Q&A with Mississippi Bigfoot - wild ride through the Delta with a modern flavor and lot's of Heavy Blues

"The blues comes from the soul and core of our emotion and to be able to express that and have a roomful of people or more actually receive that and be affected is really meaningful to me."

Mississippi Bigfoot: Swampape Blues

Mississippi Bigfoot was formed in the spring of 2015 after a show played at Ground Zero in Clarksdale, MS. The band has since gone on to play multiple venues. They just cut their first album, Population Unknown, in the legendary Ardent Studios in Memphis, TN where ZZ Top, The Vaughan Brothers, and Led Zeppelin have also recorded. A wild ride through the Delta with a modern flavor and lot's of Heavy Blues influence. A little "Sasquatch Nasty", smooth hooks and crazy hybrid guitargasms. Jump on the bus and be the hunter not the hunted! Recorded at the legendary Ardent Studios in Memphis.On the banks of the mighty Mississippi River, Northern Mississippi and South East parts of Tennessee. A sound was born, from the depths of 5 souls, Mississippi Bigfoot was found. 7 Months after the group found there sound. Ardent Studios and these 5 talented people, created the album Population Unknown with Doug Mc Minn (Drums), Kade Moore (Bass), Ashley Bishop (Guitar), John Holiday (Guitar/Vocals) and Christina Vierra (Vocals).

Christina Vierra: She’s a powerhouse of a singer from Boston, MA. She has a voice that is in your face and full of soul. She was a signed artist with Warner Bros and recently recorded as the voice of Janis Joplin in the Biopic movie. Reaching back to her blues roots, she found herself in Memphis, TN to soak up the history and flavor of the Delta. She’s not just a singer, she’s a profound entertainer. Doug McMinn: A staple to the Memphis music scene, he started his musical career with his dad (Papa Don McMinn) at the Rum Boogie Cafe when he was just 17 years old. He’s gone on to tour internationally with Mojo Buford, Reba Russell, and his family band as well as toured the USA with acts such as; The Drifters, The Coasters, The Platters, and The Tokens just to name a few. He also blows a mean harp. Ashley Bishop: He hails from Memphis, TN. His first love was with the drums, but quickly fell in love with the guitar. He’s performed with some of the greats; Blind Mississippi Morris, Earl the Pearl, and his close friend Big Gerry to name a few. He describes his tone as Chunky Funky, Hill Country, Juke Joint, Delta Blues with a Memphis vibe. He is also known as “The Guardian of Beale Street.”

Interview by Michael Limnios

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

Doug: Patience...Both on the stage and off. To me, the blues is a good man feeling down.

Ashley: Well for me, the blues is a feeling from the soul, I feel that over time it became a culture, as I’m rooted in the Blues. It’s easy to feel alone in the Blues world. I learned about myself (use your emotions when you play and write songs) and when I do this people say, that man got the Blues.

Christina: I learn about my vulnerabilities as well as my strengths and the ability to connect to others in a very pure way. The blues comes from the soul and core of our emotion and to be able to express that and have a roomful of people or more actually receive that and be affected is really meaningful to me.

How do you describe Mississippi Bigfoot sound and songbook? What characterize band’s philosophy and what is the story behind the name of band?

Doug: We are a mash of Hill Country Blues, a splash of Delta Blues, and a dash of Rock Blues all mixed together. We make memories every night we play.

Christina: I have always sought to question the status quo, I like to challenge the standard of what is and isn't possible…like the Bigfoot legend. We all have this fascination about him because he represents to us stepping outside the norm. We would like for people to take that ride with us and forget the day for a moment. We take music seriously but we also have a lot of humor among us and don't take ourselves too serious.

"Back to a time where I could see Little Walter, Sonny Boy, James Cotton, Howling Wolf, and Mojo in concert—I guess I’ll see that in Blues Heaven!!!" (Doug Mc Minn/BIMOXIE Photography)

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice has given you?

Doug: Being the son of Papa Don McMinn, I have met so many wonderful musicians I could not even begin to pick a “most important” experience. Each encounter played a part in who I am as a musician and in many ways as a human. The best advice given to me was by the legendary Percy Sledge.  He said, “Don’t ever let the audience know that they is a problem on stage. Just suffer in silence.”

Ashley: I have met so many great talents. Well I’m sure you want me to name drop a well know name like BB King or Brian Johnson from AC/DC or Blind Mississippi Morris as I have met and been influenced by a lot of talented people, but I would haft to say the Meeting of My daughter’s when they came into this world has been the most important Experience for me.

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

Doug: I spent a decade as the house drummer at The Rum Boogie Café on Beale Street in Memphis. My whole family played that stage at one time or another as part of the house band which are some of the best memories I have on stage. Whenever a major act would come into town to do a concert or record, they always wound up at The Rum Boogie. So many memories of being on the kit behind legends like Stevie Ray Vaughn, John Bon Jovi, Rufus Thomas, Coco Montoya, Greg Allman, really too many to name. It was a life lesson in music that I wouldn’t trade for anything!.

Ashley: I remember one show that will stand the test of time. Everyone was in the magic place for the 1st that don’t understand that we were all connected by tone and sounds, grove and timing. I felt I had an outer body experience with cold sweats and chill bumps and a burst of energy to follow. This happens a lot with these guys as we all give it everything we have on stage.

"The blues is a feeling from the soul, I feel that over time it became a culture, as I’m rooted in the Blues. It’s easy to feel alone in the Blues world." (Ashley Bishop/BIMOXIE Photography)

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

Doug: I miss some of the masters that have gone on to Blues heaven. One of my mentors on harp was George “Mojo” Buford who played harmonica for Muddy Waters for many years. We lost him in 2011 and hardly a day passes that I don’t think about him and wish we were on tour together again. My hopes for the future of the blues is that we don’t lose sight of where this form of music came from. I encourage young blues musicians to go listen to Little Walter, Sonny Boy, James Cotton, Howling Wolf, and of course Mojo. I actually have all hope and no fear for the future of the blues because my family is in the third generation of blues musicians now. My son Michael plays keyboards and harp and I see and hear the young guys playing some awesome stuff. He learned harp from Mojo, so Mojo is living on.

Ashley: I miss Fred Sanders, Big Jerry, Melvin Lee, Little Jimmy King, BB King, Albert King, and Albert Collins. I tell people all the time you can’t sail a ship on yesterday’s wind. But I Miss these guys the most to me they were BLUES TO THE BONE.

Christina: Simply that so many of the original artists have passed on and many of these young will never witness firsthand what they could make you feel and understand. I fear that the loss of the roots and understanding of this form of music is also a loss of part of our humanity. I hope that the young will continue to dig deep into this rich well where most all modern forms of music sprang, regardless of their chosen genre, I believe it’s important to absorb the blues to add depth to anything they might do.

What has made you laugh from Beale Street and what touched (emotionally) you from the Ardent Studios?

Doug: Working with my family on Beale Street always made me happy….it’s hard not to be happy playing music.  The song “You Did” did it for me…Christina’s soulful sound…just go and listen to it.

Ashley: Well I have laughed a lot on Beale Street. But I guess I would say the funniest thing I ever saw was during a Bigfoot siting testimonial on stage that’s some pretty funny stuff as you never know what people will say.

Christina: Well a lot of things have cracked me up on that street as well as made me sad. I will never forget  the night when a drummer came in with a bongo that was broke on one side to use for a snare drum, I asked where is your snare drum and he said, "it's in the pawn shop honey, don't worry it sounds great! My emotions were high at Ardent, we did so much in so little time and when I sing my lyrics I get emotionally involved. Also I am always humbled to work with other talented people on music that means so much to me.

"I hope that the young will continue to dig deep into this rich well where most all modern forms of music sprang, regardless of their chosen genre, I believe it’s important to absorb the blues to add depth to anything they might do. (Christina Vierra/Photo by Robby Reeves) 

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

Ashley: I would like to see more of us on the radio and I would like to change Doug’s Blue hair to purple!

Christina: If I could change one thing about the biz it would be that it be run by those who love music and for the sake of enriching the world rather than corporate sponsored product that is only thought of in terms of as a commercial commodity.

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

Christina: I've always strived to be "one of the guys" and I don't mean by acting butch, although you do need cajones to deal with what comes along with working in a man's supposed domain! I also don't fuel things by getting women's lobby about it. I just wish to be treated as another musician and don’t treat me like your wife or girlfriend! As far as status, I just pay attention to my own!

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

Doug: I think the best answer is “Blues ain’t a color”. It doesn’t matter if you are black, white, green, or purple. If you can play the blues, you can play the blues.  All music speaks to somebody, find what speaks to you.

Ashley: It’s tough being a white guitar player growing up on Beale. I have been the only white guy in many bands, but my brothers don’t see my color and my music family does not judge me for being white. There has been a few times when people have said things like he must have been the milk man’s son. Then I play my guitar and they quit talking, as we all have feelings.

Christina: I believe it’s an important part of our history and culture and has broken many barriers and just like media can be used to unite or divide. But I do believe at its core blues unites us in that it reminds us that we all feel.

"We are a mash of Hill Country Blues, a splash of Delta Blues, and a dash of Rock Blues all mixed together.  We make memories every night we play." (Mississippi Bigfoot/BIMOXIE Photography)

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

Doug: Back to a time where I could see Little Walter, Sonny Boy, James Cotton, Howling Wolf, and Mojo in concert—I guess I’ll see that in Blues Heaven!!!

Ashley: I’m scared of them, but if I was forced to take that ride lets role back to 1967 and hand out with the Stax Family.

Christina: I once read a story about Howlin Wolf climbing the heavy red stage curtains and driving the crowd wild while he howled and rolled his eyes. I always wished I was there to witness that....or maybe Woodstock!

Mississippi Bigfoot - Official website

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