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Early Blues Interview
Aynsley Lister,
singer/guitarist/songwriter

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"There is no doubt that Lister is one of those naturally exciting talents that come along once in a blues moon. But more than the God-given talent, its the balance that he strikes between stunning guitar pyrotechnics, a soulful voice that has just enough of an edge and a collection of original songs that mark him out as a musician with a glittering future".  
-
Net Rhythms

 Copyright 2011 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.
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I was fortunate to meet up with Aynsley at the Burnley Blues Festival and the Linton Music Festival:

 Copyright 2011 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Alan:       I know you hail from the Midlands but where you were born?

Aynsley:  Im Yorkshire born and bred but moved from there when I was 10 and lived in the Midlands ever since.

Alan:       What are your first musical memories?

Aynsley:  Messing around with an old guitar that my Dad had when I was a toddler.  Never actually played anything but I was just fascinated with it and one day I dropped it, it snapped in half so I asked for a guitar of my own.  They said that if I showed them that I really wanted it and was prepared to learn to play then theyd get me one for my birthday. So I got one of my own when I was 8.  Id always been surrounded by my Dads record collection which most evenings hed have the stereo on and I grew up listening to blues, R&B (the proper R&B, not the current kind!) and I thought, Yes, thats what I want to play like, Clapton, Hendrix, Fleetwood Mac and all that kind of guitary-based blues stuff.

Alan:       Did you come from a musical family?

Aynsley:  My Dad is a music fan although hes not a musician.  I think Im kind of doing what my Dad always wanted to do but hes never had the ability to play.  He loves blues and listening to music and if I go round hes always got the stereo on.  Ive got a couple of uncles and cousins who play but I wouldn't particularly say that Ive got a musical family other than my Dad who always surrounded me with the sound of music.

Alan:       Did you always want to be a musician?

Aynsley:  All I knew was that I wanted to play guitar.  I suppose if you ask any kid under the age of 10 then theyll come out with all sorts of things but I just knew that I completely happy when I had a guitar in my hand and Im the same now.  I still love to just sit down and chill out with a guitar, not to practice just to sit down on my own for a couple of hours

Alan:       What kind of material were you playing in the early days?

Aynsley:  Predominantly British blues and I was really into 60s era Clapton, John Mayall, that kind of stuff.  When I first started playing live, it was blues that I tried to play and I always tried to go to blues jam sessions.  When I started my own band when I was 18 or 19 I was playing all the stuff that Id grown up listening to and as I progressed with that and started playing the odd tune here and there and it was received pretty well and I got signed to a label from the first couple of songs I wrote and that spurred me on to keep going.

Alan:       By the time you were 18 youd been in several bands and then you formed your own, tell me about those times.

Aynsley:  When you play in a band as a collective you have 4 opinions so its always a compromise.  If youre playing 15 songs a night you might get 3 or 4 that you want to do but then youve got to do what the others want.  I just always wanted to play blues, thats all I was interested in at 18, so by having my own band it meant I could basically do what I wanted.  Id never sung before, Id just played guitar so I started singing which, to be honest, scared the hell out of me to start with.  But like anything the more you do something you get more comfortable and I started to enjoy it and I love the whole thing now, the whole thing of performing.

 Copyright 2011 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Alan:       Early in your career you worked with the likes of Buddy Guy, John Mayall and Robert Cray.  How did you get into those?

Aynsley:  With those kind of things, theres no real formula.  As an artist you put yourself about and you phone as many agencies as you can, as many venues as you can, you do as many gigs as you can and try to build a reputation so theres a bit of a buzz about you as an artist and hopefully then after 100 phone calls you might get one that says, Yes, well have you as the opening act.  In the early days I had a cracking manager, Martin Steer, who was really energetic and had the gift of the gab and he was really instrumental in my early years. 

Alan:       In 2006 you were involved with Ruf Records Annual Blues Caravan with Ian Parker and Erja Lyytinen.

Aynsley:  Thomas Ruf has lots of crazy ideas and this particular idea was that every year he would take 3 of his artists and send them out as a package tour with a theme.  I think we were either the 2nd or 3rd one and he asked if we wanted to go to America with this girl from Finland that wed never heard of.  So she got to go out with more established artists and we got more of a crossover audience.   Each of us was to write 3 or 4 songs and wed then collaborate and mix in and do an album together.  Id never done that before so the thought of going to Clarksdale, Mississippi and recording in all these really cool places really appealed.  It worked really well, great fun.

Alan:       In 2008 you signed for Manhaton Records and I read that this has been quite a commercial boost for you.

Aynsley:  I think the first CD I did for Manhaton (Equilibrium) I tried a lot of new things in the studio that Id never done before.  Apart from Blues Caravan Id never worked with session players on my own material but the idea was that wed get specialists in some areas.  Anything guitar related Id done but they wanted to get some different people in to add colour and texture.  I just did, well the money stuff I suppose, sing the songs and play the cool lead stuff!  We got a guy called Robbie Macintosh in to play some guitar and bass and hed just come off tour with John Mayer which was a massive thing for me as Im such a John Mayer fan.  I was over the moon that wed got his collaborative guitarist in to play on my album!  The songs Id written by that point had gone quite cross-over commercial and I suppose in recent times I listen less to blues and do now listen to more varied stuff.  Maybe unconsciously I was going into that John Mayer thing being a blues guitarist with a really good mixture.  So, Equilibrium was a mixture of all my influences.  Theres some blues songs on there, we did a cover of Gnarls Barkley's Crazy I did an acoustic blue grass version just to put a different twist on it, theres a couple of pop-rock things on there.  The title was to reflect the mixture and balance of everything I hear when Im writing.

Alan:       You play contemporary blues and I read a quote describing your Equilibrium album: "his music flirts with the darker side of indie-rock but is anchored firmly and securely in the heart of the blues ... He has a lightness of feel, a new and expansive energy that will appeal to the younger listener still toying with the [blues] form... a new age bluesman".  How would you describe your music? 

Aynsley:  When Im writing I dont consciously think, Im going to write a blues song, or a slow song, I just sit down and see what comes out.  I write loads of songs, some of them make it past the demo stage and some of them dont even get out of my bedroom.  Its just whatever comes out.  I really like catchy melodies and tunes, the one thing I suppose in comparison with 15 years ago is that I cant sit and listen to endless guitar solos, or blues after blues.  I need more now to keep my interest  as an artist and writer who is trying to put out as much variety as I can whilst still maintaining an identity.

 Copyright 2011 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Alan:       Who would you say are your main influences?

Aynsley:  I dont really have any in particular.  Every single time I write a song it always starts in a different way.  Influences come from everywhere, perhaps Ill be driving and listening to the radio and a really terrible pop song comes on but there might be a chord change or a melody that I like and can take and do something with it against a different backdrop.

Alan:       Tell me about the band when did you get together?

Aynsley:  The band as we are now - I worked with Midus Guerreiro (the bass player) for about three and a half years and Dan Healey on keys for about two and a half years and Tim Brown joined us in September.  So theres not really a straight answer to that question and the band rarely stays the same for more than a year.

Alan:       Tell me about the making of your latest live album, 'Tower Sessions'.

Aynsley:  It was a long time since Id done anything live and Id never actually had a good experience with live recording.  I dont know if its just luck of the draw but you can guarantee that if we do a tour of 15 dates itll be great but the night we decide to record something will go wrong. Somebody doesnt quite feel on it that night, some technical problem...its very risky because you are trying to capture in one night everything that might happen on a tour.  When youve got the audience you seem to  Copyright 2011 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.get that red light feeling, everybody tenses up.   Every time Ive done a live recording in the past, the night after weve always had the most amazing gig.  I added keyboard to the line up about two and a half years ago and as a guitarist I had to adapt my style a bit, I didnt have to play as loud and I could almost stop playing sometimes and back off.  It completely changed the dynamic of the band and it took me about 6 or 8 months to get used to it.  It got to the point where wed toured for about 18 months and it was sounding, in my opinion, really really good.  Wed just come off tour, it was all really well-oiled, everyone knew the songs inside out and wed got all these songs to a point where I thought theyd never sounded as good.  So it was a bit of an experiment really so I thought that at the end of the tour before everybody cools off and goes on holiday lets just get together and record. No audience but lets play the set through a couple of times and see if we capture something.  If we dont, no pressure.  We got together at a place in Winchester called The Tower which is cracking sounding room acoustically, very rewarding.  We set up and played each song 2 or 3 times although there were a couple that we played once and decided we didnt need to do it again.  One of those was Purple Rain.  On the album there are three songs that are first takes and the rest are all seconds.  I suppose its not a live album in the traditional sense with an audience but when we played it back I was, and still am, really happy with it and I think we captured the best of what we had at that time and it captures that live energy.

Alan:       Youve just started a UK tour is that going okay?

Aynsley:  Yes it is. Were here today in Burnley and weve got a handful of festivals coming up  including Scunthorpe, Dumfries.  I love playing live.

Alan:       Good luck in the tour Aynsley and thank you for your time.

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"UK guitar man Aynsley Listers recent crossover into blues-meets-well-written-rock-song territory has been well received by press and public alike. He began a 45 date tour of Europe towards the end of last year and reports indicate that at the finishing line the man and his band had gone way past top gear and entered the turbo zone in terms of performance level. If youre kicking yourself for missing it, then compensation of a sort comes in the form of this new live CD which was recorded during the final stages at Winchesters Tower in January 2010. Opting for a live greatest hits package, Aynsley and his band blast through a set of audience favourites including a stunning rendering of Princes anthemic Purple Rain The decision to add keyboard player Dan Healey proves to be an excellent one as the overall sound of the band has never been better. We particularly enjoyed the cover of Hendrixs Crosstown Traffic, complete with ripping Strat solo nice!" 
- Guitar Techniques

Albums available from Amazon

www.aynsleylister.co.uk

Check out Aynsley Lister at Burnley Blues Festival

Check out Aynsley Lister at Linton Music Festival

 Copyright 2011 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.

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