Looking Forward

I'm always excited about the future even though my enthusiasm often gets dampened by the damned music business. This way of life is difficult. I heard someone once say you better be ready for lots of rejection if you want to be an artist. How true that is. We see our share of rejection.

We sometimes have gigs cancelled, the small charts we manage to get on drive me crazy because one day your there, the next your falling, attendance at shows fluctuates depending on the weather and what's on TV (something U-2 does not worry about). Sales of CDs and digital downloads are up and then down. I could go on and on. However, I must say that the good outweighs the bad and you just have to let the bad news splash off your back and examine the reality. You also have to remember, what your definition of success? I don't expect to be doing any more than I am. I certainly don't expect to be playing sold out stadiums etc. I just want to play every night for a crowd, big or small, that enjoys being part of a live show. So far, I get to do that about 2 to 3 times a week so I would never complain. But I do want more.

We have accomplished a lot this year. The new venues we are in (Gruene Hall, Railroad Blues, the Dock etc.) are fantastic, fan base has grown a lot and the people that are following are loyal and friendly. I really feel like the people on our mailing list, facebook, myspace, twitter etc. are my friends. I'm glad to see them at shows and we share music in common.

So what am I looking foward to? That questino requires a little history to put in full perspective. This is the first year in the last five that we are not going to Memphis, TN to compete in the International Blues Challenge and I'm glad. It was a great learning experience but was beginning to make me bitter and I'm glad to get away from it. There is a lot of really, really great talent there but it seems that talent is not always the deciding factor. Politics, as usual, play a big role and that competition, while intending to broaden the acceptance of "blues" music, is actually working to stifle it.

I'm a little frustrated with the whole "blues" thing. The "Blues Traditionalist" continue to hinder the growth of the genre by rewarding those artists that are stuck back in the 1940's and sound like a old scratchy phonographic record. Pure blues is fine and some of my favorite current artists do it well. But I've seen some smoking good players, singers, and songwriters in Memphis get beat out by posers. I've seen artists that were true to their heart and soul get beat out by actors in fedora hats playing someone else's music and acting like they were stuck in the 1930s. The overflow of that is that it's become a curse to say you play the blues because everyone has this picture of Robert Johnson playing an old out of tune acoustic guitar and singing about slavery. The Blues media insists on keeping it from naturally developing.

At the time Robert Johnson was singing the blues, believe me, it was cutting edge. People were convinced he sold his soul to the devil. The lyrics of John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters and others were seductive, sexy, and way different than anything people had heard. Hell, that's was got groups like the Beatles and Rolling Stones into music. But that cutting edge out there scene died off when people started insisting that "Blues" artists remain true to the form. Rock and roll carried the torch and still does to this day. But new "blues" is pitifully close to extinction. Ok, enough about this for now. Let me just end by saying even though I once thought I was a Blues artist, it has become very clear to me that I'm NOT. The Blues community, industry leaders, record labels, etc. etc. have told me I'm too country, or too rock, or just not bluesy. Ok, I quit. I'm not going to even try to call myself a blues artist anymore because by your definition of the blues, I'm not close. Glad I got that off my chest.

I feel safe and appreciated in Texas. The people I play for are music lovers. I have guys in Cowboy hats high fiving me and hippies giving me the thumbs up. Everyone in between seems to be having a blast so we must be doing something right. The reality is that I love to play music for people more than anything. I get to do that all the time and it's always good. I love the sound of a cool drum beat with guitar and bass winding their way around it to create a moment whether it's Blues, Southern Rock, Country, or Funky New Orleans Little Feat Americana. Whether there are 10 people or 1000 people in the crowd, it's always good and I mean it!

Because of this internal categorization frustration, my next album is going to be no holds barred, whatever comes out, music from my soul with no thought about genre. I think as a writer, I'm just learning to really open up and want to expose more of myself than I probably should. But that's what works. That is what people relate to. So, long story short, this is going to be a monumental year for us. I'm going at this with an intensity and focus on the FUN of playing music. It will be interesting to see where it takes us but I'm looking forward to it!

Thanks for your support. You really can't imagine what it means.

Jeff

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