Interview with Spanish roots duo of Sara Gee & Ramblin Matt - Mediterranean salt in Mississippi river

"My fear for the future is that humanity keep on being such an egoistic and keep on destroying the planet and then we don't have blues, no trees, no water and no animals..."

Sara Gee & Ramblin Matt: Riu Túria Blues

Mateo Garcia, aka Ramblin Matt was born in Valencia, Spain. Delta Blues, Rockabilly and C&W are the genres that he favors, alone or with his different bands since the 80s in Spain, 90s in the US (Chicago, L.A.) and between 2006 and 2013 in London, UK. His current project along Sara Gee has produced the album The Heroin Dress (2013). Sara Gee is a Spanish singer, composer and also finished a degree in Drama and Art. She started to play guitar and write songs in the years that she resided in the paradise island of Formentera, inspired and tought by her mentor Erik Doornweerd, a fine, talented musician that has been a main part of the music scene there since his arrival as a young hippie in the 60s.

Singer and guitar player, MATEO "RAMBLIN MATT" GARCIA started playing in Rockabilly bands in the early 80s, such as Dalton Brothers and Ruzafa´s Incorregibles. He moved for 6 years to the US during which he lived in Chicago for three years and made two trips to Mississippi backpack and guitar in hand, meeting and sharing music with local players. Formed Blackmailers along his old time friend Silver Borras when he returned to Spain in 1998 until 2000. In 2006 after 2 years spent as a Bar manager in Zanzibar Island he decide to move to England where he studied a 3 year degree in Music Theory, Harmony and Composition at CityLit College. There he stayed until he moved back to Valencia and met Sara in June 2013, playing extensively through the UK with his vintage Rockabilly trio, Los Jailbreakers, as a solitary act or with The Ramblin Matt Trio. Duo's new release "Rambler's Romance" is a studio album with thunder and lightning, Outlaw Country, Memphis Rockabilly, Delta Blues, Southern melodies and much, much more.

Interview by Michael Limnios

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

Sara: It’s very difficult for me to answer this question, I don't know what I can learn about myself from the blues, I am still trying to learn how to play and sing the blues. A question like this I would need to think over for a LONG while before I can answer it with some real meaning. But if you ask me about the meaning of the blues for me, Sara Gee, it means to take all my feelings and pain and wishes and love and fear and sing them to the world to bring them out of my body and bones and set myself a little more free of this emotions.

Matt: From the blues I learn how to express myself in the world. I'm only good with words if I sing of write them; I'm not good at talking. The blues means to me the ground over which all my musical education is based on, something that I can always recur to if I'm sad or glad and I wanna tell a story.

The best advice ever given to me? "Drop that pussy ass pick an use yer thumb and fingers, white boy!"

How do you describe your sound and songbook? What characterize your music philosophy?

Sara: Me, Sara alone, is like the voice of my soul, for the band Together I find it real and powerful, dusty and vintage. It has to see with the fact that our influences are coming from different styles (country, blues, rock n’ roll, reggae, punk, jazz) music from a very different periods (from 20s till the actual times) and different artists... for to name some Robert Johnson, Hank Williams, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, J.J. Cale, Big Mama Thornton, Norah Jones if you put all together in a mixer, you add some Spanish salt from the Mediterranean Sea will come out Sara Gee and the Ramblers....but at the end of the day they all started at the same point when the blues was born. I don't know...I play my music everywhere I can???!!

Matt: I like to sound raw and basic, I play electric guitar in my band shows most of the time but where my passion lies is on acoustic blues, I use very thick strings (0.18 in my resonator and 0.14 for acoustic, electric I load 0.12 / 0.13 usually) and rarely use a pick, I like to play with or without slide in Open G, Open D, Open E and Open D minor (Bentonia tuning used by Skip James). My songbook would include for sure any blues or ragtime picker from the 20s and 30s, Django Reinhardt, Roosevelt Sykes, Scott Joplin....so many! My philosophy is based in respect and love, do what you do with a passion. Special mention to my good friend Silver who thought me a lot about looking after your spirit and for being my main influence as how to approach and play the blues.

Why did you think that the Blues & Rock n’ Roll culture continues to generate such a devoted following?

Sara: Because there are always "sinning Souls" that need to be shaken.

Matt: Because it hits directly in our most basic instincts, sound and sight. We love what we hear, what the artists wear and do, when you're young and rock and roll hits you there's nothing like it.

"The blues means to me the ground over which all my musical education is based on, something that I can always recur to if I'm sad or glad and I wanna tell a story."

Are there any memories from gigs, jams and recording time which you’d like to share with us?

Sara: The first time I received my first "singing class", in the actors’ school, when the teacher told me to sing a song, and after a few seconds listening she reacted like "you better shut up, you can't open your mouth!!" (was "Give One Reason" by Tracy Chapman.)

And the first time I saw my very good friend Erik playing his Dobro guitar in Formentera and I came to ask him to teach me some of his magic and he reacted like..."oh another one who wants to learn to play guitar, but after a few tries for sure you will be already tired!!! 

Matt: There are so many...good times in the USA attending Buddy Guy's hosted jams in his legendary Legend's Club, in Chicago, playing the 100 Club in London and having Mick Taylor coming up on stage with us was a blast...I've shared stages with quite a few of my idols, I'm pleased with a few things I've done, yeah.

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

Matt: In Chicago I met quite a few musicians, but the most influential teachings happened in Mississippi, I made two trips downsouth with my backpack and my guitar and spent some time near Clarksdale, route 49 and 61, Memphis...met lots of great local people, stayed in their houses, shared food and drinks and music with them in the warm Mississippi summer nights and learnt a shitload of blues too!

The best advice ever given to me? "Drop that pussy ass pick an use yer thumb and fingers, white boy!"

"Because it hits directly in our most basic instincts, sound and sight. We love what we hear, what the artists wear and do, when you're young and rock and roll hits you there's nothing like it."

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

Sara: If you mean "the past" talking about blues, what it comes directly in my mind are the Roots, the beginning of the blues for what I know about (because of some information, books and movies etc…) I also miss the social protest component in music. I hope that it can help us to go happier through the hard times that we have to live now in these days...I would love to see every day of the week a lot of people in the street, in the clubs, listening to live music, having fun...

My fear for the future is that humanity keep on being such an egoistic and keep on destroying the planet and then we don't have blues, no trees, no water and no animals....

Matt: I don't miss anything from the past, and I don't worry a flying hot damn about the future. I live for today, loving and respecting and hoping to be loved and respected.

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

Sara: I will just love that Mateo was a little less stubborn...

Matt: Musicians would receive fair payment for their art. And guitars would be free!

Make an account of the case of the blues in Spain. What are the lines that connect the Blues from US to Spain?

Sara: The blues in Spain in this moment as a business is not the best you can do, on the other hand we have a lot of reasons here now to sing and play the blues, but the problem for the music to get to the inside of people, of the public here will be the language. I think it would have hundreds of more fans if people could really understand some of the words.

I think the lines are the ones that you make yourself personally to connect, you discover an artist you like, start to follow and see from where it come, and then from who this artist learned the things he or she do and one thing bring you to the other, in my case was like traveling step by step to the past, and one, always bring you to another, now in this days with Internet this is wonderful, is a dream in our hands.

And well, although when is not a real connection but, love to connect the intensity of a flamenco or a blues singer, the expressions of the face, the meaning of what you are singing...and see that actually is just the same work...the expression of a soul.

Matt: I can't really tell much because I've been for the last 20 years out of Spain until I returned in June last year when I met sweet Sara and we formed The Ramblers. For what I see in Valencia, there are quite a few gifted musicians in town but the musicians’ life is not a rewarding one, lots of fighting for the cash, everybody wanting to make an easy buck but between us, musicians there's a good-polite in some cases relationship among us. Something I don't like much is the lack of self-penned material in the Blues scene.

From the musical point of view what are the differences between American, British and Spanish scene?

Matt: America is the cradle of the Blues...

UK scene is very polluted by Clapton's imitators...

Spain is Spain and you never know what you're gonna find.

The scene in the US is huge basically and there's always a joint to play if you're good and trust your act, the UK and Spain scene is quite the same, lots of so called "promoters" that promote no shit at all, musicians having to pay to play, ridiculous fees....times they're a changing and musicians have to adapt to it...

"My philosophy is based in respect and love, do what you do with a passion. Special mention to my good friend Silver who thought me a lot about looking after your spirit and for being my main influence as how to approach and play the blues."

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

Sara: Emotionally, the fast and positive reaction of my colegas when Mateo and I decided to organize a special day to collect money and stuff for a friend who lives in Africa ,and is helping some children who were soldiers or had strong problems with alcohol, aids, and all type of problems, to build their lives again. A lot of musicians wanted to help and play this day for free just to help. Make me laugh...

Matt: It makes me smile constantly and never fails to when I'm playing our music with sweet Sara. It has touched my heart to see how the music community has offered their free services to celebrate a charity event in favour of a friend who runs a house for youth in Yvory Coast, Africa. Everyone jumped right on to help in exchange of nothing.

What does to be a female artist in a “Man World” as James Brown says? What is the status of women in Blues?

Sara: I love a man, so for me is OK to be around them.

I think in this days If you are good with your instrument doesn't matter if you are man or woman,you are good and everybody will appreciate it. It's also true that because there are less woman playing guitars and other instruments in blues scene, is a little special to hear a nice and rockin solo being played by a woman. Well at least for me, it gives me directly the feeling like...oh yeah you see, we also can do that..!! I feel that many times with Bonnie Raitt, what a feeling must be to be a woman playing like that, what a freedom! I always felt very very well between musicians, and was never a problem the fact that I am a woman, maybe If found problems was more because there are  always some idiots and assholes everywhere.

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

Sara: …for a whole day...24 hours and the dream is over...like Cinderella, mmmm. I suppose that I'd have enjoyed very much to be a part of any historic party, session recording or shindig of Big Mama Thornton, Bessie Smith....

Matt: A whole day.... mmmm..... I'd live to have been there with Sonny Boy, Honeyboy Edwards and all them Cats the night that Robert Johnson was killed in that juke joint by being given poisoned whiskey. I'd have saved his fucking life so he could have continued giving us his music.

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