Q&A with Brazilian rising star of the blues Artur Menezes - winner of the "Albert King Award" at the IBC 2018

"The blues is made with soul, love and anger at the same time. And It’s truthful. People identify with something truthful. And of course, it’s so good to listening to!"

Artur Menezes: International Blues Tattoo

Winner of the "Albert King Award" for Best Guitarist and 3rd place on Band Category at the International Blues Challenge 2018, Artur Menezes is a high-energetic guitarist and plays with such a feeling that impresses the crowds. Based in L.A., the brazilian artist is making his name playing around US and he is releasing his 4th album KEEP PUSHING (Release: May 28th), produced by Josh Smith. In addition to performing the traditional blues with expertise and respect, he also plays modern blues, mixing with other styles. Recently, Artur shared the stage with Joe Satriani in a festival in Brazil for a 20 thousand people audience. He also opened for the grammy winner Bobby Rush in L.A. When he was still living in Brazil, Artur was the headline of inumerous festivals. In 2014, headline at Augustibluus Festival in Estonia and played in clubs in UK. In 2015, he had a tour in Mexico and in 2013 in Argentina. In 2012, Artur played the opening shows for Buddy Guy's South American tour in Brazil. Artur lived in Chicago in 2006, 2007 and 2011, jamming in many blues clubs with great artists. That's where he met and played with Buddy Guy in Buddy Guy's Legends.        Photo by Roger Stephenson

In 2013 Artur led a contest during the 1st phase – tied with a band from Los Angeles – among more than 2000 artists from around the world for a place to play with Eric Clapton at the Crossroads Guitar Festival, one of the largest and busiest guitar festivals in the world, held at Madison Square Garden in NY. Artur lived in Chicago for short periods of time in 2006, 2007 and 2011 and he had the opportunity to play in JAM Sessions with Buddy Guy, John Primer, Charlie Love & The Silky Smooth Band, Linsey Alexander, Phil Guy, Brother John, Jimmi Burns, Big Ray, among others, and in bars of great importance to the blues, like Kingston Mines, Smokey Daddy, Rosa’s, Vine Tastings and Katherina’s. Concerned about disseminating and expanding access to blues in Brazil, Artur was one of the founders of the society “Casa do Blues” (House Of Blues), which promotes weekly shows with free entrance, remaining on the board of the project until early 2013. Artur was a speaker at TEDx,, an annual event licensed by TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) in 2013, where personalities share their experiences and knowledge in presentations broadcast live on the Internet and later released on video, the TEDTalks accessible to billions of people worldwide.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues and Rock music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Rock came first when I was a child and trying to copy my older brother. Nowadays it sharps part of my sound. But the Blues is what moves me! Blues brought me where I am now. All my decisions were made based on this amazing genre.

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

I learn how to be more emotive in many ways (not only musical) and how to play guitar and sing with feeling, with soul. Do you know when someone get a tattoo with the name of the lover partner? The same with me: I gotta a “blues tattoo.” The only difference is that I know I’ll never regret! Blues means so much to me.

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

I don’t know if I’m a bluesman. I love blues and I play the blues with passion and soul, but I guess I still have to travel a long road to become one. But I’m on the way! Well, I’ve been living by myself since I was 17. Before that, I spent a lot of time alone, because my parents are separated and my mother used to work so much to create us. She was a university teacher (psychology) during the day and singer at night. She still sings Brazilian music. She’s amazing! So, many times, my guitar was my best friend. Also when I lived in Chicago (2006, 2007 and 2011) I was so lonely. When you are lonely, you know more about yourself. You meet your real “you”. That’s a great motive to compose new songs.

How do you describe Artur Menezes sound and progress, what characterize your music philosophy?

I try to act as myself. I wish I had a powerful blues voice, but I don’t. So, I try to sing with the voice I got. I don’t try to emulate a voice that I don’t have. I think it’s good because you can sound more naturally and true. Another thing is that I used to be so traditional. To me, blues was closed and had to be played without changing anything. It was such a dilemma to me, because besides blues, I like other styles of music (rock, country, funk, soul, Brazilian music, reggae). Then I went to Chicago. I thought I would meet there nothing but the blues, traditional blues. I was wrong. I saw great blues musicians, not only younger musicians, but mature ones, mixing blues with hip-hop, rap, funk, rock! So I realized: if they are North Americans, blues is “their music and they’re not traditional, why should I be? So it was the moment I think I discovered my thing: mix blues with many kinds of music. I’m still developing that. For example, I always try to play a famous song from the place I’m playing. I was in Mexico, I played “Santana”. In Argentina, I tried to mix blues with “Tango”. In July I might go on tour to Europe. Who knows I can book some concerts in Greek and play some blues with Rebetiko! The themes of the lyrics are so similar! The same happened with blues and “Baião”, a Brazilian kind of music from my place (northeast of Brazil).

What do you love most about the act of music? Where does your creative drive come from?

The freedom of being myself and express my feelings. The creativity comes when I'm the zone, really living in the present moment.

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

Always be honest and always be yourself. That's what makes the blues real and authentic.

What has been the hardest obstacle for you to overcome as a person and as artist and has this helped you become a better blues musician?

When I started meditation 3 years ago I realized that the hardest obstacle was my mind. Too much thinking can really ruin things. So, when I learned to relax and to be in the moment, my playing, singing and understanding of music as an expression, an art, got much better.  

Which is the most interesting period in your life? Which was the best and highlight moment of your career?

The most interesting period is always “now”. We are always thinking that the past was better than the present and always wondering how the future will be. So, I try to enjoy the present, because life’s running so fast. I guess the best moment of my career was when I played the open acts of Buddy Guy’s South America Tour in 2012. I played in São Paulo and in Rio de Janeiro. It was amazing! I love Buddy Guy’s style. I had the great chance to play with him in a JAM Session on his club (Buddy Guys’ Legends, Chicago) in 2011. Then, one year later, the open acts in Brazil. I’ve been listening Buddy Guy’s music since I was 11.

"When I started meditation 3 years ago I realized that the hardest obstacle was my mind. Too much thinking can really ruin things. So, when I learned to relax and to be in the moment, my playing, singing and understanding of music as an expression, an art, got much better." (Photo by Jacki Sackheim)

Why did you think that the Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following?

Because blues is made with soul, love and anger at the same time. And It’s truthful. People identify with something truthful. And of course, it’s so good to listening to!

How do you describe your 4th album's sound and songbook? What characterize album's philosophy?

This album is the most special one. It's the first album that has someone else besides me producing. I had the honor to have Josh Smith doing this. He's one of the best guitarists in the world and one of my favorites. Also a great friend. It's also my debut album in US. I mode here about a year and a half ago. For this record I have 10 songs, all originals. They have some traditional vibe going on, but it's modern too. But super bluesy! Vintage tones and great arrangements and sound.

Are there any memories from KEEP PUSHING studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Josh Smith, who produces the album, plays 13 gauge strings on his guitar. And he doesn't even tune half step below. Which means the tension on his guitars are super heavy! He wasn't happy with the tone in one of the songs and he made me record with one of his guitars. Man, it was tough!! Hahaha

Are there any memories from Kingston Mines, B.L.U.E.S, Rosa’s, and Katherina’s which you’d like to share with us?

Absolutely! I had the best time of my life when I was in Chicago. I was going to JAM Sessions and sitting in with some bands almost every night. I was already a professional musician in Brazil, playing blues actually. But in Chicago I improved a lot. The biggest moment besided many for me was when Buddy Guy joined me on stage when I was jamming in his club "Buddy Guy's Legends".

"I believe the blues will never die. It’s cyclic. Sometimes the blues is on mainstream, most of times on underground." (Photo: Artur Menenez jammin' on stage of B.L.U.E.S in Chicago)

What has made you laugh and what touched (emotionally) you from your experiences at IBC in Memphis?

I cried (a lot!) when they announced that I won the "Albert King Award" for Best Guitarist and cried again with the 3rd place for the band. It was a recognition of many years of hard working and passion dedicated to the Blues. I laughed (a lot!) with my band mates. It was the first experience on the road with my new band here in US. My bass player, Gui Bodi, is so funny!

You're one of the founders of the society “Casa do Blues”, what were the reasons that you started it?

We started this society in Brazil called "Casa do Blues" - means House of the Blues - years ago in my hometown. It was a reunion with members from some blues bands there with the purpose of creating a better scene for the genre. We made everything super professional and we got sponsorship from companies and government. So, with that money and exposure, we were promoting free blues concerts all over. Also workshops and music lessons. All about the Blues.

What are some of the most memorable gigs and jams you've had? Which memory makes you smile?

For sure, the most memorable was when I played with Buddy Guy. Another one was when I went to Chicago for the first time. I didn’t speak almost anything in English! And I went to a JAM Session at B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted. Someone said “Messin With The Kid”. I knew the song and I understand it. Then I asked “What’s the Key?” Someone answered “C!”. “C”sounds like “see”, right? “See” sounds like “Si”in Portuguese. “Si” is the key of “B”. So, “one, two, you know what to do!”And then everybody played the riff of the intro in C and I played in B! Hahahah! It was hilarious!

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice ever given you?

I met great bluesmen in US and in Brazil (sometimes I’m playing as a host band for foreign blues artists here) and many of them always said: be yourself! Don’t be afraid to take risks and act naturally.

What's been your experience from USA? Are there any memories which you’d like to share with us?

It was the best time of my past ever. I used to play every night in JAM Sessions, as a guest or with some bands (for example, The Shakes Blues Band from Chicago). Of course they were not only musical experiences. I had the great opportunity to know different cultures and to learn how to manage by myself. One of the greatest experiences was when I went to Trinity Church to see the choir singing.

"Rock came first when I was a child and trying to copy my older brother. Nowadays it sharps part of my sound. But the Blues is what moves me! Blues brought me where I am now. All my decisions were made based on this amazing genre."

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

The true. Many musicians try to sound bluesy, but they forget the most important: feel the blues. So, it becomes something mechanical the most of times.

I believe the blues will never die. It’s cyclic. Sometimes the blues is on mainstream, most of times on underground. I like what modern blues artists such Gary Clark Jr, John Mayer and Jonny Lang are doing. They play something modern, pop, but always putting some blues sauce. This way, people that don’t know about the blues can be introduced to it.

Make an account of the case of Brazilian scene. What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues from US to Brazil?

Well, we got a big Rock scene around here. Rock is son of the blues. So, we owe a lot to blues. Nowadays, the blues scene is growing back. There are many blues festivals in Brazil. Some cities have radio programs, some schools teach the blues to heir students.

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the local blues circuits?

Well, to be honest, we don’t have great blues singers. Recently we lost a great one, Ricardo Werther. He was fantastic. But we have great guitar players and great harp players.

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

I would change the music media. TV and Radio are killing the good taste! People has not a bad taste, they just don’t have the opportunity to know good music. Of course, taste is so personal. But I’m talking about music that is not played with instruments or music that talks about bad things, dirty things, violence, drugs...

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

Blues was a driving force helping the Civil Rights Movement. It brought together everyone and showed that we are all the same. Also, the Blues is the foundation of the American music. We wouldn't have Jazz, Funk, Soul, Rock etc without the Blues.

"I met great bluesmen in US and in Brazil (sometimes I’m playing as a host band for foreign blues artists here) and many of them always said: be yourself! Don’t be afraid to take risks and act naturally." (Photo by Mike Merlo)

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

England. Don’t know for sure the date, but I guess it was about 1967/68. I would like to be with Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page when they saw Hendrix playing for the first time.

Artur Menenez - official website

Views: 950

Comments are closed for this blog post

social media

Members

© 2018   Created by Michael Limnios Blues Network.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service