Alabama musician Mitch Mann talks about Muscle Shoals legend and Blues-Rock racial & social-cultural

"I firmly believe music heals and connects people in all the right ways. So when racial and social-cultural things come along and immediately separates folks and lines get drawn, I think music is a powerful tool to get past those things and brings everybody back together."

Mitch Mann: Sweet Home Alabama

Born in Birmingham and raised in Lynn, Alabama, Mitch Mann began playing guitar at age eleven. He was soon writing songs and playing in local bands. After graduating from Lynn High School, he studied Commercial Music at Northwest Community College in Phil Campbell, AL. After teaching guitar in the Muscle Shoals area for many years, in 2007 Mann received a Bachelor of Arts degree from The University of North Alabama majoring in Professional Writing with a minor in Music.

Since Mann moved to Muscle Shoals in 1993, he has added his succulent guitar and smoky vocals to groups such as The Fiddleworms, Yellowhammer, LSD-30, Blackwater Toad, Donnie Fritts, Monkee and The Spank Daddys, and The Mojo Mixers. In 2006 the song “Good Things” was included in the film “When I Find The Ocean.” “Good Things” was co-written by Mann and former Grateful Dead and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Donna Jean Godchaux. In 2013 Mann and writer James LeBlanc’s song, “Hold Her While You Got Her” which was recorded by the Fiddleworms made the Grammy entry ballot for best Americana song. Singer/guitarist/songwriter Mitch Mann has created a magnificent new release, titled “BLACKWATER CREEK” (2015), built around his masterful unamplified picking and a little help from his friends. Seven Mann originals and four covers are enhanced by Donna Jean Godchaux, Scott Boyer, Buzz Cason, Russell Melford (vocals), Mickey Buckins (percussion), Jimmy Hall (harmonica), Charles Rose (trombone), Harvey Thompson (tenor sax) and Andreas Werner (resophonic, harmonium, vocals).

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the blues and what does the blues mean to you?

I think there's a comfort in the blues. When you hear somebody else singing about their hard times or joys there is a connection. One finds comfort in knowing they are not alone and that someone else has had the same worries, woes, fears, pains, joys, feelings, lusts and loves. At the end of the day, it all means that we are all a lot alike. The blues is your confirmation.

How do you describe the Mitch Mann sound and songbook? What characterizes your music philosophy?

My sound holds all my influences and also things that I wonder myself where they may come from, but I try not to question those things. A lot of blues, singer-songwriter things, 60s and 70s rock and roll, folk, Americana, roots music and some avant garde areas have all made an impact on me and my music. There are only two kinds of music to me...what I like and what I don't like.

"I hope that that kind of sound becomes popular again (real drums, a band of folks playing together in a room that sounds like a band is in the room with you playing in front of you). My fear is that that won't be the case."

What were the reasons that you started the Roots, Rock and Blues researches and experiments?

Roots and Rock and Blues all seem more honest to me. It's all about heart, soul and honesty, in my opinion, and within these genres is where one can find these things. I have always wanted to write heartfelt songs that make a connection...no better genre for honesty and putting it all out there!

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice that has been given you?

Meeting all the Muscle Shoals folks...David Hood, Jimmy Johnson, Kelvin Holly, Donna Jean Godchaux, Roger Hawkins...on and on. These folks were my teachers and mentors and now I get to call them friends and colleagues. Kelvin Holly (played guitar for Little Richard for years and now plays with Neil Young's wife Pegi in "Pegi Young and The Survivors") once gave me the advice of, "Take the time to get your sound, and once you do...stick with it."

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and or studio sessions which you'd like to share with us?

I once played for Johnny Cash. I saw him perform in Branson, Missouri in 1994 with former band mates. I have a Cash tattoo on my arm and that impressed the head of the fan club/mercy lady. She wanted me to show it to him, but I just wanted him to sign my Martin guitar. She got us backstage to meet him after the show and he and June were so gracious to us. We hung out for about twenty minutes, and he asked me to play him a song. We left out of there on the proverbial cloud nine!

But, when we came out the lady asked what he thought of the tattoo? I had been so overwhelmed at meeting him and playing for him...I forgot to show him the tattoo!

"I think there's a comfort in the blues. When you hear somebody else singing about their hard times or joys there is a connection. One finds comfort in knowing they are not alone and that someone else has had the same worries, woes, fears, pains, joys, feelings, lusts and loves." (Photo: Mitch & LSD-30 with Johnny and June Cash, 1994)

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future?

One word...atmosphere! In my opinion records once had atmosphere; you could hear the room. Nowadays everything seems so dry and sterile. I hope that that kind of sound becomes popular again (real drums, a band of folks playing together in a room that sounds like a band is in the room with you playing in front of you). My fear is that that won't be the case.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

That the listening public at large would listen to different styles and genres than what they get from top 40 radio stations that play the same rotation day after day. I wish the reality was that music lovers would take the time to seek out different artists and bands other than what they are force fed. Great stuff, that many times is better than what one hears on the radio, is out there...you just have to dig a little to find it.

Why do you think that Muscle Shoals and Nashville music continues to generate such a devoted following?

Simple...it's real, heartfelt, true and good! That music connects and moves people, and that's what it's all about!

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the music circuits?

Shinyribs (band out of Texas)! I just saw Kevin Russell and that band at the Braun Brothers Reunion festival in Challis, Idaho. Check them out and especially the great and funny song, "Donut Taco Palace" ...warning, you will laugh and it will be stuck in your head forever! Ha!

"Roots and Rock and Blues all seem more honest to me. It's all about heart, soul and honesty, in my opinion, and within these genres is where one can find these things."

What is the impact of Blues Roots music and culture to the racial and socio-cultural implications?

I firmly believe music heals and connects people in all the right ways. So when racial and social-cultural things come along and immediately separates folks and lines get drawn, I think music is a powerful tool to get past those things and brings everybody back together. I can't think of a better way to feel a connection to someone that you might not understand than to realize you both like the same music. It's a first easy step to the realization that you share similar likes and similar thoughts.

Let's take a trip with a time machine...so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day...?

Too many to choose from...a Beatles session, a Zeppelin session or a Dylan session...I wouldn't be picky!

Mitch Mann @ Blind Raccon - Home

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