Q&A with multi-award winning musician Sue Foley, one of the finest blues and roots artists working today

"I just want the blues to stay alive. It's a pure form of music and it comes from a sacred place. That is from the heart and soul of men and women. It speaks of truth. Learning to play blues is learning about truth, your truth; expressing your own story and your own feelings. It's a really important music to keep alive and it's actually a very difficult music to play and to play well. I just hope future generations love it as much as I do."

Sue Foley: Pinky’s Blues Philosophy

Sue Foley is a multi-award winning musician and of the one of the finest blues and roots artists working today. Foley spent her early childhood in Canada, mesmerized by her father’s guitar and started her professional career at sixteen. By twenty-one, Foley was living in Austin, TX and recording for Antone’s—the esteemed blues label and historic nightclub that helped launch the career of Stevie Ray Vaughan. Her first release, Young Girl Blues, quickly rooted her unique talents as a proficient blues guitarist, inspired songwriter and captivating vocalist. Foley has toured steadily with her band, toting her signature pink paisley Fender Telecaster—working and sharing the stage with greats such as BB King, Buddy Guy, Lucinda Williams and Tom Petty. In 2001, she won the prestigious Juno Award (Canadian equivalent of the Grammy) for her CD, Love Coming Down. Foley also holds the record for the most Maple Blues Awards (seventeen) and has earned three Trophees de Blues de France. She has also garnered several nominations at the International Blues Music Awards in Memphis, TN.          (Sue Foley / Photo by Danny Clinch)

As an offshoot to her professional recording and touring career, Foley started a project called Guitar Woman based around dozens of interviews she conducted with the world’s leading female guitarists. From 2001-2008, she wrote articles, organized and promoted concerts, and worked on a book—fueling her passion for gender studies in music and her desire to bring the work of great women guitar players to light. The Guitar Woman project entered a period of dormancy from 2009-2015 while Foley pursued several musical collaborations and returned to university to get her graduate’s degree. The new album from award-winning blues guitarist/singer Sue Foley titled “Pinky’s Blues”, will be released by Stony Plain Records on October 22. Featuring several Sue Foley originals, as well as songs from some of her favorite blues and roots artists, Pinky’s Blues was recorded at Fire Station Studios in San Marcos, Texas. Joining Sue Foley (guitar, vocals) for the recording sessions were Jon Penner (bass), Chris “Whipper” Layton (drums) and Mike Flanigin (Hammond B3 organ), who also produced the album. The legendary Jimmie Vaughan joins in as a special guest on rhythm guitar for the track, “Hurricane Girl.”

Interview by Michael Limnios         Special Thanks: Sue Foley & Mark Pucci Media

How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys youve taken?

The blues has directed my way musically. My blues heroes are like philosophers to me. I guess, I've patterned my life after searching for something that has meaning. You're walking in the footsteps of giants and you're carrying a huge message to people. That has a lot of weight.

Where does your (lyrics/music) creative drive come from? Do you have any stories about the making of the new album?

We recorded my new album Pinky’s Blues live, in the moment, all in one room. In my opinion that's the best way to record blues music. We play off of each other's energy in the moment and we try to get great sounds and great performances all at once. We had a blast recording this album. Chris Layton, Mike Flanigin and Jon Penner and I had a great hang and just it was all good vibes. Our engineer, Chris Bell, was able to capture that spontaneity and energy and get it down. That's basically where our creative drive comes from. It's about making real music in the moment with great musicians.

"The blues has directed my way musically. My blues heroes are like philosophers to me. I guess, I've patterned my life after searching for something that has meaning. You're walking in the footsteps of giants and you're carrying a huge message to people. That has a lot of weight." (Sue Foley / Photo by Danny Clinch)

How do you think that you have grown as an artist since you first started? What has remained the same about your music?

My music is basically the same as when I started. I've taken a couple of side steps over the years, spent time collaborating with other artists, and I've also developed my songwriting over the years. But basically, what you hear is the same Sue Foley from my very first album Young Girl Blues. I'm still turning up my guitar and playing a good slow blues. I'm still having fun playing and I look forward to touring.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What´s been the highlights in your career so far?

The last few years playing music with Jimmie Vaughan and Billy Gibbons has really opened my eyes musically on a lot of levels. I just find those guys so creative and still so joyous about making music… Their inspiration is infectious. But they're both like young boys in a lot of ways and their exuberance for adventure in music. They are so talented and so down to earth and they've been so supportive of me. I just feel really grateful to know them and to be able to play with them.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music path?

One of the most important lessons I've always learned, and always known about is just how much work is involved in being a touring musician. I always tell younger artists, well, if you enjoy hard work, you'll be OK. It's a lot of work doing this and the work doesn't subside just because you get older. So, if there's anything I've learned and can appreciate is that I enjoy what I do and I enjoy my work. I wake up every day with a pile of work to do and I dig in. I love what I do and I don't mind if I have to work until I'm done.                                                  (Sue Foley / Photo by Danny Clinch)

"My music is basically the same as when I started. I've taken a couple of side steps over the years, spent time collaborating with other artists, and I've also developed my songwriting over the years. But basically, what you hear is the same Sue Foley from my very first album Young Girl Blues. I'm still turning up my guitar and playing a good slow blues. I'm still having fun playing and I look forward to touring."

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

I wish I could still go see Albert Collins play guitar, or Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, but I'll have to wait until the next life. That being said, there are a lot of great young acts who are trying to play blues and who are carrying the torch forward. We need to focus on the positive and not fear the future. There's a lot of good coming out right now and I am enthusiastic.

What does to be a female artist in a Mans World as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?

I believe women are equal in the music world. I believe in skill and talent, and developing your skill through your life. I'm inspired by older artists, men and women. Things have changed for women in the last couple of decades and women have every opportunity that men do. Often some women get more opportunities because there's less women in some fields. For instance, a blues festival may want female talent but there's less of it out there so a lot of women will get a lot of work because there's a demand for it. I've always believed in developing my skills so I can hang with the best musicians and I believe I haven't had a fall on my gender in any way to excuse myself for substandard work. I try to work at a high-level and I try to work shoulder to shoulder with all the men and women in my business.

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

I just want the blues to stay alive. It's a pure form of music and it comes from a sacred place. That is from the heart and soul of men and women. It speaks of truth. Learning to play blues is learning about truth, your truth; expressing your own story and your own feelings. It's a really important music to keep alive and it's actually a very difficult music to play and to play well. I just hope future generations love it as much as I do.

Sue Foley - Home

(Sue Foley / Photo by Danny Clinch)

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