "The music must change." As music must evolve & grow, with the hopeful notion that the blues can be heard by music fans of all ages, and can attract a wider audience. Amen!
Bob Putignano www.SoundsofBlue.com
Radio Host WFDU's "Sounds of Blue"
President of the NY Blues and Jazz Society