Q&A with phenomenal UK-based artist Russell Keefe (TBelly), alternative and diverse blues based music

"All music effects people. Thats what its for. I am not sure that Blues is any different to any other sort of music in that respect. All genre's of music can convey any feelings you want them to. Make people think, cry, laugh. There is nothing better than after a gig people telling you that your songs made them feel some sort of emotion. Even if they hated it. If they felt nothing, then you have failed."

TBelly: Avalon Blues Experiences & Tales

TBelly is a solo project for singer/songwriter Russell Keefe. Alternative and diverse blues based music. TBelly was formed in 2013 by songwriter Russell Keefe. In 2015 they released their first album "Dead Men Don't Pray". Now in 2020 a new album titled "I Never Want To See Me Again". The first of three singles ‘Walk With Me’ to be released pre-launch will be available from the 21st August 2020. ‘Walk With Me’ is a flawless, passionate track, written by Keefe, which showcases his indisputably world class vocals and songwriting talent. For some, he may be better known as the keyboard player and joint lead vocalist of Slade, but make no doubt about it, Russell Keefe is a phenomenal artist in his own right and deserves full recognition of his talent making TBelly ‘one to watch’, you will not be disappointed.

Russell Keefe says: “‘Walk With Me’ is the first song I have ever written on the bass. Although not a bass player by nature I do play bass live on “Coz I Love You” when playing with Slade. I was practicing in my studio and, as ever, got side tracked very quickly, started noodling and the bass line to Walk With Me showed itself. The melody and chorus came more or less at the same time. When that happens I have to get things recorded pretty quickly just in case they disappear, jump out of the window and are never to heard of again. My songs tend to be either specifically about something or a bit like nonsense verse with a couple of lines that are more poignant. Walk With Me is the latter. What those lines are is as always up to the listener. Although if pushed I would say it was about trying to make sense with whats around us today and finding a path through it all. I did manage to get a line in there with reference to Bob Hope and the Road to Mandalay -I don’t know why. It just popped into my head as these things tend to do.”

Interview by Michael Limnios    Special Thanks: Clare Free (Outlaw PR) & Russell Keefe

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

Blimey. What ever happened to “Whats your favourite colour?”

I don't think it has necessarily influenced me, but it has allowed me to sing about subjects that I feel strongly about. On our first album “Dead Men Don't Pray” there are a couple of tracks. “Broken” is sung from the point of view of a homeless person and “Best out of You” is about people coming together.

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

The “TBelly sound” comes mainly from British Rhythm and Blues. Dr Feelgood, early Led Zep, Purple etc rather than traditional Blues. Saying that though on the new album I have tried to merge more influences. Some more traditional blues, Hip Hop beats, Electronica, Country, Orchestration as well as a spot of Crooning.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Any band or musician I have ever played with is important and this is where you gain experience. When I was 14 and I first heard “Schools Out” by Alice Cooper that jolted me awake to rock n roll.  The best advice I ever got, and I always tell younger bands is if you make a mistake on stage you never stop. Play through it and the audience will be non the wiser.

"Never give up and treat everyone with respect. Whether that is fellow musicians, crews or fans. On tour no one is more important than anyone else. Unless of course you think you are." (Photo: TBelly)

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

One of my favourites is when I was playing with in Les Mckeown's band and we were touring America. We turned up at one gig and they hadn't advertised it. The thinking being people would just turn up. They didn't. They sold two tickets. Having been told there was no money to pay us, but we could eat and drink whatever we wanted we decided to do the do the gig for the two people who showed up. After our sound man Rick fixed the clubs broken PA, we put on our show clothes and did the whole gig. It was great fun and meant a lot to the two fans that were there and that is what music is all about.

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

At the moment due to Covid I miss gigging. Musically not much. It should always be evolving and taking bits from the past and turning it into new tunes. I do fear for the future of live music at the moment and peoples ability to make a living as a musician.

What would you say characterizes British blues scene in comparison to other European and US scenes and circuits?

Culture is the main difference. American blues/rock has always been different to British. The same with European. We take bits from them and they takes bits from us. UK blues and rock has always been slightly more aggressive sounding than the USA versions. A bit like US punk “NY Dolls” etc was completely different to the Sex Pistols but both came from the same ethos.

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

Never give up and treat everyone with respect. Whether that is fellow musicians, crews or fans. On tour no one is more important than anyone else. Unless of course you think you are.

"The “TBelly sound” comes mainly from British Rhythm and Blues. Dr Feelgood, early Led Zep, Purple etc rather than traditional Blues. Saying that though on the new album I have tried to merge more influences. Some more traditional blues, Hip Hop beats, Electronica, Country, Orchestration as well as a spot of Crooning."

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

All music effects people. Thats what its for. I am not sure that Blues is any different to any other sort of music in that respect. All genre's of music can convey any feelings you want them to. Make people think, cry, laugh. There is nothing better than after a gig people telling you that your songs made them feel some sort of emotion. Even if they hated it. If they felt nothing, then you have failed.

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

The Red Sea in Egypt on a boat going scuba diving for the day.

TBelly Band - Home

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