California guitarslinger Brad Wilson talks about the new generation, local scene, and his own blues road

"I wish that for Blues music that there will always be a new generation of Blues guitar players keeping the lead guitar style of Blues alive."

Brad Wilson: California Dreamin

Brad Wilson is widely recognized as one of the best new bluesrock guitarists of our time! Brad Wilson is a California guitarslinger who plays rocked-up blues and is a charismatic and talented guitarist, vocalist and songwriter. Performing over 100 shows a year; Brad has become known as a smokin' hot Blues player who can rock the house all night long with the best of them. His songwriting has a hard-charging Americana, Blues and Roots style. His guitar playing is contemporary blues and he can rip on lead. Brad's live show is presented with spirit and class. In 2015, Brad Wilson released his album, Blues Thunder! Fourteen new songs featuring California's hottest blues-rock singer, songwriter, guitarist and his smokin' band! Considered more than a talented guitarist by his audience, Wilson is an exciting entertainer.

Brad and his band have a soulful Americana sound with Brad tapping into all his sources of inspiration. His concerts are the kind of high-octane performances that have made him a standout hit at countless festivals, clubs, wineries and major events. Brad's energetic shows and entertaining appeal have made him a repeat performer at many of the West Coast's biggest festivals! Brad has opened for Cheap Trick, .38 Special, Marshall Tucker Band, Derek Trucks, Walter Trout, Coco Montoya, Lynwood Slim, Michael Burks, Sonny Rhodes, Roy Rogers & The Deltas Kings, Corey Stevens and many others. Power Blues Guitar LIVE is the follow up CD to the critically acclaimed 2015 studio release Blues Thunder. Power Blues Guitar LIVE is a raw, unpolished live track CD featuring nine famous blues songs paying homage to some of the old blues greats like Willie Dixon, Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters. Brad takes each song and with loving care transforms them into his own with smokin' hot guitar licks and a superb rhythm section making this CD a complete tribute to the masters of the blues.

Interview by Michael Limnios

When was your first desire to become involved in the music and what does offer?

At a very young age, I enjoyed listening to records, and there was always music on in our house. My mother played piano and a Wurlitzer organ. Sounded great! I loved all that 60's music, Beatles, Stones, Johnny Cash and Motown, like the Four Tops. Really a great decade for record making.

In what age did you play your first gig and how was it like (where, with whom etc.)?

I started playing guitar around 13 years of age. Took lessons on Saturdays. My best friend and I started a band and played at school events. It was fun. It was cool to be in a band and have friends around the band when we rehearsed or played at parties.

What do you learn about yourself from the BluesRock culture? What does the blues mean to you?

BluesRock for me is about great lead guitar playing. Musicians like Jeff Beck, Gary Moore and Eric Clapton play a Blues style with lots of improvisation in their solos. The Blues is an emotional music that allows me to play direct from my heart with lots of feeling, often holding one note at the right time to convey passion and a soulful style.

What experiences in your life make you a GOOD MUSICIAN and SONGWRITER?

Guitar lessons, vocal lessons and some piano. Never stopping, always playing gigs constantly and writing songs for recording. I can't believe how many gigs I've done over the years. All kinds from very small to big shows. It is just what a musician does all the time. Play music to make money. For me, playing my own songs from the beginning was important. I always like playing original material the best. However I also like to do my version or arrangement on classic standard songs. I would also like to mention that working on recording sessions with talented producers is very a educational experience.

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

Songwriting for me is just playing acoustic guitar and keeping notes on bits of lyrics and fragments of music. After awhile the bits of music start to fit together and the lyrics begin to match up. It is when I have an idea for the song,  go to finish it that I review my notes for something missing and it usually there. Songs take a long time for me to write, often years. Then more years to record and perfect the song live. After that the song holds up and I can play it year after year and it always works. My mentors for songwriting would be to many to list. I listen to lots of music all the time and continue to hear all kinds of cool songwriting.

How do you describe Brad Wilson sound and progress, what characterize your music philosophy?

As a guitar player the quest for tone is never ending. I play a Fender Strat and Gibson Les Paul. I use Mesa amps, cabs and some Marshall cabs. Guitar tone is important to inspire good playing. It is not easy with all the differences in a room where you might be performing. Especially outside shows. The PA companies try hard to help with their gear as well. Music for me is a lifetime commitment that I hope to be able to do as long as I'm alive. It is an evolving reflection of my life with the songs, performances and recordings a statement or photograph of where I'm at the time.

From whom have you have learned the most secrets about the Americana/Blues/Roots music?

BB King really is the guy for lead guitar and live band. Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Gary Moore, Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones, plus lots of amazing records recorded over the years. Each Blues artist brings their own cool story that needs to be heard. Muddy Waters was very important to me.

Why did you think that Blues/Roots continues to generate such a devoted following? Give one wish for the BLUES    Photo by Leigh Hurst

The songs are wide appealing in both the rhythm or beat along with the lyrical emotions the songs sing about. You have a very honest song telling a real life story about which most everyone can relate to. The songs are very easy to understand and people like how powerful the songs are. Electric or acoustic the Americana/ Blues/ Roots songs often reflect the working person's struggle to make it through life.

At different shows this year I have invited two young guitar players to sit in with the band. During the show they get a chance to step out and play lead and the audience loves to see and hear them play. I was surprised that musicians 18 years old love Peter Green, Gary Moore, John Mayall, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters and BB King. They had gotten the CDs and learned the licks. I wish that for Blues music that there will always be a new generation of Blues guitar players keeping the lead guitar style of Blues alive.

What were the reasons that made the new generation to start the Blues/Rock researches and experiments?

I think playing lead guitar with emotional riffs and improvisation is what attracts lots of young players to blues/rock. The tone of the guitar through the amps allows each musician to develop their own personality and create their own identifiable sound. I meet young players at the shows that are in their teens and they know the songs and musicians from the 60's & 70's that pioneered this style. They study blues/rock and love learning this style.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues with Americana, Southern Boogie, Roots and Rock n’ Roll music?

The connection I see is the guitar. All of these genres share the love for playing guitar. Often the location in America reflects these styles. If the musicians are writing songs in southern USA, in the cities or countryside, the songs take on a sound that is from their surroundings. The musicians as artists are reflecting the times, location and day to day life they see. Guitar players from all these styles could easily sit down and play music together.

"Good music is good music! Musicians around the world get the message that people share more in common than not. Today's world is moving closer to a global community sharing lots of good stuff together."

What characterizes the ‘Power Blues Guitar Live’ philosophy? What emotionally touched you from the live performances?

The Power Blues Guitar Live album is a collection of four of my original songs and nine blues standards. I am very happy with the recording quality of this live album. The key element for me was the wonderful playing by the bass and drummer. Oscar Huguet plays bass on all the songs and is an incredible musician. Thaxter Daggs and Kofi Baker are both awesome drummers that drive the improvisation of my solos. It was recorded during the support tours for my Hands On The Wheel album. The crowd was very supportive and I played guitar with lots of emotion, reaching for riffs and taking chances during my solos. The beauty of a power trio is the musical communication between the musicians.

How do you describe and what characterized “Blues Thunder” sound and songlist?

My new album Blues Thunder is 12 songs I've written capturing where I'm at now. There is a Blues flavor with the songs that allow me to play lots of lead guitar and sing in my style. The songs are all performed in concert and the band recorded together to make the record have a band feel. Each song has it's own identity like musical paintings.

Which collaborations have been the most important experiences? Are there any memories which you’d like to share?

My collaborations are usually with the recording engineers in making my albums. I produced my last two albums, Hands On The Wheel and Blues Thunder. My favorite memories are learning about recording and making records when I worked with the world famous Robb Brothers in Hollywood. They owned Cherokee Studios and produced my earlier records. I played guitar for them on their sessions for other artists.        Photo by Alex Centrella

"The Blues is an emotional music that allows me to play direct from my heart with lots of feeling, often holding one note at the right time to convey passion and a soulful style."

Are there any memories from Walter Trout, Coco Montoya, Michael Burks, and Sonny Rhodes, which you’d like to share with us?

All of these wonderful musicians are so friendly and nice to meet. Open, sharing and supportive is what I remember most about meeting them when booked on the same shows.

Tell me a few things about the road’s life - over 100 shows a year, what are your experiences?

Well there is always the weather, traveling or playing outside. When it is good, it is really good, however when it is super hot or super cold, it is tough. The audience is always up for a good time and that makes even the toughest weather day fun. We have had some girls jump on stage and flash the band and audience, and we have had the concert go wild with everyone out of their seats dancing. This gets security worried but no one has ever gotten hurt.

Are there any memories from Walter Trout, Michael Burks, and Sonny Rhodes which you’d like to share with us?

All of these guitar greats were very friendly and easy to talk with. They made themselves available to visit and offered lots of encouragement to keep working hard on guitar, music and my career.

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

The music of the past used a lot of tube and analog recording equipment. I like the warmer sound of the recording equipment from the past. On Blues Thunder I used both. Not easy to find a lot of the old gear. There are very few studios with the original mixing consoles. Like the past records I used a live band and recorded the solos and vocals in one take, keeping at the song until I had an unedited vocal I liked. For the future for me, it is about writing songs and finding ways to expand on my BluesRock lead guitar work. Music is like an ocean, so vast you can never be limited. I do not have any fears about the future. This is a very exciting time to be alive!

What is the best advice a bluesman ever gave you?

I asked Pine Top Perkins, the very famous Blues piano player, how he keeps working shows well into his late 80's/early 90's. He answered, "By the grace of God."

(Photo: Brad & Pinetop Perkins)

What are some of the most memorable gigs and jams you've had?

There have been many many memorable nights, too many to single any one night out. When a show goes very well, I get a buzz of emotion that stays with me sometimes for days. It is when the audience and I have so much fun that it is just a blast of a good time!

What has made you laugh from your support to Coco Montoya, Cheap Trick, .38 Special, and Marshall Tucker Band?

The struggle to keep up with these great artists. They have been performing much longer than I have and their abilities to put on a great show is wonderful. I often feel that I need to improve after playing shows with them. As time goes by, I look back and do get a laugh on how much I have gotten better and learning better ways of touring or presenting my show.

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

One on One. This is a chance for us to visit and spend some time together. I am excited to see everybody, play my songs and get everyone together to have a good time.

Which memory from recording time makes you smile?

I loved working with the Robb Brothers at their Los Angeles studio called Cherokee Studios. They are very talented, supportive and have worked with the biggest artists on great records. They made the long studio hours productive, fun, and enjoyable. Sadly the great producer/engineer Dee Robb has passed away.

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

Go after your dream with all your heart and try as hard as you can. Believe in yourself and never give up. Even if you just work on your music and plan a little everyday, it will soon add up to time well spent.

"I enjoy music. Playing music and listening to music. I hope to play music my whole life, until the last day. Writing and recording my songs is a dream come true."

A meeting point for people of all ages who are wild at heart, and favorite among hipsters, California is ahead of its time as it embraces. Why this stage is a Mecca of avant-garde people?

California has a little type of geography from every state in the USA. It is the farthest state in North America from the politics of Washington DC. We are the leading state in producing movies, TV shows, recording records, we have tech companies like Google & Apple. We lead the USA in Gay rights, environmental planning and animal wildlife preservation. Our universities are a center of progressive learning. California is an amazing place because the people in California expect more and better from the USA.

From the musical point of view is there any difference between: California and the others local scenes?

California is the 6th biggest economy in the world. There is a lot of music in California. Los Angeles is an entertainment business capital. All local scenes have places to play and will give a musician a chance to gig and meet other musicians. Today, the internet media connects musicians from all over the world. The future will be more of a world music scene because of computers and access to travel.

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

When I was about 13 years old, I was in San Francisco and saw the band Cream in concert record their Wheels Of Fire album. I was close to the stage and was forever affected by Eric Clapton's guitar work that he recorded with Cream. Two other important moments among many would be seeing Gary Moore in concert playing blues, and meeting and playing music with Jeff Beck. The inspiration to follow these guitar players in their bluesrock styles forms the way I play guitar.

What is your music DREAM? What turns you on?

I enjoy music. Playing music and listening to music. I hope to play music my whole life, until the last day. Writing and recording my songs is a dream come true. Each song when finished and released is very important to me. Improving as an artist is exciting and never seems to end. An exciting adventure to be on.

"Today, the internet media connects musicians from all over the world. The future will be more of a world music scene because of computers and access to travel."

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

That would be the pay rate of royalties paid to recording artists for streaming music. The current rate for using music in streaming subscription services are too low. Currently there are a lot of companies streaming music and not paying a correct royalty, since their entire business model is built on music from artists.

What is the impact of Blues and Rock music and culture to the racial and sociology-cultural implications?

All positive. Good music is good music! Musicians around the world get the message that people share more in common than not. Today's world is moving closer to a global community sharing lots of good stuff together. Artists are continuing to change the world for the better. The message is, we are in this together.

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

I would love to spend the day in San Francisco in the year 3015. Wow! The whole day learning about all the new inventions that make everyday life amazing! Can you imagine how incredible it will be in 3015! What an adventure!

Brad Wilson - Official website

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