An Interview with guitarist/ songwriter & craftsman JP Soars: I think that the blues cuts strait to the soul

"Everybody gets the blues once in a while, no matter whom you are…"

JP Soars: The Deepest Cut of Blues

Born in California and raised in Arkansas, JP Soars has called South Florida home since 1985. John Paul Soars is not a typical blues guitarist. He has a diverse musical background that encompasses a multitude of influences. From T-bone Walker, Jesse May Hemphill, Wes Montgomery, and Django Reinhardt, to Muddy Waters, Johnny Guitar Watson, Guitar Slim and Louis Jordan. But also he love Tito Puente, Miles Davis, Hank Williams, Black Sabbath and Slayer. Soars toured the globe and recorded several records with some of the most extreme metal bands in the world before finding his home in the blues! It is these attributes that are giving Soars an instantaneously recognizable style. Soars is also a prolific songwriter, penning a number of tunes in his repertoire himself. His first blues cd Back of My Mind 2008 garnered rave reviews and received a considerable amount of airplay on XM Radio's Bluesville; Comcast digital and other blues stations around the world and continues to do so. JP's release More Bees With Honey has earned Soars a BMA "blues music award" nomination for Best Contemporary Male Blues Artist of the year!

In February 2009 Soars and His Band took home top honors in Memphis TN by winning first place in the IBC "International Blues Challenge" as well as the coveted Albert King award for most promising guitarist. That win combined with Soars' intense work ethic, pure passion for the music he plays, a constant desire to improve and a continual strive for "customer satisfaction" has allowed Soars and Company to develop themselves into an in demand international touring band that is growing day by day, week by week and year after year. Soars released his new album, Southbound I-95 (Soars High Music; Released July 2018), already receiving stellar national reviews and extensive radio airplay.  Southbound I-95 is Soar's fourth studio full-length release. 

Interview by Michael Limnios

JP, when was your first desire to become involved in the blues, what does the BLUES mean to you?

I got to see BB King play in 1988... I won a guitar from a music store and got two tickets to see BB King, meet him and have him sign the guitar... So from that point I have had a huge interest in the blues. The blues to me is a timeless music that anyone can relate to and feel at times. I feel it and I feel a deep connection to it when I hear it...

Who were your first idols, what have been some of your musical influences?
My father played guitar and had some friends that played as well. So that was my first introduction to music….I loved Kiss when I was a kid.. I also liked Ted Nugent, I played in some extreme metal bands for years …I love Django Rienhardt, T-Bone Walker, Guitar Slim, Wes Montgomery, Tito Puente, Miles Davis, Muddy Waters... The list goes on and on… If it moves me I dig it...

How do you describe JP’s philosophy about the blues music? What characterize JP’s sound?

I think that as a musician I am a constant student of the blues… always trying to learn. It’s never ending... I think that the blues cuts strait to the soul...It’s a feeling... It can be both happy and sad. My sound I think is rooted in tradition but steps outside the box now and again. I enjoy trying to incorporate all of my influences somehow. Refreshing.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your paths in blues music and people?

That generally most folks are the same no matter where you go. There’s a lotta good people everywhere. Music is the universal language. Treat folks right as you would like to be treated.  It will most always be reciprocated.

How do you describe "Southbound I-95" songbook and sound? What has made you laugh from album's sessions?

A diverse and interesting musical journey. We had some laughs figuring out the song order.

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Seeing and meeting B.B. King in 1988. Best advice anyone ever gave me was to persevere and pursue your passion.

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

The genuineness of it. I hope that younger folks continue to discover it. My fear is that going and seeing live music will be ignored.

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

I would like to change the fact that wanting to become a musician is often frowned upon. I’d be nice to see music and the arts be more embraced in schools.

Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?

I think the best moment was winning the International blues Challenge in Memphis TN in 2009. The worst??? Well…yaddda yadda yaddda blab bla bla…

How would you describe your contact to people when you are on stage?

I like to feel the energy that I am putting out, coming back to me from the audience…and letting that energy build into a frenzy.

Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?

Probably living in Los Angeles Ca... I grew up in a very rural part of North West Arkansas… So living in LA was quite overwhelming... in a good way… I learned a lot and grew a lot…

Are there any memories from INTERNATIONAL BLUES CHALLENGE 2009, which you’d like to share with us?

Well,, here is a funny one,,, when our name was announced as the winner, I thought that they were announcing the 2nd place winner when we stepped out on to the stage but, when I looked down at the trophy I read “ 1st Place”!   It was a shock…hahaha…

"I think that the blues cuts strait to the soul...It’s a feeling... It can be both happy and sad. My sound I think is rooted in tradition but steps outside the box now and again. I enjoy trying to incorporate all of my influences somehow. Refreshing."

Would you mind telling me your most vivid memory from Jimmy Thackery? What advice has given to you?

Eating dinner at his place in Arkansas. His wife Sally cooked up this amazing dinner. The best green beans I ever had…Best advice Jimmy gave me was to get a new nut and bridge on my guitar to get it more properly in tune..!

Which of historical blues personalities would you like to meet?

Muddy Waters… and T-Bone Walker to start with…

What’s the best jam and gig you ever played in?

The best jam? Hmmm,There have been many of those… The best gig? Well I played a soccer stadium in Mexico City with a Latin metal band from Puerto Rico called Puya. It was insane, like 40 thousand people... going crazy! Awesome!

How/where do you get inspiration for your songs & who were your mentors in songwriting?

I get influence from all sorts of things. Different situations, things I see or hear about, something I may see a friend going through… all kinds of stuff... It’s unpredictable when it happens.

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians thinking of pursuing a career in the blues craft?

Persevere and don’t give up….

Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us. Why do think that is?

Once again, it touches the soul… Everybody gets the blues once in a while, no matter whom you are…Plus it is at the root of most popular music…

What characterize the sound of cigar box guitar? What are the secrets of cigar box guitar?

Mine sounds like a chainsaw… The secret is to go for it, experiment with it... have fun…

From whom have you have learned the most secrets about the cigar box guitars?

I learned about the finger picking style that I use... I learned it from the late great Jesse May Hemphill.

How did your involvement with musical instruments begin?

I started playing a penny whistle when I was 6 years old…

How much time do you spend on an instrument? How difficult is the construction of an instrument?

My brother builds them... I put the electronics, strings and pickups on them... The cigar box guitar that I play is not that difficult to build... Pretty easy actually…

Do you know why the sound of cigar box guitar is connected to the blues?

Because it’s homemade, it’s played with a slide… That’s what folks could not afford a guitar would make so that they could make their music…

To which bluesman do you want to send one from your guitar?

Muddy Waters…

What touched (emotionally) you from the sound of Cigar-Box guitar?

The simplicity of it and the ability to make music from a simple homemade instrument.

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

Music is the universal language.

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

Go back to my childhood for a day would be pretty cool.

From whom have you have learned the most secrets about blues music?

People I have backed up and played with... Watching people play... Listening…

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