"Music is a powerful medium. It touches people emotionally, it delivers powerful messages that challenge the status quo in society, it makes people spontaneously move their bodies, it’s a unique art form. I think blues in particular is something everyone can relate to."
Anni Piper: Down Under Amazon
One listen will tell you why in her homeland Anni Piper is known as the First Lady of Blues. Not only is she a sultry vocalist, but an insightful composer, accomplished bass player and show stopping performer. Born and raised in Australia, her passion for blues was ignited by the sound of SRV. Piper has called Cocoa Beach FL home since 2014. 'More Guitars Than Friends’ (Sugar Daddy Records) is the latest release for Piper and the first on her own label. Already an internationally acclaimed recording artist, her latest achievement is becoming a 2015 finalist in the UK Songwriting Contest. Picking up a bass guitar at age 14, Piper completed a Bachelor of Contemporary Music degree at 19 years of age. Finding it difficult to resume her performing career following the birth of her son, Piper recorded her debut album 'Jailbait' in 2004. The album won multiple awards.
Her subsequent releases saw her placed as a finalist in the Australian Blues Music Awards (Best Female Vocal), Australian Performing Rights Association Professional Development Awards and MusicOz awards. Piper has earned a reputation as a songwriter of distinction, her work having a blues sensibility while still addressing the issues of today. In 2008 Piper signed with Blues Leaf Records USA (Janiva Magness, Albert Castiglia) and released 'Two's Company', a compilation of her earlier releases. The album reached # 21 on the Living Blues chart even though Piper had yet to tour the USA. She quickly made up for lost time and has performed in 35 American states and Canada. Piper has performed to packed houses at premier venues such as the House of Blues and BB King's. She has earned critical acclaim from publications including Blues Revue and Blues Matters (UK).
When was your first desire to become involved in the Rock n’ Blues music?
I first heard Paul Butterfield Blues Band playing ‘Born in Chicago’ when I was fourteen years old and just learning bass guitar. I had never heard a sound like that and it sparked my interest.
What were the reasons that you started the Rock Blues researches? How do you describe Anni Piper’s songbook?
I heard ‘Whole Lotta Love’ by Led Zeppelin when I was twelve and it blew me away. So I loved rock music from very early on. But when I heard ‘Born in Chicago’ by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, that was another important experience for me too. I knew that I wanted to learn more about the blues and I really never looked back. I love Stevie Ray Vaughan’s music and his music has been a big influence. My style definitely is not traditional blues, I am very much a crossover artist and have borrowed from rock, country and soul to create my own sound.
What do you learn about yourself from the Rock n’ Blues culture and what does mean to you?
What experiences in your life make you a GOOD PERFORMER and SONGWRITER? What characterize your music philosophy?
Doing lots of gigs makes you a good performer. Life experience makes you a good songwriter. I play Texas blues and blues rock. I recorded my first album in 2004 and I’ve recently released my new CD. There’s been a lot of evolution in my sound over the years, particularly my vocals, which I think have improved with age.
Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?
I actually feel that I have to give credit here to my Bikram Yoga teachers. I started practicing this style of yoga about five years ago and it has been a life changing experience. I have met so many amazing people and allowed both my body and mind to do things I would not have thought possible. Back to music, though, and I would say there are two pieces of advice I was given early on in my musical career that were invaluable. First - always practice with a metronome. This is important for everyone and not just the rhythm section. Second - when you are first starting out playing in bands, always strive to be the worst player in the band. What I mean is that when you are learning an instrument, the fastest way to improve is to work with musicians who are better than you!
From whom have you have learned the most secrets about the music? What is the best ever given you?
I studied Contemporary Music at university here in Australia. I think the best advice I ever got was that there is always someone who is a better player than you! Music is a lifelong study.
Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?
Winning ‘Best New Talent’ at the Australian Blues Music Awards in 2005 was the best moment. The worst experience was staying in a dirty motel while on tour and I got covered in bedbug bites. It was horrible!
Are there any memories recording the album 'More Guitars Than Friends' which you’d like to share with us?
It was a privilege to record with Charlie De Chant, the saxophone player from Hall and Oates. He was a lovely guy and a real professional in the studio. When we recorded the song ‘Shotgun Wedding’, my husband brought a shotgun into the studio so that we could record the sound of the gun being cocked. I wanted to use the ‘click-click’ sound of the gun as part of the percussion. The engineer asked as about ten times ‘Are you sure that thing’s not loaded?’ before he would let us in the booth to record. I guess he didn’t want us blowing down a wall or something! I have some great memories from the filming of the new music video ‘Paper Bag’. There’s a storyline going on which we filmed around our home town of Cocoa Beach, Florida. I am dressed as man, complete with a mustache, and my guitarist Dave Kury is dressed as a woman. So you can imagine that we had a GREAT time and laughed ourselves silly. The music video is very, very funny, which is a nice change when many artists take themselves so seriously when they’re on camera. Watch it on You Tube now!
Are there any memories from jams, gigs and previous studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
Recording ‘Split Second’, was amazing. I travelled to the USA and worked with a band put together by my label Blues Leaf Records. We did a lot of the songs in one take with no overdubs. I think it gives the record a great live quality. I’ve had some very memorable shows here at home. But I’m about to tour the USA and Canada for the first time and I think I will remember those shows for the rest of my life.
Some music styles can be fads but the Rock n’ Blues is always with us. Why do think that is?
Real music about real feeling played by real instruments will forever outlast the electronic rubbish on the radio.
"I would love to visit the future! Maybe 300 years from today so I could still understand the language and culture (I hope). I would love to see what changes and what happens to the human race in that time." (Anni Piper on stage / Photo by D NEESE)
Do you believe that there is “misuse”, that there is a trend to misappropriate the name of Rock n’ Blues?
Yes, for sure. To me, blues rock means bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Jimi Hendrix, so music based around very melodic guitar riffs. But people use the term blues rock to describe just about anything.
What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? Where would you really want to go with a time machine and what memorabilia you would put in?
Valve technology!! I would love to visit the future! Maybe 300 years from today so I could still understand the language and culture (I hope). I would love to see what changes and what happens to the human race in that time. Photos of my family, the movie ‘Pulp Fiction’ and the CD ‘Rockin Sugar Daddy’ by Sugar Ray and the Bluetones.
If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
I wish that the music industry could be run for art’s sake and reward talented artists in a wide range of genres. Unfortunately, it’s all about the big bucks, and major record companies will just continue to pump out whatever crap will sell.
What is the line that connects the legacy of Memphis Minnie with Janiva Magness, Anni Piper, and beyond?
Centuries of the oppression of women have given us all the blues! Pioneers like Memphis Minnie showed other women that it was possible to make a career in music alongside the men. (Photo by Paul Gettleman)
"Women are underrepresented, underrated and underpaid. We’ve come such a long way but it’s sad to see that women are still marginalized. A frustrating part of those stereotypes is that it can be difficult for an attractive woman to build credibility and be taken seriously in the business."
Make an account of the case of Rock n’ Blues in Australia. What touched (emotionally) you from the local circuits?
I met some wonderful people through touring. Meeting my fans and the way they support my music is the best part. I always enjoyed visiting Tasmania when I was in Australia, it’s a small island state south of the mainland. The friendliness of the locals is amazing and for such a small population, they really come out to support touring bands. Australia is a big country with a small population. There is a small but dedicated team of blues fans here. We have some great songwriters and storytellers and I think that is unique to my country.
What are the differences between US and Australian music scene? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
Australia is geographically a very large country with a small population. That makes it difficult to tour as you have to cover a lot of distance to get between cities, versus the USA where the population is much larger. There is a bigger fan base to tap into here in the USA and more interest in blues music so it does make it easier to make a living. I worry about the future of the live scene particularly. It’s cheaper and easier for a venue to hire a DJ than to hire a live band and we have the scene the closure of some great clubs in recent years. We can all do something about it! Attend and support the venues that support live music, buy your kids a musical instrument, tell your elected representatives about it and encourage them to get behind the arts.
What does to be a female artist in a “Man’s World” as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?
Women are underrepresented, underrated and underpaid. We’ve come such a long way but it’s sad to see that women are still marginalized. A frustrating part of those stereotypes is that it can be difficult for an attractive woman to build credibility and be taken seriously in the business.
What is the impact of Rock n’ Blues to the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?
Music is a powerful medium. It touches people emotionally, it delivers powerful messages that challenge the status quo in society, it makes people spontaneously move their bodies, it’s a unique art form. I think blues in particular is something everyone can relate to. We have all been unlucky in love, or been down to our last ten dollars, and the universal themes the blues explores cross all cultural boundaries to connect with such a variety of listeners.
How you would spend a day with Paul Butterfield and Janis Joplin in your country?
I would have to take them to Nimbin, NSW, home of most of Australia’s remaining hippies.
The time I went skydiving!
"Real music about real feeling played by real instruments will forever outlast the electronic rubbish on the radio."
How do you describe your contact to people when you are on stage? Happiness is…
Happiness is a packed dance floor. I love looking into the audience and seeing so many people having a good time.
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