Southern blues/rock guitarist Christopher Satterfield talks about new revival of Southern music culture

"Music is your medium of expression, your message and what you want to say as a human being to others. Music is a gift to be shared and enjoyed."

Christopher Satterfield: Pride and Joy

Christopher Satterfield is a southern/blues rock guitarist originally signed with Night & Day Records, former lead guitarist, musical director and song writer for Carole Fredericks; sister of Taj Mahal. Christopher Satterfield’s latest album, 6 Strings 9 Lives, is a Southern Rock album in the vein of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet, however, is not your typical Southern Rock format.

On his latest album, Christopher retains a classic blues-rock “Power Trio” lineup of just Bass, Drums, and one Guitar. Songs include: 6 Strings 9 Lives, singles; Oxycontin and Black Gold, Easy Rider, and the ‘Free bird’ style guitar rave-up – “One More for the Road”, as well as many more.

Christopher has toured across the southern United States, heavily in Western Europe as well as North Africa and Asia. Christopher Satterfield is well known for his “power trio” southern, blues-rock band. Christopher has an upcoming European tour that will be supporting his latest album. His band will be stopping in parts of Germany, France, and Switzerland in the summer of 2013.

Interview by Michael Limnios 

Special thanks Luc Brunot for the idea of interview

When was your first desire to become involved in the Southern Rock and Blues?

The first time I heard Lynyrd Skynyrd, I was about 10 years old or something, and had just switched from violin to guitar, I was so amazed that I used to sit with my head on the speakers just listening, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do, or try to do. And then later caught on to the blues with BB King’s Thrill is gone. I also loved Sam and Dave.

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

Blues is a very personal self-expressive art form, and no two people expresses themselves the same way, just as in life. Blues for me is a one on one thing with you and your instrument, and so you learn a great deal about your self, your strong points and weaknesses who you are as a musician and what you want to say, and how to develop.

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

You just answered your own question so to speak, environmental experiences in music help us to develop and express ourselves on our instrument, while life experiences give us something to say as a songwriter. Hopefully you can consolidate the two, into something of meaningful expression, in the form of a song.

"Blues is a very personal self-expressive art form, and no two people expresses themselves the same way, just as in life."

How do you describe Christopher Satterfield’s sound and progress, what characterizes your music philosophy?

Well, it’s just that really, a progression. Hopefully as a musician you have learned things along the way, worked hard and practiced, and perfected your skills to a degree that you can express yourself with your own voice, to a degree that is pleasing and says and offers something to others.

 Music is your medium of expression, your message and what you want to say as a human being to others. Music is a gift to be shared and enjoyed. I started out playing guitar and music for piece of mind and still do.

 As far as my sound and progress goes, many that heard me play in the past, know I was playing a lot of blues based rock power trio stuff, of course with a southern influence. Because I love so very much all those blues guys, from Robert Johnson, Son House, BB, and Albert King, then later to Hendrix, Stevie Ray, Rory Gallagher and Robin Trower.

 But I also love Southern Rock because that’s where I am from Florida, the south, and grew up playing all that stuff too and that music was so close to my heart. So although I was playing hard, I was still searching at that point because I could never reconcile the two styles. Then later I thought well, if god ever blesses me to record another album that’s what I will do, play power trio Southern Rock. So I had the idea for quite some time.

  That’s why 6 Strings 9 Lives is so special for me. Because I feel I found my own voice, and wavelength to communicate on, my own canvas to paint and express myself. Songs expressed in the genre of Southern Rock in a blues-rock format.

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

Directly, that would be my mother who is a violinist and then Carole Fredericks.

 And indirectly through private study off of records, learning songs, licks and stuff, a lot from Jimi Hendrix and, Stevie Ray Vaughn whom I actually got to meet and spend some time with. Eric Clapton, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet and the Allman Brothers, especially B.B. King. I also took from a lot of random guitar solos here and there I had to learn playing in various bands through the years.

"I think that so many great artists raised the bar so high, touching on human experiences that are still relevant and touch us today. The fans and listeners still keep Blues and Southern Rock honest and alive."

What's been your experience working with Les Dudek and which memory from him makes you smile?

Working with Les Dudek was certainly a high point in my career and very inspiring, I wanted to do my very best to make a good record and not to do anything disrespectful because of who he is and his name and all, so that forced me to work twice as hard.

I learned a lot from Les just being around him, because he has been through so much and is a icon of Southern Rock, not to mention one of the great guitarist alive today. Les is a very intense guy, and does not suffer fools lightly.

 My fondest memory of working with Les was when we recorded the guitar parts for 6 Strings 9 Lives.  My wife who is Asian had just made this plate of egg rolls which Les just loved, so he would eat an egg roll, drink a beer, pick up a guitar and just play these amazing guitar solos and licks and stop, eat an egg roll, lick his fingers, then play some more incredible guitar and this just went on all day and we laid down some fantastic guitar tracks in the process.

 So much fantastic material was recorded that I actually recorded a second extended version of 6 Strings 9 Lives that features Les playing all the guitar parts and I just play rhythm guitar. His second solo on slide is my favorite and reminds me of Duane. 

Are there any memories from recording time and touring with the band, which you’d like to share with us?

Touring with my old band bassist Manu Ducloux, and Thierry Legall, was really special for me because it was the first time I had gone out as a headliner act, and they were just fabulous musicians, we were just a power trio and had sold out Hard Rock Café in Paris. I had just started using this new wireless unit. We start the show and I am just cooking on guitar and then bam! that damn wireless goes out and I have no sound. Well Manu and Thierry just kept on groovin’ like nothing happened and our road manager grabbed a 20 foot cable plugged me in and we hardly missed a beat! That was incredible musicianship on the part of Thierry and Manu super pros; I think the crowd even thought it was part of the act! Fantastic!

  My latest fond recording experience was working with and finding Larry Albritton, which is exciting because of his raw talent, fantastic voice and just being such a good sport in all this crazy music business. Larry is a delightful charismatic guy, but very kind and humble and that’s so refreshing, his attitude is reminiscent of Ronnie. I am excited to tour and continue working with him.

"Playing Southern Rock is not as easy as one may think, just as in Blues you gotta’ live it, and breath it, and hopefully have something to say, it’s not the notes it’s how you play em’ it’s gotta’ come from someplace else."

Some music styles can be fads but the Blues and Southern Rock are always with us. Why do think that is?

Because both styles are so sincere and from the heart, both from a writing and musical perspective, they speak on so many levels, run deep, are true ethnic forms of expression that are not easily faked. And take years to master. Plus I think that so many great artists raised the bar so high, touching on human experiences that are still relevant and touch us today. The fans and listeners still keep Blues and Southern Rock honest and alive.

Tell me how you met with Carole Fredericks. What are some of your most memorable tales with her?

I met Carole at studio Davout in Paris while doing some session work. I have so many fond memories, because we became so close. I mean the tales with Carole could fill a book, because of her personality and her larger than life persona. But I would say one that sticks out in my mind, is hanging out with her at her apartment drinking wine, and talking music. Carole had this old beat up classical guitar in the corner, and we would just play blues and old songs just her and me, and laugh. Carole was absolutely amazing, and knew music inside and out, and all theses songs old blues, Mahalia Jackson stuff, obscure delta things, incredible really, Carole’s musical vocabulary was limitless.

  One of Carole’s favorite albums was Humble Pie’s Smokin’. Man, could she sing that “30 Days in the Hole ! ” and she was so great, I mean one of the great voices of all time. Carole could sing anything, Rock, Blues, and Gospel, Jazz. I am quite sure had she not died she would have attained global success. I think of Carole often and still miss her.

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

That would go right back to Carole Fredericks. One night we were hanging out jamming at her flat and there’s this knock at the door, and in walks Taj Mahal holding his guitar man I about fainted! So anyway, he hardly says hello, and just walks in and starts playing and singing too, so there I am jamming with Carole Fredericks and Taj Mahal. Now that was quite a jam!

One of my most memorable gigs was also with Carole Fredericks, the first time we played some ice arena in Switzerland there were so many people, it was the first time I’d ever played to so many people, because up till then the biggest thing I had ever played was a bar. I remember being so excited, scared, nervous and thrilled all at the same time!  Plus I was leading the band! Absolutely mind blowing, and really a dream come true as a musician.

Are there any memories from Europe, Africa and Asia, which you’d like to share with us?

Not specifically, but I will never forget how warm, friendly and inspiring the fans were especially in Europe during my first solo tour.  I am blessed to have met so many wonderful people who invited me to their country and their towns because, you don’t really remember so much about the concert but more of the experience of meeting other people in other cultures, spending time with them and sharing.

From a musical point of view what are the difference and similarities between the Blues and Southern Rock?

Well, obviously Blues came first and is really the foundation so to speak, the source of it all. Blues for me is something you have to live, to express properly, and just because you can play blues doesn’t necessarily mean you are a blues man because you don’t have the experiences and background to go along with it. Blues music is cultural and ethnic. This is the same for Southern Rock, which is a mix of Blues, Rock, Country, Bluegrass even Jazz, which all came together in the south.

  It is the experiences and environment that shape music, so again just because you can play Southern Rock doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a southern rocker. So both Blues and Southern Rock are very similar in that respect, closely related and touch on many of the same subjects, just expressed in different formats. Both forms touch people in similar ways. That is why Blues men and Southern Rockers always got on so well, black or white it doesn’t matter.

What do you miss most nowadays from Capricorn era and 70s Southern Rock boom?

The simplicity, sincerity and musicianship. Especially the songwriting, which was so amazing at that time.  Everything was so well done, the production, the sound, even the artwork on the album covers.  It was all so exciting and real. And it’s a shame it’s all gone.

A good buddy of mine who lives in Georgia said he passed the old Capricorn Studio building the other day. just empty and boarded up still with the old painted Capricorn outside. Sad really. Man, if those walls could talk. I hear Macon is pretty rough these days.

Why do you think Rockin’ Blues is connected to the South? What are the secrets of Southern Rock?

Well because a that time, they had a lot of these juke joints which were sort like dance hall rock bars, now people in the South liked to move to their rock music and southern rock just had that sound that made you wanna’ move your feet, so it’s hard to keep still when you hear it, that’s that Rockin’ Boogie Southern Sound. Plus it’s hot as hell in the south! especially in the summer. So people would want to move just to cool off. Of course drinking Jack Daniels or Jim Beam didn’t hurt either.

  I don’t know if there is any secret of Southern Rock but I can tell you this, Southern bands play the same whether they are in front of one hundred people or twenty thousand people. Just one big juke joint I guess! It’s all about gettin’ people goin’ live or on a record.      

   Playing Southern Rock is not as easy as one may think, just as in Blues you gotta’ live it, and breath it, and hopefully have something to say, it’s not the notes it’s how you play em’ it’s gotta’ come from someplace else.

When we talk about Southern Rock, we usually refer to memories and moments of the past. Apart from the old cats, do you believe in the existence of real Blues Rock nowadays?

Not really no.  But then again, it’s so hard to make a living playing Southern Rock or Blues Rock and record companies don’t even give that music the time of day, so perhaps there are some great bands out there that we don’t even know about or fall by the way side because no one gave them a chance to be heard.

Do you believe that there is a “misuse”, and that there is a trend to misappropriate the name of Southern music?

Absolutely! Especially here in the US with this so-called Country music or Country Rock, which is neither.  It just a rip-off watered down version of what Southern Rock used to be sung by guys who aren’t even from the South or even write their own songs.  It’s just some marketing thing that music industry came up with. It’s very transparent and phony.

Southern Rock fans just hate it and they’re not fooled. I hear that all the time.

 

What are the reasons that Skynyrd, Allmans, Molly Hatchet etc. was such a legendary generation and has left it’s mark through the years even until now?

Again, because they were so sincere and lived what they were singing about.  Themes that are still relevant and touch us even today. They were all such great musicians, singers and songwriters who really perfected their art, worked hard their craft and they touched so many lives because they had something to say and stories to tell, and knew how to get it across in a meaningful way.

 

Which incident of your life you‘d like to be captured and illustrated in a painting?

 Musically, I would have to say; meeting and playing for all the wonderful people I’ve been blessed to play for over the years.

 

How do you describe your contact to people when you are on stage and what compliment do you appreciate the most after a gig?

 Well, I always appreciate the fact that people have taken the time to come see me play, and I am there to give them something or take their mind off things and just go somewhere together musically for two hours.

 I really try to play to the crowd not to my self. Great audiences can enable a musician to surpass his capabilities sometimes, and that electricity going back and forth with the crowd giving you energy and you giving it back is so magical. That is why I play out and go on tour, that’s my communication with the crowd.

  The best compliment I get is people just saying thanks, shaking my hand or asking for an autograph or to take a picture, that’s not an ego thing, it’s that people can be so moved by your music in such a way, that they want to be a part of it. That is quite a humbling and overwhelming experience.

What would you ask Ronnie Van Zandt? How you would spend a day with Duane Allman?

Well, Ronnie was/is my all-time favorite musician, even though he wasn’t a guitarist, his style, sincerity and humanity, seemed to speak to me, and inspire, as I am sure for so many others, especially being from the south and accomplishing so Ronnie is someone I have always admired and looked up to. So I guess I would ask just to shake his hand, and say thanks.

 With Duane Allman I definitely would spend the day getting a guitar lesson!

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