Q&A with Canadian blues musician Jordan Patterson - sophisticated songs and refreshing blend of blues n' roll

"Proudly, blues music is the one style of music that has singlehandedly bridged the gap between people, places and politics from around the world."

Jordan Patterson: Back To The Groove

After spending nearly the last decade and a half forging a highly successful career in artist tour management and concert & event promotion, popular Canadian blues vocalist/harp player Jordan Patterson has returned to his first love and passion; playing and singing the blues. The success of Patterson’s 2014 four song EP release The Back On Track Recording Project has thrust this contemporary blues artist back in the spotlight, reigniting a successful and exciting career and marking the triumphant return of one of Canada’s most beloved blues artists. Patterson has perform at notable music festivals, at home and abroad. Patterson has also performed at venues throughout North America and Europe with some of the music industry’s true legends, including James Brown, Barbara Morrison, Carlos Santana, Fabulous Thunderbirds, Mick Fleetwood, Robert Cray, Son Seals, Savoy Brown and U.P. Wilson, with whom he recorded the album Whirlwind. The 2014 release of the The Back On Track Recording Project EP instantly raised Patterson’s profile within the Canadian and international blues community.

Now, Patterson is set to release the full-length Back On Track Recording Project (2016) with The Jordan Patterson Band, featuring drummer Benjamin Rollo, bass player Mark McIntyre, guitarist Darryl Romphf, Washington DC-based, guitarist Bobby Thompson alongside Patterson on vocals and harmonica. Renowned vocalist Skyler Jordan (aka Barbara Wilson) makes a guest appearance on two tracks, “You’re My Girl” and “Can We Fall In Love Again”. This tight, heavy line-up of stellar musicians add depth and groove to perfectly compliment Patterson’s smoky vocals. The album consists of 10 original songs all written by Patterson, showcasing his many musical influences including funk, rock, blues and soul. The CD is produced by the band’s guitarist Darryl Romphf. With six new tracks (Favourite Boy, Can We Fall In Love Again, She’s Cool, You’re My Girl, Living Without Your Love and Do You Believe) as well as remixed and mastered versions of the original four tracks from the EP (Play My Song, If You’d Help Me Please, Heartbreaker and Don’t Take Me Down), Patterson’s exceptional harmonica playing, sophisticated song writing and refreshing blend of rock n’ roll and blues are all highlighted throughout this highly anticipated release.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the Rock n’ Blues music and culture?

The importance of creating your own sound, and being something that people will be willing to pay to see happen.

What does the blues mean to you?

Blues music means accessibility and freedom to me. The people that surrounded me as a child didn’t really think I was going to do much with my life. And it was my sudden career with blues music that took me around the world. It not only took me around the world, but it exposed me to things that I never thought I would see.

How do you describe Jordan Patterson sound and songbook?

I’m absolutely in love with all styles of music especially Blues, Funk, Soul and Rock & Roll. So the music I write comes out with all these styles of music infused in its structure and sound. As my writing gets stronger and more describable in its sounds, my ultimate goal would be to recreate the modern day J. Geils Band.

What characterize your music philosophy?

There’s nothing better than a good groove. Write music that allows the listener to inject themselves in to the song.

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences?

The two most important relationships that happened in my musical life was meeting Glenn Smith, who owned blues clubs in Kitchener-Waterloo where I grew up, and becoming close friends with the great Bobby Parker (photo) when I moved to Washington DC. Glenn allowed me access to all his blues shows when I was in my early teens, he gave me the opportunity to meet and see world level artists in a club setting. Seeing these people live was the direct education I needed when it came to creating my own style of play later on in my life. Bobby Parker really took me under his wing when I moved to DC, he made time to take me around town and introduce me to all the various musicians and people in the DC scene. But most importantly Bobby helped shape my sound and approach to music by explaining the importance of songwriting and developing a strong beat or groove for the music to ride on. Bobby Parker also explained the importance of allowing my musical influence to shine in my music, Bobby told me it would pull people in and help them connect to my songs.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

When I worked for House of Blues Concerts, the senior Vice President was a man named Riley O’Conner, who has now become the Chairman of Live Nation. Riley once told me the importance of transitioning my business career through all aspects of the music/entertainment industry to ensure I was able to communicate effectively with the various people I would be working with. He explained the importance of being able to provide guidance through tangible experience and not being one of these people who gave guidance through something they assumed might happen. He explained the importance of giving guidance based on cause and effect, controlling the outcome and knowing the result before it happened.

Are there any memories from Carey Bell, Bobby Parker, and Bobby Rush, which you’d like to share with us?

Carey Bell and I knew each other from when I was a kid coming to see him play in my home town. It was really nice when we got reintroduced when I moved to Washington DC. Carey and I spent long hours together listening to music, playing harmonica and him telling me stories. I actually made the harmonica belt Carey used on stage in my shop class in high school. One day Carey and I were talking at my house in DC and I asked what happened to the belt he would normally wear on stage, he explained that the belt had been stolen some years earlier. It just happened that I had the belt I made wanting to be like him in my youth stuffed away in a trunk. I gave the belt to Carey which he wore on stage the remaining years of his career.

Like many others, Bobby Rush was one of my musical heroes in my youth. I loved Bobby’s music growing up, Bobby’s sound and approach to music was different than others. His song “Chicken Heads” was in high rotation on my home stereo in my bedroom as a kid. We became instant friends when I relocated to DC and was working for the agency that was booking his band in various markets across North America. Bobby Rush was actually the first person with any level of credibility to suggest I play music professionally. I can wholeheartedly say that I wouldn’t have considered playing music professionally if Bobby Rush hadn’t sat me down and discussed what he thought was my true calling in life. He said that I was wasting my time working as an agent and that he felt I had strong potential as an artist and that he felt I should really consider his advice. Bobby Rush was also one of the first people to actually talk to me about the business side of the industry, he was also one of the fist industry professionals to pay me a full commission for booking his band.

Bobby Parker told me once that he thought of me like a son, which made me feel incredibly important knowing the huge divide Bobby maintained between himself and a great majority of the people in his life. Bobby and I sat and talked for hours about the importance of musical influences and the ever-changing landscape of modern music. Bobby taught me how to pay respect and use those musical influence in the creation of my songs, while not stealing the music directly and creating an original sound for people to hear. Bobby also taught me the importance of songwriting and not being one of these artists that could only play a night of blues standards. Bobby told me once that it was great when people would say that you play like another artists, but it was most important that they never say that you sound like them. I really miss Bobby Parker.

"Blues music means accessibility and freedom to me. The people that surrounded me as a child didn’t really think I was going to do much with my life." (Photo: Jordan Patterson & Carey Bell)

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

I love that blues has really started to take shape from a place of business and forward progress in to the world of multimedia. However my hope is that the people in a place of strength will reach back and make the time to provide guidance to those artists in need of assistance. The business behind the foundation of blues music has always been lacking. Sadly there’s still not enough people with actual tangible proven experience willing to share their successes. However there’s an arrival of new talent management such as Jeff DeLia @ 72 Music Management that have the contemporary vision to take the music and artists we love to the next level.

What has been the hardest obstacle for you to overcome as a person and as artist and has this helped you become a better blues musician?

Being diagnosed with a form of ALS in mid-2010 absolutely changed my life. It made me reflect back on the how it was that I lived my life, it helped me define what was most important in my current life, and how it is that I was going to live my life moving forward. I promised myself that if I was ever welcomed back to the world of blues, that I wouldn’t take it for granted, and that I would become the ultimate best version of me ever. I want my music to have the same effect on my fans as the music I love so much has had on me.

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

The most amazing time for the local blues scene in my community is when Glenn Smith was producing blues concerts in his various clubs through the 1980’s & 90’s. Glenn was responsible for bringing artists such as Frank Frost, Buddy Guy, Big Twist & The Mellow Fellows, Koko Taylor, Angela Strehli, Johnny Adams, Marcia Ball, Delbert McClinton, Robert Cray and The T-Birds to name a few. I spent my youth going to blues concerts any night of the week, going to school the next day telling my friends about the artists I had seen the night before. Guitarist Mel Brown moved to my community on the suggestion of Glenn, which absolutely changed the KW blues music scene for ever.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues from United States and Europe to Canada and beyond?

The simple fact that we’ve all been influenced by the same musicians, bands and artists. The fact that music is on a global platform and is accessible to anyone that wants to hear true greatness.

"There’s nothing better than a good groove. Write music that allows the listener to inject themselves in to the song."

What has made you laugh from ‘Back On Track Recording Project’ sessions and what touched (emotionally) you?

I don’t speak music the same as most musicians. I’ve never been able to read or write music the same way that most musicians usually do. And because of this, Darryl Romphf would tell the people who played on the CD that I was going to hum what I needed to hear until I heard the musicians play it in the song. I’ve got a little recorder that I sing or hum my songs in to, to ensure that I don’t forget the various parts of the songs. So I’ve created the habit of humming the various parts of the songs until I hear them played by those I’m making music with, which in some cases can be frustrating for the musicians. I’m grateful to be back playing blues fulltime. I wanted this band to be low maintenance and built out of professional musicians who I respected. Looking at the musicians who’ve come forward to be part of this touring project reminds me of just how incredibly rewarding life can be. I’m humbled when I look at the strength of this touring band, and I can’t wait to record the next album.

What is the impact of Blues music and culture to the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

Proudly, blues music is the one style of music that has singlehandedly bridged the gap between people, places and politics from around the world. Every major city around the world now has a blues festival which in most cases brings the local community and world travelers together based on a mutual respect for the same thing.

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

I would love to go back to the day when Bobby Rush and Bobby Parker were with me and my band in Taylor Made Studio’s in Jackson Mississippi recording my first Cd. The love respect and guidance those two men gave to me was something I’ll never forget. I’m confident neither of those two men will ever know just how important they made that whole experience for me as a 25 year old kid.

Jordan Patterson - Official website

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