Lance Lopez has been playing his unique brand of Louisiana meets Texas blues for 25 years. He just released his lates record, Trouble is Good, and recently took some time to talk about it.
Please press the PLAY icon below for the MisplacedStraws Blues Fix with Lance Lopez –
On who joins him for the record – Oh, man, there are so many great guitar, bass guitar players, keyboard players, drummers on the album. I was so grateful for all of the great talent that showed up to lend their services and lend their talent and lend their time to Trouble Is Good. We have Bobby Rondinelli on drums on some tracks, from Rainbow and Black Sabbath, et cetera. Danny Miranda on bass from Blue Oyster Cult. He was also in Queen with Paul Rogers. We have Buck Johnson playing keyboards from Aerosmith and the Hollywood Vampires. We also have Peter Keys from Lynyrd Skynyrd playing keyboards. We also have Juergen Carlson, formerly from Government Mule. He was currently in Government Mule at that time and we were so lucky to get him. Oddly enough, I think Warren had some health issues and they were rescheduling shows so we were able to have Juergen with some time off. Herman Matthews from Tower of Power and Stevie Wonder’s band on drums on some stuff. I mean, great, great musicians. Then our single with Greg Bissonette playing drums. The great Greg Bissonette on “Jam With Me” was absolutely stupendous. Just unbelievably amazing to have Greg on the record and he’s out with my dear friend, Steve Lukather in the Ringo All Starrs, but it was such an honor to have such great players. Brian Titchy from The Dead Daisies and Whitesnake playing drums, all my favorite drummers. John Hummel in New Jersey, who worked with Lady Gaga early on and he’s a New Jersey guy that is a friend of Brian Tichy’s. We met through a mutual friend, Joey Sykes, our producer, so John Hummel and Joey Sykes had a connection via Brian Tichy. Because we wanted this album to feature more of the rock side of the blues rock. I’m a blues rock artist is kind of what I’m categorized in. So during the pandemic, that was kind of one of the themes was, “Let’s make a record that features the blues rock side of the genre”. So we, I wanted to call in some of my favorite guys that play rock today and, and present some of these blues based songs to them and see how they would translate.
On what led him to a more rock sound – I think the, the pandemic, going through COVID, and we had kind of explored some of that in the last couple of albums and some of the last material I did. The title track of my last album, Tell the Truth, definitely had a heavy influence of more of my translation of the influence that Leslie West had on me, and that kind of vibe and that kind of approach. So I was already kind of trying to shift that direction, I think, during the pandemic. Then also working with Joey Sykes. Joey Sykes coming in to produce the record, which we started working together on my last record, Tell the Truth and the 2 Supersonic Blues Machine albums. He kind of came in during the time that I joined Supersonic Blues Machine and we formed that band. Joey and I began a relationship working together through the producer Fabrizio Grossi. Once that era kind of ended and I landed in Nashville, Joey said, “Hey, let’s me and you make the record. I’ll produce it. We have all these songs left over from the last albums and we’ve been working on songs. Let’s just do this”. Then COVID happened. We were making plans, then the pandemic. So then that thrust me into home recording, which is what the Trouble Is Good is about. The trouble that happened with the pandemic and the lockdown thrust me into different skill sets like home recording, I began guitar amp repair. I was working on guitar amps and retubing and biasing amps and then learning computer software and recording gear and speakers and microphones and all of that. It was good, it thrust me, I think a lot of other people, (to) set up home situations, video gear, recording gear, et cetera. So that was good. I think that’s the good part. Everybody was thrust into a different skillset. So that’s kind of what the title was about and kind of how we all persevered and we all had the blues and we all had to move through it, and we did those of us that were lucky enough to persevere through that time. So it’s really that’s what the, what the album is about. So to answer the question of the rock vibe was that that’s just where it wasn’t actually coming from Joey and I. Joey’s buddies with all the guys in the Hollywood Vampires, which brought in Buck Johnson, their keyboard player. So that whole element and vibe of that world really translates onto this record. That’s what we wanted to express was that side. Let’s make a blues rock record.
On if he wrote during the pandemic – I began writing. I was always writing. I was always writing and I began writing in a little different way when I arrived in Nashville. I began writing an open tunings, which is where songs like “Voyager” come from on the record and I just began exploring different things. I took a big break to refocus on my wellness and my health. During that time I was listening to a lot of world music. I was listening to guys like Ali Farquhar Ture from West Africa and Raheem AlHaj, and Anoushka Shankar, and all these different world music artists and really translating that onto my guitar. So that’s kind of how “Voyager” came about was an open A tuning, with the low E string drop down to A, to create like a tempura drone type of vibe. It was really interesting. I actually had a conversation with John Hiatt and he actually wrote down, he took a pen out and wrote down the tunings I was using because he was interested in writing because he’s always writing at home. I was discussing that with him. I said I wanted to challenge myself and not just come to Nashville and write with your D C G, E, your regular chords. I wanted to tune the guitar differently and explore different things in different music and different vibes and elements, then that’s still going to go through a blues filter and within me. So that’s what was interesting about the writing process here. Joey had the great ideas and the pop sensibility. He comes from kind of that world, that then melded that together and was able to translate it the way that we did. We were always writing, we had songs left over. I wrote a lot in Nashville and then we continued writing all throughout the pandemic and making the record.
On playing on other’s people’s songs, like Eliza Neals’ “Queen of the Nile” – Absolutely. I think it’s a challenging thing for me as a musician as far as knowing the vibe of it, of an artist and knowing what they want and what they need out of a guitar player. I think that’s one of the greatest roles of doing that. How do I make the artist better? How do I support the artists and give them what they want and need while embellishing them? That’s the role, I love to play that role. I’m in a couple of different other bands and I like to be a guitar player. I still like to be a guitarist. I love being an artist. I love fronting my band, but I also love being a guitarist for other artists and especially sessions. I do sessions here at home and done a lot in Nashville and in LA. Working with Eliza was amazing, walking in and feeling her energy and vibe and the energy of the musicians in the room. It’s always such a great thing, especially when everyone can track together. I think that’s one of the benefits of Eliza’s record, for example, was that we were all in the room together, recording. A funny story about that was we, we came in to cut “Queen of the Nile” and we were doing the pass through the song and then I thought we were rehearsing it and then we stopped and went, “Okay. Now I’m ready to do it”, and they go, “No, we got it”. I went, “Wait a minute. Wait, wait, wait, wait. Let’s do it again. I wasn’t ready”. “Oh, man, we have it”. I was like, “Wait, what?” So that was what was so great about the “Queen of the Nile”, I didn’t know that they were recording and we were all in a live band situation, all sitting in a circle playing together.
On what he learned playing with Buddy Miles and others – So much, so much. Working with Buddy Miles was, was one of the highlights of my entire life and career. Buddy was so influential and so motivating and inspiring. He recognized my guitar playing from playing behind R&B artists like Johnny Taylor and Little Milton and Bobby Bland and some of those guys I got to play with earlier as a kid. We met at the Peer Rhythm and Blues Festival in Peer, Belgium, I think 1997 and Peter Green was there that day, Ronnie Earl, all these, these giants, these heroes of mine that I was able to be in the same room with. It was Buddy that came to the side of the stage during our set and he watched me play and he recognized by the way that I was playing and the chord voicings I was using and the certain ways that I was playing that I had played in that same world that he and Jimi Hendrix and Billy Cox and a lot of the other artists, Cornell Dupree and, Chuck Rainey and all these other great artists and musicians had come from. It was true, an he recognized that immediately. That was like the first things that he said to me. I came off the stage and there was Buddy and he was like, “Give me a big hug”, as I’m coming off the stage. That was it. From there it was the next morning I’m sitting in the lobby with my Les Paul with Bo Diddley on this side and Buddy Miles on the other, passing my guitar back and forth. As a 19 year old kid, it was a lot to take in. So, the next thing you know, Buddy was back, he was in Texas, he was living in Fort Worth, he had a house there. We called the Byers house because it was on Byers Avenue. There was a full back line set up in the living room. There was a drum kit, Marshall’s, Fender Twins. I’ll tell you, Jeff, we wrote so much music and so many riffs. I mean, we jam for days on end that I still use riffs and stuff that I’ve gotten from those times on every album I’ve ever done. Even today, I still have stuff from that that I could record. We wrote and recorded so much. There were times we would just sit in the bedroom with a Fender Twin and he would play, we would both be plugged into it and he’d be playing bass and I would be playing guitar and we were just writing riffs, we were just writing riffs continuously.
So I, I really cherish those moments. Buddy introduced me to Prince. I mean, he introduced me to so many great artists that I would have never met or come into contact with without Buddy Miles. We had a lot of ups and downs, but in the end, he loved me and I loved him and I was actually one of the last people to speak to him. So I was very grateful for that. It was such an honor and a privilege. When I listened to those Band of Gypsies recordings, and I listened to all the work he did with Carlos Santana and (John) McLaughlin and all the great Mike Bloomfield, especially. All the stuff that I listened to from that, all the people that he worked with, it resonates so well with me now, just knowing the backside of the influence of all of it and how it was all done. It really helped me as an artist moving forward, to then approach my career and how I produce music and how I put bands together and how I work. So it really musically. That’s that that was a lot of what I learned from that era. So I was very grateful for it. It was an, it was an amazing experience and great education.
On the blues being a genre where one generation mentors the next – It’s interesting. That’s an interesting perspective. I think it’s an American heritage legacy. It’s a heritage of our culture. As I got older and as I realized where I was born and where I lived and my environment, looking up one day and I was in Texas with all of the great guitar players. For instance, going to see Stevie Ray Vaughn and I didn’t even know who he was. He just came out on stage and everybody had SRV t-shirts. I didn’t even know what it meant then I was just like, “Whoa”, just because I was in the, in the environment and just what a blessing. That heritage piece is so strongly connected, to our culture, I think it is that thing. It is a root of rock and roll. It’s what rock and roll kind of transposed into being way, way back in the early days.
I think that was a lot of what we experienced just from the older artists that I was able to be around and be mentored by from those previous generations. I know for myself, when I displayed the fervor and the passion to learn and want the information, that’s what I wanted because I knew that I would have to pass that information forward and I would have to carry that legacy on. That was the important part of it. If not just being about me and my career and just all about me. It was about learning to pass the information forward to the younger artists, just as those artists had done for us. I had a conversation with somebody earlier today that had Lucky Peterson not featured me on those giant stages in Europe, would my name have had a foothold over there when it did? He featured me, working with Johnny Winter, working with Billy Gibbons, working with these guys, and even being in the presence of Jeff Beck and other great artists, it was the information of the history, because I wanted to see am I applying it right to my career and my music and my life and take bits pieces of the different artists and apply that to what I do, and then share that with a young artist and say, “Well, this, he does this and he does that, maybe I feel like you should probably do this”, and be able to advise and mentor in a way like that. Some of the younger artists that I’ve been able to work with were Kingfish Ingram, Ally Venable. These young artists that have gone on to be phenomenal artists that I was so grateful to be a part of their early lives and early career that it’s the monumental gift for me.
On mentoring Ally Venable – It was such a pleasure to work with her and to see her work ethic and how hard she worked. That’s so adulating as an instructor and as a teacher and as a mentor. It’s not just her parents giving her another scheduled thing on her curriculum, another activity for her to do after school. This was this was a child that that knew what she wanted to do. Much like I had the passion the same way, so that’s why it was so exciting as an instructor to then be able to pass that information forward and be able for her to grab it and translate it in her own way. That was what was amazing about working with her.
On upcoming tour plans – We’re going out. We’ve got a pretty good schedule for September. We’re going to start in Florida around Labor Day weekend. We’ve got some dates over the next couple of months. One date in particular that we are planning for is we’re planning an event at the Gibson Garage in Nashville sometime in August, we don’t have a date yet. We probably will in the next couple of days. I wish I would’ve had one for you today, but we are working with Gibson guitars here in Nashville. We’re so very honored to be a part of such an amazing brand and company and have been for years. My main guitars are Firebird and Les Paul. My Bluesbird is with me on the cover of Trouble is Good because that was one of the main guitars on the record. We’re planning an official album launch, in alliance with Gibson so we’re very excited about that. In September, we’re starting in Florida and our tour dates are at LanceLopez.net. We have a little tour date button and a bands in town schedule that’s getting updated literally every day. We’ve got dates coming in that we’re going to be working from the fall after. So, we’re looking forward to the first part of next year as well in the spring getting on the road. So the, the best way to keep up with the tour dates is lancelopez.net and our, and our social media sites, @LanceLopezGuitarist on Instagram and Facebook. So we’re, we keep all of our social media very active and very updated.