Q&A with Chicago-based Breezy Rodio, an exciting artist and rising star of blues (and beyond) music todays

"I met many wonderful musicians in Europe and Brazil. The blues is everywhere. The audience might not be the same of the one you get in Chicago, but the blues is definitely an international language!"

Breezy Rodio:

One Love, One World, One Language

Breezy Rodio impressed Chicago Blues Legend Linsey Alexander so much that the old man made him his bandleader and right-hand man. Breezy Rodio is an exciting new artist and rising star. Despite being young, Breezy has attained a unique background and international experience that is evident through his art form. He is a well-traveled and knowledgeable musician that incorporates his experience into the genre. After one year of performing with local bands in Manhattan and Queens, Breezy headed west to Chicago in pursuit of expanding his musical career. After recording Linsey Alexander’s album “If You Ain’t Got It” (2010), Breezy followed-up with Alexander’s 2013 Delmark album “Been There Done That”, and had the honor to lead a top-class band which featured Billy Branch and Mike Wheeler at the world famous Delmark Studios. Breezy made Chicago a home by becoming a regular at clubs such as Blue Chicago, B.L.U.E.S, Buddy Guy’s Legends, Rosa’s Lounge, House of Blues, and Kingston Mines.

Vocalist and guitarist Breezy continues to work with proven musicians including Buddy Guy, Big Time Sarah, Holle Thee Maxwell, Patricia Scott, Nellie Tiger Travis, Eddie Shaw, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Rob Blaine, John Primer, Peaches Staten, J.W. Williams, Eddie C. Campbell, Jimmy Burns, Billy Branch, Liz Mandeville, Toronzo Cannon, Mike Wheeler, and many others. Breezy has played at the Chicago Blues Festival for several years and has recently toured Brazil and Europe, bringing his fresh and unique style to new audiences. Other Breezy's project is The Coolers, have taken their passion for Roots Rock Reggae and infused the Chicago’s reggae scene with a perfect blend of originality and classic melodies that dwell into the roots and beauty of reggae. The latest project by Breezy Rodio, If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It (Delmark Records 2019), presents vibrant, new, quality original material. Rodio has produced a veritable smorgasbord of tasty songs. With the use of A-list musicians, dynamic horn arrangements and inventive original lyrics, Breezy has managed to produce a recording full of musical delights.

Interview by Michael Limnios

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

Music in general is the mirror of your soul. You play what you are. Everyone of us struggle at a certain point in life, and just like the late Albert King used to say...”Everybody understands the Blues”. Life gives you the blues. Life is the Blues to me.

What experiences in life make a GOOD BLUESMAN and have triggered your ideas for songs most frequently?

Well, I guess that one should just try to live his life fully, and learn from it!  A good bluesman is the one that has a story to tell, and is able to transcribe that story into music, into notes that will touch people.

How has the Blues and Rock counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Growing up it was all about traditional Chicago Blues for me. I was definitely a purist. With time I started to appreciate more and more contemporary Blues and I feel like the new album is a good example of that. Music reflects your personality. 15 years ago, I was a different person and a different musician. I guess it's a good thing to evolve!

How do you describe 'If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It' songbook and sound? Where does your creative drive come from?

If It Ain't Broke Don't Fix It is a mix of traditional, modern and contemporary blues and soul. The ideas and songs come from absorbing different styles of jazz, blues and R&B and blending them together. I think the band did a wonderful job and I tried my best to sing and play and keep up with them!

"A good bluesman is the one that has a story to tell, and is able to transcribe that story into music, into notes that will touch people."

What characterizes new album in comparison to previous? Are there any memories from studio which you’d like to share?

This album is similar to Sometimes the Blues got Me. They are both show casing different styles of Blues. From a more traditional approach to a more modern one. I feel like my singing and playing are more on point on this album, just because in the past 2 years I studied a lot and played lots of gigs. We absolutely nailed it in the studio. It took us not even 8 hours to finish the entire album. Every song was pretty much a "one take" song. The only song that we recorded 3 times was track #3, A Woman Don't Care, which is actually one of my favorite song out of the album.

Why did you think that the label of Delmark Records continues to generate such a devoted following?

Delmark stands for history, roots and culture of a city and a genre of music that touches the souls and hearts of many people around the world. They are committed to showcase the best talents coming out of Chicago and I am very flattered to represent Chicago and the blues in the US and around the world.

Do you consider the Blues a specific music genre and artistic movement or do you think it’s a state of mind?

Nowadays the word "Blues" includes lots of subgenres that in my opinion are not really Blues at all. I feel like is more of a State of mind kind of thing. Whatever is groovy, soulful and touchy is considered Blues...or almost. And I am totally ok with it!

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from paths in the blues circuits?

Mind your business. Don't let anyone bring you down and most of all keep pushing. Easy to say but very hard to do.

"Music in general is the mirror of your soul. You play what you are. Everyone of us struggle at a certain point in life, and just like the late Albert King used to say...”Everybody understands the Blues”. Life gives you the blues. Life is the Blues to me." (Photo: Breezy Rodio)

What is the hardest part to being a blues musician today? What does "Windy City Blues" mean to you?

Musicians do not make a lot of money. Actually, they make very little. We all know that.  At times I feel like I am playing to pay my rent but we do not have to forget that we all play because we love it. Again, easy to say...but that love and motivation will keep me/us going. It will make you better and hopefully better gigs will come.

Windy City Blues mean play with your soul and put on a good show. As simple as that. Musicians from Chicago are famous for being great entertainers as well as musicians. When I get up on stage I always try to put on a good musical show and entertain the audience. That's what Chicago is all about, to me! I mean, it's much more than that but you know what I mean!

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

I got touched by music in general I think, and I’ve always been into good quality music. I love music with soul. In Chicago you gotta play the Blues, but not only! I love Roots Reggae and Classic Jazz, and always try to play live what I like!

How do you describe Breezy Rodio sound and progress, what characterize your music philosophy?

I definitely found my sound relatively early, considering that some guitarist look for their tone or sound for many years, without finding the right one. I was lucky enough to find what I was looking for, and I definitely developed a very “unorthodox” style, which I guess is something good if you want to take different routes and try to find your own sound.

"Windy City Blues mean play with your soul and put on a good show. As simple as that. Musicians from Chicago are famous for being great entertainers as well as musicians. When I get up on stage I always try to put on a good musical show and entertain the audience. That's what Chicago is all about, to me! I mean, it's much more than that but you know what I mean!" (Photo: Breezy Rodio)

Which is the moment that you change your life most? What´s been the highlights in your life so far?

Headlining at all the major clubs in Chicago and the US made me realize that one should never give up on his/her dreams. Lots of people will try to bring you down but one should never give up. I would have never thought to get where I got today. And hopefully there is going to be much more coming my way. And if not, I am sure glad of what I did.

Which is the most interesting period in your life? Which was the best and worst moment of your career?

I think that the most interesting and best period of my life it is what I am living right now. I am touring Europe with a class A band. (Nellie Tiger Travis, Harmonica Hinds, Linsey Alexander, Pooky Styx and Lurrie Bell). We are playing every day in a different city and all the venues are sold out. I am the bandleader and the M.C. (and by far the youngest) of this tour. It is a huge responsibility and a hell of a job, because I promise you, is not easy at all to lead experienced and professional musicians, but the tour is going great. We are having a lot of fun on the road and the people in Europe are showing us lots of love.

The worst moment of my career was probably when I first started playing with Linsey Alexander. He is an old school bluesman and once again I was the youngest guy in the band. He was very hard on me…the music had to be perfect, no mistakes, no hesitations, and a very good ear! He was playing a bunch of different songs on stage every night, and I never heard any of them before. I had to open my ears and catch up! But it was for the best…They say that once you learn the hard way, you learn the good way. And definitely he made me what I am. The band became like a family after a while. And just like a family we argue, we fight, we have fun and then we argue again! Nothing out of the ordinary... The band was playing (and we still are doing it) over 315 shows per year. That kind of experience is gold. Few years later Linsey made me his bandleader because he knew that I was strong enough to lead the band. And eventually I learn that too. But it was not easy at all!

"I got touched by music in general I think, and I’ve always been into good quality music. I love music with soul. In Chicago you gotta play the Blues, but not only! I love Roots Reggae and Classic Jazz, and always try to play live what I like!" (Photo: Breezy Rodio & Buddy Guy)

Do you remember anything funny from Linsey Alexander, Buddy Guy, and the late great Eddie Shaw?

Funny things about Linsey Alexander…I could write a book about him. We have been together for so many years, we travelled the world together, and I definitely have many stories to share… Few years ago we were coming back from Poconos Blues Fest in Pennsylvania. The driver was driving and we were all sleeping in the van. Linsey was sitting in the back seat behind the driver. Ron Simmons was sitting in the back seat behind the passenger. I was up front...All of a sudden I hear Ron Simmons screaming “Linsey wake up, wake up”…And we all woke up in fear...Ron opened his eyes and saw Linsey sleeping right next to him and he thought Linsey fall asleep while driving…That was hilarious. Another funny story is when we went to Canada and we got lost in Quebec City and we almost didn’t make it on time for the gig.

Buddy Guy has always been very nice to me and very supportive. I remember one night when I was playing at Buddy Guys Legends with my band and Buddy Guy was watching us. He usually leaves after few songs but I noticed that he stayed until the end of the set. He came to me and he called me by name, and he said “Breezy, man you sounded great! Right on!” I was very surprised he even remembered who I was. And after that I started working on a regular basis at his club, and in January 2014 I am opening one of his shows up with my band. When the booking agent from Buddy Guys Legends asked me if I wanted to open up the show for Buddy Guy, I was vey honored and happy. It is a big achievement for a blues musician to open up for one of the greatest bluesman in the world. I see Eddie Shaw all the time! Eddie is a dear friend of mine and I had the pleasure to back him up many many times. Every time I see him I always call him “Big Money” and he always tells me “You man, You!”

From the musical point of view what are the differences between Chicago and the other local scenes?

The Chicago Blues Scene is like a big family. We all know each other. I don’t much about other scenes but I can promise you that just like Willie Dixon says…Chicago is loaded with the Blues!

"Headlining at all the major clubs in Chicago and the US made me realize that one should never give up on his/her dreams. Lots of people will try to bring you down but one should never give up." (Photo: Breezy Rodio & Linsey Alexander)

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

Being on the road with Linsey Alexander and his band is always entertaining…I could write a book about things that happened on the road...on and off the stage.

Why did you think that the Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following?

The blues will always have its share because people can relate to it. Blues music is eternal to me, because of the message that it is trying to transmit. No matter where or when, people will always have to deal with a “broken heart” or with “no money to pay the rent”…  Hopefully in the near future Blues music will gain more popularity among young people and more space on radio stations!

Are there any memories from recording time which you’d like to share with us?

Recording my first Cd “Playing my Game Too” was a great experience. Many of my favorite artists are on it. Recording with Lurrie Bell was awesome and I definitely have some good studio memories of Donald Kinsey and Billy Branch as well.

What’s the best jam you ever played in? What are some of the most memorable gigs you've had?

The best Jam I ever played in was definitely in Chicago with Billy Branch, Sharon Lewis, Lurrie Bell, and Eddie Shaw. The music was incredible and the energy and the vibrations on stage were just amazing! The Chicago Blues Festival 2013 was an awesome gig too. The first time I played at the House of Blues in Chicago with my band was great too. And obviously my Brazilian tour was a very memorable experience. I played in Campo Grande Brazil for a full house...I was surprised to see so many people. The audience was just wonderful!

"Delmark stands for history, roots and culture of a city and a genre of music that touches the souls and hearts of many people around the world. They are committed to showcase the best talents coming out of Chicago and I am very flattered to represent Chicago and the blues in the US and around the world."

Are there any memories from your previous in 2015 album SO CLOSE TO IT studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

The session for SO CLOSE TO IT was very fast and productive. All the musicians were right on it and did a great job. I do remember though that we got into a fight when recording the song called “I win some more”. The drummer didn’t want to record that song as we didn’t rehears it…I was trying to arrange it right on the spot. I am sure glad we did record it as it turned out to be one of the hottest tracks of the CD!

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

Ron Simmons is definitely one of the best people I ever met. 71 years of blues on his shoulder...he thought me a lot.

The best advice ever given to me was from my good friend and drummer, Kevin Patrick. We were driving together to a gig and he told me “Breezy, your train is bound to glory (citing a Bob Marley’s song), you just have to stay on it!”.  I thought of quitting many times, but every time I do that, I always repeat those words to myself.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues with Reggae? What are relations Bluesman and Rastaman?

I love Roots Reggae as much as I love the Blues. Reggae is soul music, music that comes from your soul, just like the Blues. When I listen to Ray Charles, T Bone Walker, Earl Hooker, Nat King Cole, I can feel their soul and relate to them. It happens the same when I listen to Gregory Isaacs, Dennis Brown, Bob Andy, Ken Boothe, Alton Ellis, Desmond Dekker and many more.

What is the impact of the Blues & Reggae music and culture to the racial and socio-cultural implications?                                 (Photo: Breezy Rodio and The Coolers)

Unfortunately Blues and Reggae or Jazz don’t have much of an impact in my opinion on today’s culture. Not enough people listen to Blues music anymore, therefore Blues became a minor genre. Blues songs are meaningful and deep. Too bad people don’t relate to it anymore. Hopefully that will change!

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

I miss the discipline. Seems like musicians nowadays forgot all about it. Back in the days musicians played their parts.

Which memory from Bob Stroger and  Billy Branch  makes you smile?

Bob Stroger is the nicest guy in the world. He is on my CD. We had a good time when he came down to 3011 studios to record. Billy Branch is a good friend of mine. We were drinking Cognac at the Delmark Party and having a good time with Big Ray and Sharon Lewis few weeks ago.

What's been your experience from Europe and Brazil? Do you believe in the existence of real blues scene out of US?

I met many wonderful musicians in Europe and Brazil. The blues is everywhere. The audience might not be the same of the one you get in Chicago, but the blues is definitely an international language! Because of the blues, I met many people and I made many friends. Not only outstanding musicians, but also great people and good friends for life, like Luca Giordano, Quique Gomez, Guy King, Matteo Sansonetto, Rafael Puccini and many more.

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

I would go back to the time when music was music. When musicians did their homework and study their instruments and the music. When the audience was into good quality music. Seems like those times are now gone. People don’t seem to listen with their ears anymore, but more with their eyes. I would definitely go back to the time when music was music!

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?

Take me back to Los Angeles in the 50’s and let me hang out with Nat King Cole and his band!

Breezy Rodio - official website

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