Interview with singer/songwriter Jim Boyd -- strongly influenced by Blues, Americana, and Southern Rock

"I miss the free form music and colorful lyrics of the old Delta and other styles of roots Blues."

Jim “Poppy” Boyd: The Generation Bridge

Jim Boyd was born in 1942, veteran of 50 plus years of songwriting and performing across genre music on 4 albums to date. Independent self-published songwriter. Compositions that fall in the Americana, Blues, Country, Southern Rock, Alternate Grass vibe also range from humorous to serious social commentary tunes that are generally the musical and lyrical memoirs of an old man with a jones for sharing what he has learned. Jim became a husband, father, grandfather, was an educator for more than 40 years, and co-owned a guitar sales and repair shop. He was strongly influenced by many styles of music. Early influences include Bill Monroe, Hank Williams, Ray Price, The Staple Singers, The Clovers, Big Mama Thornton, and Muddy Waters to name only a few. As a teenager, Poppy discovered Auburn Avenue, the music mecca in Atlanta. There he came into contact with some of the Blues and R&B greats of that era; Bobby “Blue” Bland (who helped him place a song with Duke Records in 1962), a quite young Gladys Knight, B. B. King (who invited him to breakfast), Sam Cooke, and John Lee Hooker (who played a high school event).

Another music milestone for Boyd came with his involvement with the Songwriter’s Soul Kitchen, a collective of writers, producers, players, and performers who join efforts to hone their craft and provide mutual support. There he found a music family, learned to create collaboratively, and made friends that are involved now in his current projects. Although singer songwriter Jim “Poppy” Boyd has written songs for most of his 72 years, he only got serious about recording his music more recently. His first album, completed while he sang and wrote for The DaddyO’s Band, was released in 2007. Three more; “So Far, So Good”, “Outta Whack or Crazy”, and “A Cup Half Full Of Twang”; Have been completed in the last 3 years. Also, in 2012, a collaborative collection of lullabies called “Poppy Sangs”, featuring Jim as writer of 3 of the songs and primary vocalist for all, was nominated for a Grammy for Best Children’s Album. Poppy is currently working with a new performing group (The Generation Bridge Band), singing in that band with his daughter Amelia.

Interview by Michael Limnios

When was your first desire to become involved with music?

I cannot give an exact age, but I’m guessing 3 or 4. My mother, who listened to classical on an old cabinet radio (before the advent of television), says that I turned the dials and found a Black Gospel and early (mid 40s) R&B / Blues station and started to dance. It was love at first hearing, and it stuck.

Is easier to write and play the blues as you get older?

Yes, in general, most things are easier as I get older. Where my song writing and music are concerned it is even more so. The experience and knowledge about life that you gain as you age are a key to what you want to say and play. For me it is about keeping it real, and in most instances positive and hopeful. In my most recent music, I have begun to explore social commentary…to put some wake up calls and lesson songs out there…some different points of view.

"My songbook is about my life and what I see in the world as I watch it played out every day, about feelings, sometimes about hurt, and about connecting with people who connect to the songs in a personal way. I celebrate the fact that my songs may mean different things to different people."

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

From my music and that of others, I have learned that a lot of what I thought was important to me is not so important after all. Blues as a music form is often about learning, sometimes with ease and other times the hard way, what to do and what not to do in this life. For my music to help others see that and to do someone some good…to connect…is a goal for me at this point in my life. Finally, my music gives me a way to share some joy, tell some stories, change some minds, and most simply…to make some folks smile, feel, or just wanna get up and dance is a big gift to me and the ones I share it with. It gives me something to share!

How do you describe Dr. DaddyO sound and songbook?

I am drawn to upbeat, dance tunes that give us as players and others as listeners energy and that sense of being swept up in it with us, and even our slower tunes can have that effect…can invite people in. I think inviting is the key word…like asking everyone to be in the band with us. That is what we want our sound to be, and when it happens best, it happens for all of us. My catalog of songs is almost exclusively based in stories and experiences that I have lived first hand or have directly observed someone else go through. My songbook is about my life and what I see in the world as I watch it played out every day, about feelings, sometimes about hurt, and about connecting with people who connect to the songs in a personal way. I celebrate the fact that my songs may mean different things to different people. I believe that is how it should be at its best!

What characterize your music philosophy?         (Photo: The DaddyO’s Band)

If by philosophy you include purpose and meaning in my music, phrases like; reflecting the musical roots and influences that got me to where I am, honoring those who encouraged me and brought me along, recognizing the diverse and rich history that I am trying to represent, and carrying on a tradition of being true to life come to mind. More simply said, giving credit where credit is due captures the meaning I strive to bring to my music. Maintaining and contributing to Blues as a part culture also draws me to do what I do. I believe that all music is an art form, a means of communication, a teaching tool, and a for change…for doing good.

What were the reasons that your generation started the Blues/ Folk / Rock searches and experiments?

I’m not sure I can speak of others here, but for me, the music I found as a child was infectious and habit forming. I got hooked! I was certainly after the feeling of the music, the connection to others that it provided, the meaning that I found in lyrics that spoke to real life and everyday people, and the family of musicians and fans that I became a part of. It is still that way today. I continue to search, at age 72, for new music and musicians to learn from and share with. I am still in Blues school!

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

I am beginning to feel like my answers overlap and repeat, but certainly because of the very nature of Blues music as an art form; its true to life nature, how it paints pictures with words and melodies that we may not have directly experienced but can connect to and understand. To me, being told the truth is important and feels good. That’s what this music does. It feels good and real! In this modern world, with so much smoke and mirrors, we can feel grounded and find kinship with others who feel in too.

"That the music industry in general would reward true art and not just commercial appeal, treat artists fairly, and provide supports for aging players." (Photo: Jim Boyd & The Mixed Bag Band)

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you?

Without a doubt, meeting up with and making music with the musicians that I have been involved with for the past few years has to rank at the top. I had been asked by my children to create an anthology of my music, 55 years plus of songwriting and performing, and for 3 years now we have been in the studio; reviving; salvaging, remaking, remixing, and most importantly, writing and recording new music. The musician group, The Mixed Bag Band, has developed an incredible musical chemistry and feel for this music that WE are doing together. It’s a team thing, and for a man my age, a man who has played with lots of folks, this is a “dream come true” development. We all have a role to play, and together we are better. I’m one lucky old man!

What is the best advice ever given you?

Hands down, it was “don’t whine”! My friend Vinx… who has played with Taj Mahal, Stevie Wonder, etc….said this in relation to the music industry. He also said that if it’s not what we want it to be, then let’s work to change it; but the biggest point was that we should just keep on doing what we do without apology, to bring it and share it, and if rich and famous (grin) is meant to be, that will take care of itself. I am lucky, again, to be able to do music as a way of life and not a way to buy groceries.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Early in our current band process in the studio, my friend Bryan Carter, amazing multi instrumentalist and produces said to me that he was hearing some banjo in a tune I had pegged as more traditionally electric blues. Having learned to trust his instinct, we tried it, and two bars in it was obviously so right it was perfect. The song went acoustic slide with a touch of roots country blues, and I still feel it’s one of our best. The lesson is to never rule anything out of a song ‘til you try it.

"The experience and knowledge about life that you gain as you age are a key to what you want to say and play. For me it is about keeping it real, and in most instances positive and hopeful.

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

I miss the free form music and colorful lyrics of the old Delta and other styles of roots Blues. I sometimes try to go back there as best I can.

I would like to see more effort being made to bring young players along as Blues musicians, through scholarships and support for learning opportunities, workshops, schools teaching the history of blues music and musicians, etc.

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

In a co-write project with my friend Mark Lyle (also in the band), these words emerged in a tune called “Don’t Get All Beside Yourself”.

Don’t get all beside yourself / It ain’t serious as all that

People gonna love you no matter what / Long, lean, short or fat

Don’t worry ‘bout it baby / Don’t pay it no more mind

Don’t get all beside yourself / And get ahead of your behind!

It’s in production now and we still laugh every time it plays!

On the touched emotionally side of the thing, playing a memorial set for Mark “DaddyO” Agababian, co-founder of The DaddyO’s Band was difficult for us all to do and brought tears. It spite of that, however, we could feel him on that stage when we played the tunes he had played with us so many times.

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

That the music industry in general would reward true art and not just commercial appeal, treat artists fairly, and provide supports for aging players.

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

Maybe I’d go back to the old blues road houses of the 40s and 50s, to black and country churches with gospel groups, and to the cities where electric Blue took hold. I’d like to tell those folks who first plowed the ground of this music about how it laid the foundation for so much of what followed. So much of the good music of today grew from those roots! I bet they’d be proud to know.

Jim "Poppy" Boyd - Home

 

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