Q&A with Argentina-born musician Federico Verteramo, shared the stage with prominent musicians of the international Blues circuit

"I think music is one of the most equalizing things in this unfair world. I just hope that my music, and music in general, can make as many people as possible happy. And the best thing that can happen: inspire someone to do something, to say something. Give a message and have someone to receive and interpret it in his own way."

Federico Verteramo: The Blues Is Alright

Federico Verteramo is a young Blues musician born in Buenos Aires, Argentina who since 2013 has carried out his solo project as a singer and guitarist, with two albums released. Providing an electric Blues show with the guitar as the main condiment, as well as collaborating with prominent musicians of the international Blues circuit, he has toured in more than 15 countries. He started as a guitarist in Los Huesos de Gato Negro in 2007 and since then he has worked with a large number of Blues artists from Argentina and abroad. In 2013, he began his solo career when he was invited to participate in the album “5 guitars de Blues”, produced by the association “Blues en Movimiento”. In2019 began with presentations in Mexico City, continued with a 60-day tour in Europe and more than 40 shows distributed in Austria, Germany, Belgium, Spain, France and Italy with Jorge Costales and in August continued with a tour in the state of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, where he gave 9 shows, including participation Blues Festivals Ibitipoca Blues and Blues na Floresta. Simultaneously in Buenos Aires the year was spent working with his project FV and The Downbeats.                                          Photo: Federico Verteramo

During the period of isolation inspiration has come. Homero Tolosa and Federico Verteramo, companions for years in different groups, materialized this spontaneous partnership to shape an EP titled “Lockdown at Home” (2020) with curious peculiarities. Composed of four original songs, the lyrics seek to portray the feelings that we experience during this period of quarantine. Recorded from home and with absolutely limited equipment, adding musicians to achieve a traditional band sound meant work that, technically, could not be carried out in a reasonable time. The inspiration for the search for sound and style came then from artists who throughout history have developed using only a guitar and drums: RL Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, Robert Belfour, representatives of the Mississippi Hill Country Blues, as well as also in more modern ones like The Black Keys, Jack White, Shawn Pittman and Cedric Burnside as well as in the sound of the Fat Possum label.

Interview by Michael Limnios

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

Blues and the profession of musician have been crucial in determining how I understand things today. Thanks to the Blues I traveled, and I got to know common places but also hidden places and you can meet real people, with different realities and experiences that allowed me to put many things in perspective. The simplicity of the genre, transferred to the different aspects of life is a great teaching that I appreciate.

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

I think my sound and style is simple and direct. My greatest sources of inspiration are the early Bluesman who electrified the style and those who developed the style a few years later on the guitar. My creativity is born from the need to express what happens to me. In this sense, it is interesting to think about how the composition or interpretations change depending on how one feels, the physical place in which you are, if you are working under pressure or calm.                            (Photo: Federico Verteramo & Tail Dragger)

"I think the show I most want to see is Elmore James. So, I would choose someday in 1959 in Chicago. Visit Chess Records during the day and maybe find Muddy Waters recording. Get out of there and find a Howlin Wolf show with Hubert Sumlin. Ending the night at an Elmore James show would be all for me."

Which meetings have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

The most important meetings have been with the musicians who, when I was launching, had already been there for 1 or 2 decades and they received me very well to transmit knowledge. Truly there are many to name, but it cannot fail to highlight Mauro Diana, Roberto Porzio, Junior Binzugna, Adrian Flores. This last, in addition to being a musician, is a producer who has been bringing Bluesmans for 30 years to South America.  It has given me the opportunity to play, tour and record records with Bluesmans like Rip Lee Pryor, Bob Stroger, Dave Riley and Tail Dragger. And was Tail Dragger who I remember when we were in a dressing room before a show: "Take it easy, like the tortle". I understand the message and how important it is to keep it in mind when interpreting the genre in the 21st century. Finally, Erik Trauner from the Mojo Blues Band from Austria, has been a great source of inspiration for me and a beacon of how to interpret the genre and to compose for someone who like him was born in Europe or like me in South America, where realities are completely different from African American in the 20th century.

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

I would like to share my most recent experience with you. In March I was about to start a two-month tour in Europe with more than 40 confirmed shows. Then I was moving to France. The Covid crisis arose and of course my plans were canceled, leaving Argentina. After the first quarantine I had a strong expressive need as I had rarely felt, and after making a video collaboration playing  duet from home with my colleague Homero Tolosa, drummer, we liked the result and decided to start composing music in that style: guitar, drums and vocals. Nothing else. For this we were inspired for weeks listening to Mississippi Hill Country Blues: RL Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, Robert Belfour, among others. In a few days we had composed 4 songs and we decided to record, each from his home an EP. The experience was incredible, we were able to express what we were feeling, at the same time we learned many things about recording and we were happy with the result. Today the EP is already uploaded to all digital platforms.

"Blues and the profession of musician have been crucial in determining how I understand things today. Thanks to the Blues I traveled, and I got to know common places but also hidden places and you can meet real people, with different realities and experiences that allowed me to put many things in perspective. The simplicity of the genre, transferred to the different aspects of life is a great teaching that I appreciate." (Federico Verteramo at Hall Blues Club, France / Photo by Jean-Philippe Porcherot)

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

I miss the great masters of the genre. I know that others will not come, and it is because we are in another time and space. However, I know that the genre is alive and that it will never die because when you start playing a shuffle for people who maybe in their life never even listen to BB King, and you see happiness in their faces or they start dancing. Well that's hope.

Make an account of the case of the blues in Argentina. Which is the most interesting period in local blues scene?

Argentina has a relatively long history with the Blues. In the 60s, at the same time that the English began to play it, the same thing was happening here but with the difference, determining for its worldwide non-diffusion, that it was done in Spanish. (artists like Manal and Pappo, who in the 90's would have a highlight when invited by BB King to Madison Square Garden´gig). Then something unprecedented happened in the 90s: the most important figures of the genre begin to arrive, such as BB King, Albert Collins, Albert King, Taj Mahal, James Cotton, Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, but at the same time, Adrian Flores opened a blues club in Buenos Aires, where a once a month, a Chicago Bluesman brought to play the club from Friday to Sunday, but with the particularity that they traveled alone and were accompanied by local musicians. Thus, passed names such as Dave Myers, Hubert Sumlin, John Primer, Lurrie Bell, Billy Branch, among many others. This opportunity to play with them led many Argentine musicians to form deeply and firsthand in the genre. I was born in 1991, so I wasn't there in the 90s, but when I joined the scene in 2007, I met all the musicians who participated at that time and they are the ones who provided me with records, anecdotes, and of course teached me to play. Then over the years I would have my chance to live those kinds of experiences with Bluesmans.              (Federico Verteramo & Xime Monzon, Argentina / Photo by Flor D'Andrea)

"I think my sound and style is simple and direct. My greatest sources of inspiration are the early Bluesman who electrified the style and those who developed the style a few years later on the guitar. My creativity is born from the need to express what happens to me. In this sense, it is interesting to think about how the composition or interpretations change depending on how one feels, the physical place in which you are, if you are working under pressure or calm."

What are the differences between Argentinian, other Latin American (Mexico, Brazil) and European blues scenes?

I have shared stages with great musicians from Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and I can attest that there is a great scene in each of the countries, with highly developed musicians.  Regarding the scenes, I think that the differences are mostly in the structures to develop. Every time I go on tour to Brazil there is always at least one big festival on the agenda, with great stages and crowds. They can be Blues, Jazz or even beer or cars festivals, but the live music is there.  I think this, added to the fact that it occurs in all the states of the country and not only in its capital, is the biggest difference with the rest of the Latin American countries. In Argentina, and the times that I have gone to Chile, Uruguay, and Mexico the activity is mainly concentrated in the capitals and it is not common to find many great festivals.  I think that has a strong impact on the scenes, since festivals and that level of federalism allow professional development that in other cases is very difficult.

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

I think music is one of the most equalizing things in this unfair world. I just hope that my music, and music in general, can make as many people as possible happy. And the best thing that can happen: inspire someone to do something, to say something. Give a message and have someone to receive and interpret it in his own way.

Let's take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I think the show I most want to see is Elmore James. So, I would choose someday in 1959 in Chicago. Visit Chess Records during the day and maybe find Muddy Waters recording. Get out of there and find a Howlin Wolf show with Hubert Sumlin. Ending the night at an Elmore James show would be all for me.

Federico Verteramo - Home

Federico Verteramo / Photo by Ximena Schleh

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