Q&A with Canadian trio of Beauwater - unique blend with raw, bluesy, groovy and authentic Blues/Rock

"Blues music has traditionally been engrained in hardship and oppression, and can be hard to appreciate for a lot of people for various reasons, while Rock is all about the freedom and is much easier to get people on board with."

Beauwater: Everything Flows

Raw, bluesy, groovy and authentic. These are the characteristics behind the unique blend of Blues/Rock that Beauwater strives to deliver with every performance. Based in St. John’s, NL, the trio has been a staple of the local music scene since their debut in 2008, earning the 2017 ECMA Blues Recording of the Year Award, and a career total of 5 MusicNL Award Nominations. With the guidance of Producer Chris Kirby, Jonathon Reid (Guitar/Vocals), Greg Newhook (Bass) and Michael Maddox (Drums/Percussion) have crafted a sound that incorporates a myriad of influences, but still remains unmistakably their own. As a follow-up to their award-winning 2016 breakthrough album Lovers, Fools and Kings, Beauwater has once again teamed up with producer Chris Kirby to bring forth a powerhouse album that reflects the group's natural growth and sensibilities but further captures the essence of their energetic 'leave-it-all-on-the-stage' live show.

Beauwater: Jonathon Reid, Greg Newhook and Michael Maddox / Jeff Parsons Photography

Their new third studio album, Who Works For Who? (2020) includes ten songs, each carefully crafted to showcase the group's tenacity and musicianship. With the return of Kelly Hoppe of Big Sugar on Harmonica, Chris Harnett on Saxophone, Terry Campbell on Trumpet and Chris Kirby on Keys, the band has recaptured the magical lineup that helped make their last effort a success. Intent on creating a record that duplicates the band's live fervor and stripped-down approach, the team has ensured no note goes to waste in their pursuit of an end product that is authentically raw and unique. Still straddling the fence between blues and rock, the new record sees the group dive deeper into their Blues repertoire to produce tracks such as "Flavour of the Week", an in-your-face power shuffle and "Tonight She's Gonna Burn", a true story that's equal parts lamentful and intense, while still throwing in hard-hitting blues-laden rock tunes like the inquisitive and heavy-driving title track "Who Works For Who?", and the subdued jazzy styling of "Broken Man Behind The Wheel" - a sultry swinging tale of love lost and forgotten.

Interview by Michael Limnios               Special Thanks: Sarah French Publicity

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

Jonathon: I think it has allowed me to be a little more open and not fall into whatever slogan the world wants you to shout at the moment.  There are a lot of times, situations, movements that I feel have great causes and deep down mean the right things, but the people who are shouting them often have their own agenda. So, I guess to wrap it up, it just makes me question everything internally, and try and form my own opinions as opposed to just grabbing whatever this week’s flavour and running with it. 

Greg: I always felt like a misfit growing up, and was drawn to counterculture and things like skateboarding and Punk/heavy rock music. I have a strong admiration of how many Punk artists are willing to tackle major social and political issues with such conviction, and I've always wanted to make music like that. While the Blues Rock genre doesn't normally get quite as controversial, it does make for a great opportunity to poke at some poignant topics while remaining fairly accessible to most listeners. I think listening to that music during my formative years has helped give me a healthy sense of skepticism when it comes to the information I receive on a daily basis, and has encouraged me to be better-informed and knowledgeable in the topics I choose to pursue.

How do you describe Beauwater sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does band's creative drive come from?

Jonathon: I think our sound is a combination of a lot of things. To boil it down to one thing would be if the Black Crowes, Big Sugar, and like Chris Stapleton or something all got together and started a band. A lot of our songs come from actual life experiences, and I think that’s why it has typically been so long in between each album 2011, 2016, and now 2020. Got to live a little and let things happen to build more material. Sometimes something really special happens and we get in this creative mood and make something up, but a lot of things we write about are simply really things that have happened, or we see happening.

"The biggest fear I have for the future, is I don’t see as many young people grabbing instruments and starting bands with their friends anymore. I’m worried about what impact this will Have to music as a whole later down the road. That’s where this all begins, and without that there Is Nowhere to even start." (Photo: Beauwater, c. 2016; have crafted a sound that incorporates a myriad of influences)

How started the thought of Beauwater? What is the story behind the band's name?

Greg: Myself and Jonny have been good friends since we were 5 years old, and started playing music together in High School. One evening in 2008, he wound up staying at my apartment for the night when a flight he was supposed to be on was delayed due to fog (Newfoundland is officially the foggiest place on earth, so this is a common problem for us). He had a guitar with him and we had nothing much to do, so I pitched the idea of getting together with a drummer I had recently met through a band project that I was a part of, and just jamming on a few covers. The impromptu jam went well, so we decided to get together again soon after, and are still at it over twelve years later. I wish there was an interesting story about the name, and we've often joked about coming up with an elaborate backstory, but it's basically a made-up word we came up with on the fly. Living on an island, we wanted to have a name that acknowledged our maritime culture, so we combined the word 'water' with the French word for beautiful, 'beau'. It sounded appropriate and catchy, so we ran with it!

What would you say characterizes Beauwater in comparison to other local Canadian Blues Rock bands?

Michael: One common theme/feedback we get from our audience is how full  we sound for just being a trio. We tend to stick out for performing primarily original blues influenced music without sticking to the standard 12 bar format. Since day one of playing together there has been a chemistry/tightness between the three of us that can be heard every time we play.

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

Jonathon: There were tones of funny moments throughout the writing and early recording of this record. We recorded some of the tracks at groove den in a small community in Newfoundland called Norris arm.  Chris our producer was trying to help me dial in the right tone for the solo on “flavour of the week” and ended up coming in turning on all my pedals and pretty much turned them all on bust.  The room was just filled with screeching feedback and noise, and we were all very sceptical wondering will it work. After a few takes, we sat in the control room and listed back and were pretty impressed at how it sounded coming back through the monitors. Lots of late nights. During those sessions. Generally ended in YouTube adventures.  Just laughing so hard that our stomached hurt then we’d sleep it off and do it all over the next day.

Greg: Probably my most fond gig memory was the first time I noticed someone I didn't know in the audience singing along to an original song. To put so much on the line emotionally and creatively in writing and performing a song, and see somebody who not only took the time to listen to it, but enjoyed it enough to know the words, was mind blowing. Definitely a pivotal moment in my life, and the type of thrill that keeps me wanting to write and perform more and more.

Michael: We had a pretty successful/memorable 24 months beginning in the summer of 2016 with the release of our sophomore album Lovers Fools and Kings. It was a time of a few firsts for the band; Filming our first music videos, getting nominated and being fortunate to win Blues Recording of the Year from the East Coast Music society, eventually leading to our first tour as a band. A lot of these memories and tidbits we will be sharing via mini docs on our website.                       (Beauwater / Photo by Alick Tsui)

"The main goal of the album for us I think has been to make music we enjoy playing together with meaningful lyrical content. Hopefully it can reach people and make a connection in a way that will help them deal with any kind of hardship going on in their lives like a lot of music has done for me."

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

Jonathon: I miss how rare the virtuoso musicians seemed to be. I grew up idolizing the players who could “shred” and the ones who really had something special going on. Nowadays it seems that the abilities I really admired and was blown away by are very common, so it’s a lot harder for someone to stand out musically. I think that this in itself has taken the focus away from the music, and now has shifted towards personalities, opinions, and who can keep your attention longest. The biggest fear I have for the future, is I don’t see as many young people grabbing instruments and starting bands with their friends anymore. I’m worried about what impact this will Have to music as a whole later down the road. That’s where this all begins, and without that there Is Nowhere to even start.

Greg: I miss narrative songs being commonplace. I love a song that paints a vivid mental picture for me, or tells a gripping story I want to hear out through the end, and I don't hear as much of that these days. There have been some artists come along in recent years that give me hope, though. And with today's digital platforms making it easier than ever to access exactly the music we want to hear, I hope we'll continue to see trends of success with artists that wouldn't typically be able to reach the mass audiences that the radio hits can.

Michael: The use of real instruments in a real studio setting with raw sound. It’s something that has fallen by the wayside due to primarily the cost of making music. The use of plug-ins, auto tune and pop culture in general, on this side of the world, has swayed a large portion of popular music toward repetitive narcissistic anthems which contain more buzzwords than meaningful content. I hope there is a return in the social conscience to prefer music made with the use of real instruments from a group of people who have have taken the time to learn, grow and develop their skills and talent.

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

Jonathon: I just want the music to be relatable. And bring people together. Socially and culturally the world is becoming a very scary divided place.  I would like for everyone to find the common ground we all have, possibly through music, and not focus on what sets us all apart.

Greg: Blues music has traditionally been engrained in hardship and oppression, and can be hard to appreciate for a lot of people for various reasons, while Rock is all about the freedom and is much easier to get people on board with. I think the marriage of those two provides the opportunity to express those oppressive stories and feelings in a package that's a lot more accessible to the masses. Some of the tracks on our new album deal with some heavy social issues facing today's world, and I think the way we pair those heavy moods with energetic rock influences means a lot more people will get the message than if we stuck to a more traditional blues formula. I like the idea of being able to give someone something to think about, while still being entertaining and catchy, and not sounding preachy.

Michael: The main goal of the album for us I think has been to make music we enjoy playing together with meaningful lyrical content. Hopefully it can reach people and make a connection in a way that will help them deal with any kind of hardship going on in their lives like a lot of music has done for me. Being able to sit back with headphones on and escape the world for a little while is a favourite way to unwind. Hopefully we can inspire some of the youth to pick up an instrument and become songwriters along the way.                                                     (Beauwater / Photo by Alick Tsui)

"I think our sound is a combination of a lot of things. To boil it down to one thing would be if the black Crowes, Big Sugar, and like Chris Stapleton or something all got together and started a band. A lot of our songs come from actual life experiences, and I think that’s why it has typically been so long in between each album 2011, 2016, and now 2020. Got to live a little and let things happen to build more material. Sometimes something really special happens and we get in this creative mood and make something up, but a lot of things we write about are simply really things that have happened, or we see happening."

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

Jonathon: I don’t know a specific day, but I would love to have been around for a full day back when led zeppelin were really at their prime. Videos are great but to see one of those concerts in person. If a guitar solo or a line in a song sang can give you chills listening 50 years after it happened, just imagine what it would be like to Witness that in person.?

Greg: I recently lost my father, who was my inspiration for getting into music. I have very fond memories of sitting on our kitchen floor as a young child while he played guitar and sang songs until my mother dragged me off to bed. I wouldn't mind going back to relive one of those evenings, given the chance.

Michael: I’m sure there are multiple major dates in history of either political, musical or social significance I would return to for the experience. As a band I can think of two dates in particular. Our trip to New York in 2013 was a memorable time largely due to the Crossroads guitar festival. We were able to witness the amazing talent and gain inspiration from a lot of our musical hero’s; The Allman Brothers, BB King, Booker T and the MGs, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Gary Clark Jr and Buddy Guy. It was major source of motivation for our last two albums. The second date would be winning Blues Recording of the Year for our last album. It was an unexpected win and a weekend of new experiences and audiences.

Beauwater - Home

Beauwater / Photo by Christopher Deacon

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