Interview with Canadian artist Brandon Isaak - his music come from a traditional approach of blues

"The blues to me is just real peoples stories. It's not a sad thing or and she done me wrong thing. It's and I'm alive and this is life, the good with the bad."

Brandon Isaak: Here On (Blue) Earth

Brandon Isaak is a Canadian singer, guitarist and songwriter. What separates Brandon from the rest of the pack besides his world-class musicianship and songwriting is his ability to connect and involve the audience in his live shows. Brandon was just nominated by The 2013 Maple Blues Awards for Acoustic Act Of The Year and Song Writer Of The Year. He was nominated for Song Writer Of The Year by the 2010 M.B.A.'s. This honor recognized him as being one of Canada’s top songwriters. He was also one of Canada’s 13 artists picked to write a road song about their province / territory for the CBC’s, great Canadian Song Quest 2011.

Brandon's first solo album entitled; “Bluesman’s Plea” was nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award for Best Blues Album Of The Year. Brandon is also known as the front man and main songwriter/ guitar player for the Popular Canadian Jump band The Twisters based out of Vancouver, Canada. Over the years Brandon has had a chance to play with some of his favorite musicians and main influences, such as: Corey Harris, Guy Davis, Taj Mahal, Colin Linden, Harrison Kennedy, Serena Ryder, The Sojourners, Jim Byrnes, Jeff Healy, Joe Louis Walker, Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne, and Zora Young.

Brandon's affinity for the rawness and spontaneity of the blues is second to none, as anyone who has had the privilege of being a part of his audience will tell you. He brings a firebrand style of guitar as well as incredibly stirring vocals that truly has to be witnessed to be appreciated! He is VERY much in the moment as he rips it up, and we know you'll be impressed with the caliber of showmanship within his performance of songs & stories by this great Canadian artist. Brandon’s latest release, Here On Earth have some great guests: Keith Picot, Daniel Lapp, Andrea McColemen, Ed White, Chris Isaak (Brandon's brother) and a Yukon Raven named Bobo.

Interview by Michael Limnios          Photos by Christian Kuntz

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

I've learned a lot form the blues. Every night I sing about relationships and human interaction. I also get a chance to review how I handled things and how things turned out. The blues to me is just real peoples stories. It's not a sad thing or and she done me wrong thing. It's and I'm alive and this is life, the good with the bad.

How do you describe Brandon Isaak sound and progress, what characterize your music philosophy?

My sound, well I come from a traditional approach. I listen to all the old blues and folk music and aim my sites in that general direction. However, Robert Johnson and Son House were innovators and not trying to play the old traditional songs they grew up hearing and I feel we should have the same approach. Try to cut new ground, take the music somewhere it ain't been yet. I always have some drum machines and samples on my recording; I embrace the modern world and try to make music for a modern world.

"If I had a time machine, I'd go back and meet my great grandparents and long lost relations. Always want to get in touch with my roots and where I come from. I come from a long line of musicians and hard working farm folk."

What experiences in your life have triggered your ideas for songs most frequently?

Relationships have always been in the forefront of my writing. Mostly between man and woman, love, broken hearts, trust and true love. I think that's what most of the art in the world focuses on no matter what the medium. I also have read and studied different books on religion and spirituality and love to write about life and death. I do write my music in a traditional form influenced by the black southern style, but with modern twists and themes of reincarnation and life after death. I also like to write about everyday people on this path we call life. I've been writing more and more on individuals and the journey thought life.

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

Blues is truth, and there ain't no getting around it. As long as people want to hear the truth and realize they are not alone on life's journey or in a situation, the blues will be there. It's less popular these days due to younger generations expressing themselves and trying to find there own identity. But when these kids get in there 30/40's the blues will be there waiting for them like an old shoe. Put it on, and walk throughout life. The blues will never die, at least not while I'm alive.

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

Some gigs that are always interesting is when you are singing a song about love or lost love and you realize the very person you are singing about is sitting in row 3 watching you. You wonder if they realize you are singing about them. I often try to switch up the story line for that reason.  But sometimes there is no denying the truth. Some stories just tell them selfs and you can't really control them. I've had one ex-girlfriend stop talking to me for a year or so after she got my new record. I always change the names to protect the guilty.

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

Some great advice given to me as a young blooming artist was, "when in doubt layout". That has served me well over the years. Being true to yourself and writing about things you know is also great advice I'd been given by my father.

"Blues is truth, and there ain't no getting around it. As long as people want to hear the truth and realize they are not alone on life's journey or in a situation, the blues will be there."

Which memory from Taj Mahal, Jeff Healy, Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne and Zora Young makes you smile?

Going to Europe with Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne was my first trip over seas and I'll never forget it. I love the whole experience and when traveling with KW you get first class treatment and 5 star hotels. I loved when Kenny and Joe Louis Walker took me shopping in Paris, France. We all got great new clothes that day. Later I returned to Europe and toured with Joe Louis Walker. That was quite the trip. It ended with JLW and myself in a life and death fist fight in France and I ended up in a hospital in Paris for a few days. He's a thought man and a real price of work. But I learned valuable lessons about people and abusive treatment of other on that tour. I can't sit idle and watch people treat others like shit. I have to stand up for the rights of others not to mention my own rights. And if it means scraping with Joe Louis, so be it.

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

I just returned from a 3 week blues pilgrimage from Memphis to New Orleans. It was such a great tip. Magic really to see where this music was born and grew up. It seems there is some kind of electrical current that flows thought the ground there. It travels right up your legs passes thought your heart and cones out your soul. I never felt the blues and that energy so strong and now see why the music flows so freely there. I can't wait to return and get zapped again.  I returned with some of that energy still passing through my body and am a different player now. I find I'm a deeper player with a new sense of creativity and a unexplainable understandingly the blues style.

What are the differences between acoustic and electric blues? What are the secrets of acoustic folk style?

In never really got the acoustic blues until I started playing them. I grew up playing in bands and touring with 4 or 5 guys all the time. I thought electric blues was by far the way to go. Oh how things change. I now am so emerged in this old form of acoustic music there just ain't no going back. I still play electric gigs and perform with The Twisters. We'll be in China in September. But I feel hand cuffed and held back in some kind of jig or mould. There just ain't that freedom of expression one can do alone. Ever with a duo, you are subject to other whims and fancy. When you are solo, you go where you want, when you want, how you want. Change the key or groove or feel in the middle of a song. Stop playing and just float if you like. Hold chords and skip changes in a whim. It's the ultimate form of expression. I wish I found this long ago.

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

If I had a time machine, I'd go back and meet my great grandparents and long lost relations. Always want to get in touch with my roots and where I come from. I come from a long line of musicians and hard working farm folk. That's where I would want to go if I had a time machine.

Brandon Isaak - official website

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