Q&A with blues/rock guitarist Jeff Fetterman - aggressive style of playing is both passionate and heart-felt.

"I want my music to impact people emotionally, I want to get into their soul, I want to be in their heart and in their emotions, I want to connect with them physically and emotionally, I want them to be a part of my show and feel like they are close with the band. I want to connect with them like they know us personally."

Jeff Fetterman: Southern Son

Jeff Fetterman delivers the promise to keep the blues alive and well. Jeff is a self-taught blues/rock guitarist influenced by Jimi Hendrix, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Jimmy Page. He incorporates their style into his own and plays with a fiery passion that has earned him the nickname “Boss of the Blues.”Jeff’s aggressive style of playing is both passionate and heart-felt. He blends the genres of rock and roll, blues, Motown, and funk, molding them together to create his own driving sound on the guitar. His vocals are gritty and solid, giving his lyrics meaning beyond the paper. Jeff's 2017 album 9 Miles to Nowhere was named the Best Self-Produced CD by the Blues Society of Western PA and forwarded to the IBC. The album was also named the 2017 Album of Year by the Rock Erie Music Awards (REMAs) in PA. The Jeff Fetterman Band was also named the 2017 Best Blues Band of the Year at the REMAs. His 2016 release Bottle Full of Blues is still receiving critical acclaim both in the US and the UK. The album was also named the Best Self-Produced CD in 2016 by the Billtown Blues Society of Williamsport, PA and forwarded to IBC’s.              (Jeff Fetterman / Photo by Elisa Bower)

Jeff has a three-song publishing deal with Transition Music in California, which placed the songs in film and television such as NBC’s The Passions, TNT’s The Closer and the Spanish film The Tough Guy as well as in Ford auto commercials. Jeff has toured the States relentlessly and has done shows with Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Ana Popovic, Mato Nanji & Indigenous, Joe Louis Walker, Jimmy Vaughan, Stephen Stills, Samantha Fish, .38 Special, Molly Hatchet, Jimmy Thackery, Chris Duarte, and numerous others. His new album Southern Son (2020) has been a project in the making for the past two years, coming together in California at Greaseland Studios working with Kristoffer “Kid” Andersen, established producer and guitarist for Rick Estrin and the Nightcats. Rising blues guitarist-vocalist Jeff Fetterman and band finally embark on their long-awaited "Southern Son/Tour '21," in support of his most recent album.

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 music have influenced me heavily. I've come to find that no matter where we come from or where we are going or have been, we all have 1 thing in common, we all love and need music in our lives. It makes us happy, it makes us sad, it makes us full of energy, it can make us have drive and determination, it is a driven force.

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

I would best describe my music as blues rock, more classic rock with heavy blues influence as I grew up listening to bands like Zeppelin, Hendrix, Allman Brothers and others. I am influenced by Springsteen, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray, Kenny Wayne Shepherd etc. My creative drive comes from wanting to break out of the norm in which most people live, I want to be different, I want to be brave enough to dare to be myself and what I feel inside. I watch people and observe people and their behaviors and I use that as ideas in songwriting. I want to connect to people's emotions.

How do you think that you have grown as an artist since you first started making music?

I've grown a lot since first starting to play. I've learned to respect the music and know that the music must always come first. You play for the music, to make it the best you can, It's not about ego. I've grown as a songwriter and as a player both.

"I want them to take away an experience, I want them to feel that they were part of the story in the song, I want them to be able to relate to what I write, I want them to feel they are a part of me.  I want them to leave happy and wanting to come back again and see the show and hear the music again." (Jeff Fetterman / Photo by Elisa Bower)

What has remained the same about your music-making process?

The way I write is always the same, It may start out as a riff or progression that I come up with while playing at home or it may start with a lyric that comes to my head. Either way it is a piece of a puzzle and then I try to get other pieces to fit that piece and put it together until it fits. I also always use imagery in my writing process. I am a big movie watcher and am always imagining scenes of a movie in my mind and try to come up with something that I could hear fitting a scene in a movie.

How do you describe the "Southern Son" sound and songbook?

I would describe it as blues, rock, gospel, soul, R&B and funk rolled into one. It's hard to describe what a certain sound is or how I sound. I like to say that it is best demonstrated and to let the listener decide. But my music and DSouthern son both touch on all subjects of music that has influenced me, which is blues, rock, funk, soul, R&B .

What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?

I want them to take away an experience, I want them to feel that they were part of the story in the song, I want them to be able to relate to what I write, I want them to feel they are a part of me.  I want them to leave happy and wanting to come back again and see the show and hear the music again.

Do you have any more interesting stories about the making of the new album "Southern Son"?

Southern son was a 2.5-year writing project. I try not to rush songs just to have something to release. The music has to have meaning to me before I will even consider letting the public hear it. All my music is based on truth, whether full truth, half-truth, or partial truth. There is a true story in every song I have written, whether it be a single line, or the whole song, the subject has actually happened, or I want it to happen personally.  Names of people in my songs are based on real people I know, I only change their name to protect them, I need to write about those things to express my feelings or to get release from an emotion they have made me feel.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?                   (Jeff Fetterman / Photo by Elisa Bower)

Meeting a lot of the musicians I've always admired and having the chance to support them as an opening act on their shows has been very important to me. It has shown me that you have to be professional, yet lax enough to entertain, and most of all realize that the heroes you often dreamed of meeting are just like you with a great job. The best advice I ever received was to just be myself, dare to be yourself, don't follow the in crowd to be popular, do your own thing and your true self will eventually reveal itself, and to work hard for what you want. Nothing comes easy but if you work hard enough the rewards will come. It takes time and will come at the right time.

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

When I was younger in my very first traveling band with my best buddies we would travel everywhere. It was a great experience and we formed a great bond as friends. We were in our youth and it was some of the best times of my life. I'm still very close friends with those guys to this day. My best experience for me professionally as I started to be a support act for the nationals was finally getting to meet Kenny Wayne Shepherd and playing on a show with him. I've done a handful of shows with him and have gotten to know him personally and it's an honor to hang with him and visit with him when were in the same vicinity.

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

I miss the crowds from years ago for live music. 25 years ago, every club and venue was jam packed. It's much tougher this day and age to pack a club. The younger generation seems to like the techno clubs more than seeing a live band. I hope eventually that the music scene will recover and return to the way it was before covid, and I'm afraid that because of covid, it may change how music will be presented in the future.

What would you say characterizes Pennsylvania's blues scene in comparison to other local US scenes and circuits?

Pennsylvania is a very rural state and where I live, in the northwestern part, is very tough to be a live band in, there are many cover bands and not enough original acts in my opinion. There are a few hubs that are good but still not as great as they used to be such as Philly, Pittsburgh, Lancaster etc.           (Jeff Fetterman / Photo by Elisa Bower)

"The way I write is always the same, It may start out as a riff or progression that I come up with while playing at home or it may start with a lyric that comes to my head. Either way it is a piece of a puzzle and then I try to get other pieces to fit that piece and put it together until it fits."

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

That it would be easier to make and establish connections. that People in the industry would be more open to lend a hand and give advice or help. Its a very hard business to try to break into and you can't do it alone. I've always tried to help people as much as I can. I also wish there weren't so many egos in this business. People need to stay humble, and remember who they are and where they came from. and to stay true to themselves. I have never forgotten who I am or how I grew up and I treat everybody with the same respect, whether its the janitor or the CEO of a company.  Respect each other.

What do you learn about yourself from the blues and what does "A Live Show" mean to you?

The blues has chosen me, I didn't choose it. It makes me feel that its ok to dare to be myself, to let my emotions out and to show how I really feel through my playing. A live show to me is the chance to show people who you really are, and to dare to be yourself. To let it all out for the world to see. You can't capture the magic of a live show in a studio, my best playing always comes at a live show, I love to interact with people and make them feel that they belong there with me in my world, and it's ok to be yourself, and not to worry what the outside world thinks about you. A live show captures the magic, even if its only for a short while, but it is a place that you will not want to leave, and you will always want to come back and visit again.

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

I want my music to impact people emotionally, I want to get into their soul, I want to be in their heart and in their emotions, I want to connect with them physically and emotionally, I want them to be a part of my show and feel like they are close with the band. I want to connect with them like they know us personally.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?                           (Jeff Fetterman / Photo by Elisa Bower)

That you need to show respect to everybody in the business. Nobody is better than the next person. Show respect to everybody from the opening act to the headliner down to the stage crew. Manners and courtesy go a long way in this business. Be polite and courteous. Help others out when you can because we're all in this together, Musicians are a brotherhood.

"The blues has chosen me, I didn't choose it. It makes me feel that its ok to dare to be myself, to let my emotions out and to show how I really feel through my playing."

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 I would like to go back to the '60s and see the most prominent and history making and legendary artists of the day. Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, most of the acts that played Woodstock. It was a time of peace among everybody, and sharing the love of music and becoming one. Although Vietnam was happening, musically it was very interesting, and things were changing.

Jeff Fetterman - Home

Jeff Fetterman Band/Southern Son Tour '21/Live Shows Itinerary 

July 3 (Sat.)                ALTERED STATE DISTILLERY           Erie PA

July 18 (Sun.)             PERFMG ARTS COLLECTIVE ALLIANCE   Erie PA

Aug. 7 (Sat.)              STRUTHERS LIBRARY THEATER          Warren PA

Aug. 12 (Thur.)          KETTLE CREEK MUSIC FEST               Crossforks PA

Aug. 13 (Fri.)             MUSIC IN THE PARK                          Warren PA

Aug. 14 (Sat.)            PORT ALLEGHENY CLAMBAKE           Allegheny PA

Aug. 21 (Sat.)            JAMEYS HOUSE OF MUSIC                 Lansdowne PA

Aug. 25 (Wed.)          WATKINS GLENN SUMMER CONCERT SERIES    Watkins Glenn NY

Aug. 26 (Thur.)         BISON BEER CONCERT SERIES            Waterford PA

Aug. 27 (Fri.)            ROOM 33 SPEAKEASY                        Erie PA

Sept. 5 (Sun.)            PITTSBURGH BLUES CHALLENGE        Pittsburgh PA

Sept. 11 (Sat.)           RIVERSIDE BREWING CO.                   Cambridge Sprgs PA

Sept. 18 (Sat.)           ALTERED STATE DISTILLERY              Erie PA

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