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Blind Lemon Pledge Interview

Tell us the brief history of your band or musical career.

In 2008, after a successful career as a graphic designer and media producer, I retired to devote my time to ¬my music. Music has been an important part of my life since childhood, but I never really had the time and resources to have it more than a hobby on the side of my career. I finally had the opportunity to get serious about my music and I took it.

Although I had played Rock Music for many years up to that point, when I made the transition I decided to explore the Acoustic Blues music that had been a huge influence on me as a teenager.

I got my first DAW software and began to put together an album of classic Blues Tunes from a variety of sources. I envisioned a modern take on Acoustic Blues with other instruments, creating a modern String Band that included bass and drums. In order to do this music I created a performance persona called “Blind Lemon Pledge”, borrowing a punning name from an old Martin Mull comedy routine.

My first album, “Livin’ My Life with the Blues”, was originally intended for friends and family. However, the album got around to some blues stations where it was picked up. It eventually landed in Europe where I got requests from a couple of DJs for copies. And suddenly, I had a new “career” with my particular brand of blues.

Subsequent to that I produced 8 more albums which garnered more worldwide attention, reviews and air play as time progressed.

In 2009, I put together a performance band, also named Blind Lemon Pledge, generating interest from a Craigslist ad. After a couple of personnel changes, the Band has had a steady crew since 2013. My career is two-pronged both performing and recording. Although I sometimes use my band members on my recordings, they exist apart, and I often use other artists or do all the parts myself.

Who are your musical and non-musical influences?

My main musical influences are the Country Blues musicians of the pre-war era: Son House, Bukka White, Blind Willie McTell, etc. My blues has a gentler, old fashioned Americana feel that is different from the more common Chicago and Southern Blues. I love the non-traditional structures and lyrics from that earlier era.

My main non-musical influences are movies. I love movies. And my songs are very story and visual influenced which comes from the movies.

What’s your favorite accomplishment as a musician thus far?

My last album, “A Satchel Full of Blues”, surpassed all my previous albums in the amount of recognition it received around the world. At the end of 2022 it was named #9 on the industry standard Roots Music Report’s Year End Acoustic Blues Charts. And #85 on the RMR 2022 Top 100 Blues Charts (all subgrenres). I was gratified and please at the recognition. At one point all 12 songs from the album were on the RMR Acoustic Blues Song charts, with 4 in the Top Ten. I couldn’t be happier at this achievement.

How has your music changed over the years?

Although I started out with acoustic Folk and Blues music in my teenage years, most of my adult years were spent playing Rock Music, most of it original songs. When I decided to become a musician full time, I asked myself what kind of music made me the happiest to play and where did I think I could make a mark. And Acoustic Blues steered the way. My current band has a lot of Rock influences, as well as Country, Jazz and Americana. But Blues is the dominant mode.

What made you want to play the instrument you play?

I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s and was part of the big Folk Revival of those years. It seemed like everybody was playing the guitar, and I caught the bug. Since then I have learned several other instruments including bass, harmonica, banjo and even a Chinese instrument called the Er Hu. But my love always comes back to the guitar. I play flat pick, finger pick and bottleneck slide styles, changing my styles as fits my eclectic repertoire.

What strengths do you have that you believe make you the musician you are?

My two biggest strengths are my ear and my ability to listen to and blend in with the other musicians I am playing with.

My ear is such that I can quickly pick up on any song that is being played, find the key and join in (hopefully tastefully).

And I am extremely considerate to other musicians. I respect their space and do not walk over their solos and singing with my own playing. I am well respected at the several jam sessions I attend.

If you had to choose one- live performance or studio work – which do you prefer and why?

Although I do love to perform, my biggest thrill is being in the studio. I love the feeling a crafting a recording, honing the parts and watching them come together to create a bigger whole. Some musicians don’t like recording. I love it.

Describe your creative process when you write new music.

I have gained a reputation for my ability to write convincingly in a number of genres. I have written Blues and Folk songs, Country, Cajun and Rock. In 2019, I released a critically acclaimed Jazz Album, “After Hours”. So until I start a song, I am never sure what kind of musical adventure I am embarking on.

Songs start a number of ways. Sometimes the story comes into my thoughts and I write lyrics around it. Sometimes, a song will start with a catchy riff or a chord progression and I let it grow from there. Sometimes a name or a phrase will kick off a song. Lots of different seeds for my songs.

If I am writing in a particular genre, especially if I have not written in that genre before, I will research a number of songs in that genre so I can understand what elements create the sound of the genre. This helps keep my music “authentic”.

Usually, the melody and the lyrics write themselves together especially on the first verse and/or chorus. I am experience enough as a musician that I can hear the chords as I compose so I often write without an instrument handy. Then when the song is done I will sit down with a guitar to play it and make corrections. I am a strict editor. I remove everything that seems at all superfluous to getting the song across in the most succinct way possible. The structure of most of my songs are short like Tin Pan Alley, not like Phil Ochs.

What inspires you to write the music you write?

Songs come to me like day dreams. The idea just pops into my head and I write it down, although it may take awhile before I am ready to commit to paper. Some songwriters write every day. I tried this for awhile, but found myself writing too much dross. Most of the time, when I am ready to commit to paper, the song is strong and a “keeper”. I am inspired by the song itself.

How do you prepare for your performances and recording work?

Pre-Covid, my band was performing about once a week, so we were always prepared to play. We essentially rehearsed and performed at the same time. We are tight enough that I sometimes introduce new songs right at the performance and trust the band to get in the groove. And it works!

I get very prepared for recordings. I rehearse the material with the other musicians quite a lot. I make sure to have a good studio and engineer I can trust. And I leave little to chance. I often have already figured out the final album order of the songs before we even hit the studio. For overdub sessions, like lead instruments or vocals, I rehearse with a rough mix quite a lot and think through all the aspects I feel with make the best performance.

What do you like most about your new album?

On my next album, which we will start recording in February, I am bringing back Juli Moscovitz and Peter Grenell, the drummer and bass players on my last album that did so well. I am excited to be following up our success with another batch of tunes. Perhaps the most exciting part is that we will be recording this live in the studio with only lead guitar and vocals as overdubs. The rhythm guitar, bass and drums will all be captured as one. I have not recorded this way in a long time. And I hope it will give it a spontaneous feel.

What’s new in the recording of your music?

Other than recording live, it is a new batch of original tunes that have not been presented to the Acoustic Blues market before. We have a version of the old chestnut “House of the Rising Sun” that I think is going to blow some minds. Fingers crossed.


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