Joanne Shaw Taylor has been on the scene for over twenty years. Starting out as a teen with Dave Stewart of Eurythmics, she has become a major force in the modern blues genre. She is currently on tour behind her 2022 record Nobody’s Fool and released a new single called “Black Magic”.
Please press the PLAY icon below for The Blues Fix with Joanne Shaw Taylor –
On how her current tour has been going – It’s been wonderful. I’ve loved every second of it. I have a little bit of a cold. You might be able to tell that I’m kind of kicking in the backside. It’s it’s finally going away. But even with that, to be able to get back to live music after the whole shutdown and traveling, and, and have such a wonderful band and crew, it’s been brilliant, and the audience has been great, so I’m, I’m thoroughly enjoying myself.
On if she sees a difference in the audience depending on where she plays – Not too much in the States, you notice it more country to country particularly when you get into…it’s always a bit more of a challenge or a fun challenge when you get into certain countries or cities that there’s a language barrier and trying to talk in between. You have to figure out a way of communicating beyond the music. So that’s always a challenge. But for the most part, Americans are a little bit rowdier than us Brits, all the English in particular, Scotland is fantastic. So yeah, there’s those sort of differences. I love all of it, but it is funny too, we kind of put bets on like, “Hey, we’re playing in Newcastle tomorrow night. Do you reckon that’s going to be louder or quieter than Glasgow?”
On her new singles and the possibility of a new record – Probably next year. I don’t think we have a release date yet, but we have recorded it. We’re just sort of leaking singles out at the moment because I know fans are forever wanting fresh material. So “Black Magic”, yes, I had it as like an acoustic blues kind of stomp. When I think of making an album, I think of a vinyl more than anything because that’s what I listen to. So I was thinking of it opening up B side, and kind of introducing you to the second part of the album. I just had it stuck in my head and then it occurred to me, “You could try and write lyrics to this”. Which I did and actually it turned out being a really fun little number. I’m glad we did that because I love what Kevin Shirley did with the backing vocals. So I wasn’t there for that. If no one’s heard it, it’s almost like a call-and-response thing. It just gives it this really, it sounds like we’re in a studio kind of having a few drinks and just having kind of a bit of a more raucous kind of fun time. So I, I love the atmosphere that that created.
On if she is ever intimidated recording in a legendary studio with Kevin Shirley – It was really interesting to me to walk in there this time because in 2015 with Kevin and I was terrified. I honestly felt out of my depth and like the weakest link. We’re working with Michael Rhodes and Greg Morrow these titans of the Nashville scene, and it was Michael Rhodes who pulled me aside because I can’t read charts either and they were having quick discussions when you’re recording about going from a four to a something and it’s like, “Why are we doing math right now? I don’t know what you’re saying to me.” And Michael actually said, “It’s all well and good that we can pick things up quickly and we can do what we can do, but we don’t have a job without you. You’re the reason we are even here. You should really start to think about that”. It was such a nice change to realize coming in now in 2023 and I walked in that studio and it’s Kevin and I have known for years, and we’ve had all kinds of conversations, as you do with friends, we know each other very well. I felt like I was walking in with my people, and I just realized what a lovely life, and how lucky I’ve been to build this career for myself, and with a lot of support. So it wasn’t so nerve-wracking, but it was more, on those moments, you think about how lucky you are, and grateful.
On how her confidence has grown since starting as a teen – I wonder sometimes if it’s particularly being a female in a male-dominated industry that it’s a little bit more difficult when you’re younger, and then you do get to a certain age where you understand yourself better. So things like having that confidence to walk into a room, but also having the confidence to know that if you mess up or you’re not right for the job, that’s not a bad thing. It’s just you did your best, so don’t beat yourself up over it. So I think it becomes, as I’m sure you know, I think that just becomes a point in life where you settle down and you’re happy with who you are as a person, hopefully, you’re just a bit softer on yourself. So yeah, age is a beautiful thing.
On what it was like being discovered by Dave Stewart at 16 – I look back at it now and I’m so glad it happened when I was that young because I had no idea of the gravity of it. I didn’t really know who he was. I knew my dad was, I’m trying not to swear, but losing his something. I think that naivety, because nothing’s ever gone wrong because you’re too young to have had that many bad experiences. Whereas now if that suddenly happened, the weight of that would probably be quite, I’d understand a bit more. So I think at the time it was like, “Yeah, cool. I don’t get to go to school anymore. Thank God. I hate school.” So it was also an idiot basically.
On if it’s important to her to push the boundaries of the blues – I don’t think that’s really been my motivation. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized a lot of it was because I got, I consider myself to be a blues guitarist and a blues musician, but I don’t consider myself to be a blues artist. I don’t think my music is necessarily blues. If you think it is, that’s great. If you don’t think it is, that’s great. I think that stems from because all my early influences were guitar players, they’re all male. I could try and learn from Albert Collins, B. B. King, and Steve Ray Vaughan. But when I tried to learn to sing, I was never going to be able to sound like they did, so I had to go and find other influences. The most female influences were in soul genres, or pop, whether that be Tina Turner or Dusty Springfield, or, I loved Pink. Obviously, as a songwriter, I love the blues and I love the feel of it, but when it came to me writing songs, I’m not going to sing “Good Morning Little School Girl”, it just didn’t feel right as a songwriter. So again, I had to find songs that suited me. So it’s more been that there wasn’t any one woman I could look to and go, “That’s what I want”. There was Bonnie (Raitt), but I don’t play slide. So it was whereas dudes, if you want to be a male guitar player that sings, all right, do you want Joe Satriani? Do you want Kenny Wayne Shepherd? Do you want Al Di Meola? You’ve got everything. So I think that was the main thing was like, okay, how do I be me? And what is that?
On if she ever felt pressure from producers or record companies to conform to a certain style –No, I’ve always been quite lucky in that regard. The thing I’ve pushed back against is usually image. Being female and how I’m represented as a female. I found it very frustrating when I was younger that it was always because I started so young, it was like a 15-year-old guitar player, a 16-year-old guitar player. I thought “I can’t wait to turn 21 so I can just be taken for my talent”. If I’m not good enough, if I’m not matching up to you think that guy’s better or she’s better, that’s fine, but it’s not because I’m young, Then I turned 21 and it was female guitar player. I’m like, “Oh, I didn’t see that coming”. So I specifically tried to stay away from the “Girls with Guitar” tours. I told Thomas Ruff that I’ll do a “Girls with Guitar” tour when you do a “Boys with Toys” tour. So that was my main sort of challenge was just trying to, I guess, so that other women can come through and realize girls can play this instrument. It’s a gender-neutral instrument. Just as a female doctor is a doctor. We don’t say male doctors. So yeah. But I think that was more of an issue for me than people trying to sway me with the music because I think they knew that would never happen.
On what Joe Bonamassa has meant in her career – With Joe, it’s just been such personal support. I think the reason we really hit it off in the night we met, we talked till like six in the morning or something, just the two of us because I hadn’t met anyone else that had done what I had done, had been shuttled up and down the motorway at 13 with their parents to go play gigs. I know a few people who had done that, but they hadn’t had the success I’d had in terms of playing with Jimmy Cliff or Dave Stewart. Whereas meanwhile in New York, Joe’s 15 and playing with BB King. I have lots of wonderful friends my age, but none have gone through that kind of experience. I’m driving the van, I’m tour managing, I’m doing this, I’m exhausted. He was just that little step ahead of me that he could give advice. For instance, I remember finishing a tour in Rockland, Maine, and I had to drive myself back to Detroit. I was like, I gotta get there for a certain time, so I started driving after the gig in the dark and Joe phoned, he was on tour, and he’d finished his show and he phoned and just kept me talking, and then eventually said, okay, “I’ve booked you a hotel room in Manchester somewhere. Can you please pull over and get a nice sleep on me? I’d feel a lot better about it”. It’s like, “Okay, thank you”. Because I couldn’t afford a hotel. So things like that. He’s just been a massive support to me personally. I could have done it without him, but I’m, I’m glad I didn’t have to.
On where she sees herself in the future – I think it would be nice to start branching out just because. I don’t plan too much. What I keep trying to do is evolve. I can’t tell you right now what album I’m going to play in two years’ time because I’m not that person. I haven’t had the experiences she’s going to have in the next two years. For all I know I might accidentally take a bunch of acid and decide I’m gonna do it. I just don’t know what the future brings. But I will keep trying to be true to myself. That’s important to me to look back and say, I can honestly look at all my albums and say that were the right album to make at that time, and I didn’t put anything out that I was forced to do or didn’t like. Are there things I might change about them now, yes, but I wasn’t that musician then and I couldn’t have done it. So that’s important to me. Then just things like writing for other people, I think, would be important to me. I’m starting to write for a TV show. Just nurturing younger artists too, if I could get into helping them figure out this incredibly fun, but utterly bizarre circus of an industry that would be very rewarding, especially females coming up like Ally (Venable).