An Interview with Multifaceted musician Deanna Bogart: Fly but fly smart, do your homework, use a metronome

"To me, if it makes you go "ow" it's the blues....whatever the musical context..."

Deanna Bogart: Blusion

When it comes to Deanna Bogart, everyone wants to claim her as their own - her hometown, her fans, her fellow musicians and even her instruments. She's that good–and that good-natured.
Born in Detroit, Deanna spent her early years in Phoenix and New York City, climbing on any available piano bench to plunk and play with preternatural panache. 

Around the age of six, she was "gently removed" from the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music for playing piano by ear instead of learning to read music. While in middle school, Deanna yearned to play the saxophone. Today, Deanna Bogart is an award-winning multi-instrumentalist and multifaceted musician whose fans value the diversity of her genre-free zone.  As a bandleader/ singer/ songwriter/ producer/ pianist/ sax player, Deanna combines the best of boogie-woogie, contemporary blues, country and jazz into a splendid blend she calls “blusion.”
Recognized for her dazzling keyboards, soulful saxophone, smoky vocals and cut-above songwriting, Deanna easily wins the hearts of fans on land and at sea on chartered cruises.  She is a featured player in the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Revue, jamming with Tommy Castro, Magic Dick, as well as prominent guitar slingers. Deanna remembers well her early years as a budding musician and is an avid educator and mentor, sharing her insight and wisdom with students of all ages.


Interview by Michael Limnios


Deanna, when was your first desire to become involved in the blues & who were your first idols?
 hmm...probably Jay McShann, Pete Johnson, Dinah Washington, Dorothy Donegal, Big Jay McNeely, Wynonie Harris, Jimmy McGriff...


What was the first gig you ever went to & what were the first songs you learned?
I joined my first band in 1981 when I was 20...they were called "cowboy jazz" a western swing/jam/vocal band on rounder records. my first gig with them was in New York city and I knew 3 chords on the piano and sang harmony - very scary...I loved it... I remember learning "rock around the clock" and some muddy waters tunes by picking them out by ear on the piano when I was pretty young....my mom played those tunes a lot on her 8 track...haha!


What made you fall in love with the blues music?
I was moved by people like Dinah Washington and Billie Holiday - Jay McShann and how some of the contemporary  bands were inspired by the blues.


Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?
Well, they're probably both yet to come...I’ve had many more good moments I’m happy to say...


How/where do you get inspiration for your songs & who were your mentors in songwriting?
Inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere - and I wait for it. Mentors in songwriting - hmm...cool question...I’d have to say the people whose music continually moves me...Mozart / Stevie Wonder / Joe Jackson / Thelonius Monk / Brubeck / Joni Mitchell and on and on and....  


What are your best songs, the songs you’d most like to be remembered for?
I can tell you which songs I’m closest to for various reasons...soul ache / Blue by Night / Avery’s town....I’m a sucker for a ballad...I don't care which songs I might be remembered by - I just like the idea of being remembered.


Are there any songs that you've written where the lyrics are very personal for you?
Absolutely - they're the most difficult songs to write - and the ones that must be written. So, I’d have to say "Shadows on the Bedroom Wall" (Timing is Everything), “Couldn't Love you More" (Pianoland), “Still the Girl in the Band" (Timing is Everything), "Tender Days" (Real Time)...  


Any of blues standards have any real personal feelings for you & what are some of your favorite?
I’ve always liked "when something is wrong with my baby".... 


How do you describe your sound & your progress? 

I just want to keep going always striving to be better at anything I do.


What experiences in your life make you a GOOD musician?
hmm...a little angst certainly goes a long way. It’s crucial to have a place to put the aches and music is mine - it's my therapy and it's how I keep my balance emotionally.


What does “88 black and white keys” mean to you?
ahhh...the safe zone...


Do you think that your music comes from the heart, the brain or the soul?
Yes...amongst other places...


What does the BLUES mean to you & what does Blues offered you?
To me, if it makes you go "ow" it's the blues....whatever the musical context...


Do you remember anything funny or interesting from the recording hours?
well,  I cry at least once a record...it matters so much to me and I’m hard on myself - but I’m getting better about it and I enjoy the camaraderie in the studio....and I love the process.


If you go back to the past what things you would do better and what things you would a void to do again?
Well, I’d still fly but I’d fly smarter...prepare more, save more, follow through more....but I’m all for making up for lost time now...


Which of historical blues personalities would you like to meet?
Probably Dinah Washington...Keter Betts (upright bass) played with her for a few years from the time he was 19. I loved the stories he told me and I was inspired by how well he thought of her as a bandleader.


Of all the people you’ve meeting with, who do you admire the most?
I guess the people that didn't work at reinventing themselves because who they were was enough and they just evolved naturally...


What do you think is the main characteristic of you personality that made you a musician?
I don't think there is just one...as a young person the language of music made sense to me intuitively and I was compelled to delve deeper and deeper to experience it, and still am. Beyond that, I liked the process of working at it, and (for better or for worse) I seem to answer only to me. Guess that's why the business part got lost in the shuffle....pun intended...


From whom have you have learned the most secrets about blues music?
Just listening/reading/watching...everyone who has come before...


Who are your favorite blues artists, both old and new? What was the last record you bought?
 Last cds I bought - or downloaded - were Glenn Gould and Magic Sam.


Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us.  Why do think that is?
Because at its best - it's about each individual's unique and personal journey through life...doesn't get much more authentic than that....and I believe the only way to honor the authentic is to be authentic.


How do you see the future of blues music? Give one wish for the BLUES
Art always finds a way - it's not going anywhere....


What characterizes the sound of New Orleans?
Well, I’m not really your girl for this one, but I lean towards second line, Caribbean cross rhythms and optimism...and Louis Armstrong...and the Meters...


What do you think of Jazz music & how close is to BLUES?
We all use the same 12 notes so I tend to be a bit genre free in that regard... I call what we do in our band "Blusion"...it all grows out of the blues just doesn't always end there...


Where did you pick up your sax & piano style & in which songs can someone hear the best of your work?
I started playing on the family Baldwin at age 2...wanted to play the saxophone at age 11 in the school band but I was told that "girls don't play the saxophone". 15 years later I bought my first horn.  


What did you prefer PIANO or SAX and why?
I’m fulfilled by both...it's a different head for each instrument, but it's still my musicality so I guess it just depends on the moment...I do wonder though, what would have been different if I’d been encouraged to play the horn when I wanted to at age 11. Perhaps nothing...


Which of the people you have worked with do you consider the best friend?
That’s a tough one...I have so many band brothers and sisters....


What are your plans for the future & do you have a message for the Greek fans?
I’ve always wanted to go to Greece and one of these days I will....


Any comments about your experiences in Pyramids?
Utterly life changing musically and especially personally.....


What turns you on? Happiness is…
…truth ...love... good scotch...


How has the music business changed over the years since you first started in music?
Drastically for obvious reasons - but not all necessarily negative. Just a re-mapping and finding new ways to cut paths...


What’s the best jam you ever played in?
hmm...there have been many - there was this time in northern California - late night - after a festival  - me and my guys, Valerie Johnson, Joe Craven on mandolin and a guy named Steve who played the log...it was magic. Who knew? We were playing "woke up on the wrong side of love" a tune of mine - best version ever...I can still feel what the air felt like - very cool. there was also an impromptu jam with Tab Benoit, Hadden Sayres and myself on the Oct. 2011 blues cruise - we dubbed ourselves "the Courvoisier trio" and the only rule was that you couldn't play your main instrument -  I was on guitar - I’m not sure how we sounded but it makes me smile every time I think about it.


How do you describe your contact to people when you are on stage?
At best were all in this together and each show should be unique to that night and that group of people.


With such an illustrious career, what has given you the most satisfaction musically?
I’m continually amazed that I’ve been a road musician for 35 years and have made it work...and generally on my terms. It’s like shooting craps on a tightrope....haha! I don't have a lot of money or stuff, but I do seem to always have just enough....although my daughter is in college so that may change things...   


What is your secret music dream?
To write a concerto and perform it with an orchestra...and write a stage musical....  


What advice would you give to a new musician?
Fly but fly smart...do your homework...use a metronome...


How difficult is for a woman to stay in the blues world?
I would have to re-phrase that as: how difficult is it to stay afloat as a full time musician...it's extremely challenging and risky and not for everyone and utterly worth it...  



Deanna Bogart's official website


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