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Hero. Legend. Good Bloke.
John Peel OBE, 1939 - 2004

Red Lick Records



 

 

Early Blues Interview
Bex Marshall, singer/songwriter/guitarist, Bex Marshall Band

_________________________________________________________________________

© Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Alan:   I believe you hale from Devon but now live in London. What were your first musical memories?

Bex:    I suppose my natural ones were of jumping up on the table and singing in my grandmotherís flat in Plymouth.  And then I had an uncle who was into music and travelled a lot so when he came to our house he would sing and he had such an amazing powerful voice and played great acoustic guitar.  And then as I was got into music at about 9 or 10 I had the opportunity to listen to my other uncleís record collection which was just phenomenal.

Alan:   Did you always want to be a musician?

Bex:    Yes, I picked the guitar up early, when I was about 8, and had a massive drive, a greed, that needed to be sated.

Alan:   What was your early musical passion?  I understand it was classical guitar?

Bex:    Yes, I went to a couple of lessons from a lady who was a school teacher but not really a guitar player so once sheíd taught me my chords I was kind of stuck.   We found this other guy who was a finger picker and primarily played classical music.  I just wanted to learn so that was what he taught me.  He said ďWhat do you want to learnĒ and I was, ďWell, I donít knowĒ.  Everything he played was just stunning, beautiful so I was, ďYes, I want to play thatĒ.  I didnít know what it was but I just knew that I loved what I could hear.  He was playing stuff like ragtime, Scott Joplin, Cavatinas, Latin American stuff.  Yes!

Alan:   Iíve seen quotes saying you were "a born traveller with a guitar on your back."  How did this help to develop your music?

Bex:    I was so excited about going to new places.  When I was 17, it broke my heart but I had to leave home.  It wasnít a question of me being kicked out to get a job, but it was me saying, ďMum, Iíve got to goĒ.  My kind of way out of a small city was that I trained as a croupier as Iíd been told I could do cruise ships after 2 years.  So after 6 months I winkled my way  in and I was gone.  That was just feeding my adventures.  I was kind of crazy and wild and I just wanted to travel.  Of course I had all these games under my belt Ė I could deal, I was pretty good at maths, so I ended up dealing up private poker games in Knightsbridge and got into the illegal side of the gaming which was very well paid.  You had to be a good dealer and lucky for the house but not so unlucky that people didnít want you.  All these travels were inspiring my writing and I really started knuckling down and writing in my early 20s and learning how to write songs and stuff.  I really felt like I wanted to live a bit before I started writing.

© Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Alan:   Whoís influenced you the most in your writing?

Bex:    I love Bernie Taupinís lyrics and I love those stories.  Bob Dylan was obviously a genius too.  I like to write the story songs but I write differently too.  There are so many ways to write a song, itís so free.  A lot of what I do vocally and in the guitar and writing, there are no rules Ė itís all fluid and fun.

Alan:   Who are your favourite artists?

Bex:    Thatís an unfair question!  If there are people who make me cry....  Patti Griffin is one of those women, her voice is so fragile and it seems like you are peeking into someoneís private space.  Thereís blues artists, country artists and rock artists and Iíve got favourites in all those genres.  I love listening to people like Neil Young, Howlin' Wolf, early Tina Turner, Led Zeppelin.  Growing up I was touching all these blues artists and people with a blues influence like the Eagles, Jo Walsh, Lynyrd Skynyrd.  I love the slide guitar.  When I met my husband, who is promoting a roots blues Americana venue, The Borderline, that opened up a whole can of other new artists that I would never have found.  So I kind of stumbled on this kind of melting pot of Americana in London.  Iím always being inspired and I think thatís a great thing. When you find out who you are, you can taken anything and make itís yours, any genre, any style.  But itís always been in that blues tradition.  I was inspired by the film Tommy which was blues, roots, soul, rock.  What I do now is try to get it back to the basics Ė which is roots. 

Alan:   Whatís your favourite guitar?

Bex:    I use an Ozark, a 3515, and I love it.  Itís very versatile as I can pick on it and slide at the same time which I canít do with the Nationals or those high strung guitars.  Iíve kind of found where I like to be with this.  Iíve got a beautiful 1963 Gibson Hummingbird which is a beautiful acoustic guitar but I donít get that roots feel on it, that kind of metallicky banjo sound which I can get out of my Met resonator as well.  

Alan:   Any particular songs you play which have special meaning to you?

Bex:    All of them.  Even the covers Iím  usually singing because I love the artists or whatever.  But all my songs that Iíve written are true and inspired by real people so thereís a vibe there about something.

Alan:   Youíve had three US tours in the last few years.  How did they go?

Bex:    I love it over there!  I love the people, got some friends over there now.  One thing about the Americans is that they like music.  They are so professional, bang on time, really tight and you learn a lot by watching American artists.  If the American audience likes you, itís a real feather in your hat.

Alan:   How do you think the blues scene is in the UK compared to the US?

Bex:    I think itís a lot stronger generally, although I think the blues scene is about to experience another little explosion.  Seasick Steve has brought roots into the mainstream.  Thereís a lot of blues bands but the real rootsy back-porch stuff has been given a real boost by him.  I saw him at Glastonbury and he sits there and tell stories.  What I really like about the roots blues is that you are singing songs about tragic things but thereís a positivity there.  And humour.

© Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Alan:   You recently did an Australian tour with lots of big festivals.  How did that go?

Bex:    Fantastic!   The last festival I did was the Gold Coast one, Blues on Broad Beach, with over 40 Australian bands, and I headlined it!  Absolutely phenomenal.  Really blew me away.  I was on my own as well and it was just another really great experience.  Donít get me wrong, I like to travel with other people, sometimes with my husband whoís a professional tour manager with Joan Armatrading, sometimes just with my family.  But I did the whole tour on my own and I lived out of my guitar case.  My guitar was in the case and all my chiffon and scarves was wrapped around it.  I lived out of that, I had about 7 small outfits, one pair of boots and a pair of thongs.  It was really great, they gave me so much great press and I have to go back and do the big Blues Festival next year.

Alan:   You should get to the Chicago Blues Festival.

Bex:    Iíd love to get there, I just havenít hit Chicago yet. 

Alan:   The Gibson stage Ė youíd be perfect there!

Bex:    I did all my American tours on my own, promoted myself and very independent.  The profile got up a lot and kept rolling because of that, and I think that if Iíd had some serious marketing behind the album it would probably have done better.  It got into the top 20 of the AMA charts just with me slogging my guts out so this time weíre going to give them a bit more time to promote it.  And weíre going to enjoy it.  With my husband we have an independent company to try and promote this sort of music, House of Mercy, which is a record company and radio station, but it means you have to stay on peopleís couches.  I had an idea to do this third tour on a motorbike and just have the guitar and my amp, and call it the Not So Easy Rider tour.  And if it takes me three months to do, itíll take me three months.  Iíll also incorporate some bike runs as well. I love America!

© Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Alan:   Tell me about the making of your album, Kitchen Table.

Bex:    Ideally, an artist will record an album in the studio and then go and tour it.  But obviously life gets in the way, and budgets.   My first album didnít get a single review which I do think was down to the management and the label but I get it back in about 18 months and I still think it was a great record so Iíll put it out again.  Meanwhile, I had a second collection of songs but couldnít seem to get into the studio and time was going on and people were saying, ďWhereís your albumĒ so I knew I just had to get on and do it.  So it wasnít massively prepared to be honest but I went in there and pretty much laid down the tracks with help from some great musicians.  I spent time on the mix and got much more involved than I did on my first album.  This third album Iím producing myself completely and Iím going totally with my gut reaction. 

Alan:   Are they all self-penned numbers?

Bex:    Yes, they are.  It should be out by September 2010. 

Alan:   Any guest artists?

Bex:    Yes, thereíll be some great Americana artists.  Iíve met some brilliant musicians over the last few years and weíve had fun with it.  Music can be anything you want it to be and itís all about the songs.

Alan:   I read a quote about you:  ďAs a writer sheís mastered the art of making new material sound like itís been found in long forgotten vaultsĒ.  How do you see the future of blues as such?

Bex:    That was a lovely thing to have written about me and I was really pleased to read that.  I appreciate classic writing and all those old classic albums that Iím still listening to.  There are certain formulae for writing but I think the main thing is to be real, to have that heart-felt sentiment.  As a song writer you know when a songís good because that last read that you have of it, it hits you and you either want to laugh or cry.  And when that happens, you go, yeah, thatís it, High 5!  Iíve listened to enough good stuff to know whether itís ready  or not.  Youíve got to trust yourself.

Alan:   Thanks so much Bex Ė I really appreciate it. 

© Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.
_________________________________________________________________________

Album available from Bex's website:

www.bexmarshall.co.uk

Return to Blues Interviews List

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Text (this page) © Copyright 2010 Alan White & Bex Marshall. All Rights Reserved.
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