Q&A with Portuguese one man band Fast Eddie Nelson - carries the muddy banks of Mississippi in Europe

"Music is an international language that transcends nationalities. The Blues, being a popular music, usually dwells on issues concerning people everywhere. That’s what I find the greatest thing. You can have someone in the States, or Portugal or Greece, and you feel there’s a connection there."

Fast Eddie Nelson: Navigating Freely

Fast Eddie Nelson is a Portuguese swamp-bluesman with a soft spot for bluegrass music and moonshine liqueur. For the last two decades or so he has been recording and performing consistently in Portugal and occasionally abroad in bands such as Gasoline, The Sullens, Big River Johnson and Fast Eddie & the Riverside Monkeys. One man band Fast Eddie Nelson, for example, a blues man from Barreiro, who carries the muddy banks of Mississippi in his deep voice. In a musical path navigating freely between Blues, Rock, Folk, Bluegrass and some psychedelic, Fast Eddie Nelson has recorded prolifically, either own albums or compilations. He presented his sound throughout all Europe, which crosses Rock and the Mississippi Blues.

"Well, as a musician I’m always interested in music, independently of styles. I think you can enrich your own music when you bring new, and sometimes unexpected, elements into it. It’s also a way of you to challenge yourself as an artist." (Photo: Fast Eddie Nelson and Phil D., 2012)

He is also focused on returning to a simpler life, in harmony with the world. Fast Eddie comes as an One Man Band or with a full band. Fast Eddie Nelson and Phil D. ‎released the album “Nuff Said!” (2012), his current solo album of blues/rocker Fast Eddie Nelson’ titled “Roots Run Deep” (2015) with true Blues, Folk, Bluegrass, Rock n' Roll and Psychedelia tunes. As a solo artist he has produced records regularly and has been playing around Europe.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the blues and rock n’ roll culture? What does the blues mean to you?

Most of all, I think you learn a lot about life and people. Both Blues and Rock’n’Roll are popular music forms and therefore deal with the  issues that interest people, like pain, love, happiness, sadness… All bundled together. Like life is. Honesty. Telling it like it is. Laying your life on a song. No bullshit.

What were the reasons that you started the Psychedelic/Folk/Rock/Blues/Bluegrass researches and experiments?

Well, as a musician I’m always interested in music, independently of styles. I think you can enrich your own music when you bring new, and sometimes unexpected, elements into it. It’s also a way of you to challenge yourself as an artist.

"Fado, wich is a traditional Portuguese urban folk song type is very similar with the Blues in terms of structure. We have an opening verse, that then repeats, and then a conclusion with a different verse." (One man band, Fast Eddie Nelson on stage, 2013 / Photo by Afonso Bastos)

How do you describe Fast Eddie Nelson sound and songbook? What characterize your music philosophy?

It’s always hard for me to describe my own music. It’s clearly Blues based, of course, but it’s mainly Rock’n’Roll I guess. I wouldn’t go as far as saying there’s a huge philosophy behind my songs. (I am very sorry, I know Greece invented philosophy. I just like to stay true to that Blues connection and be honest and write about things I know other than blabber about stuff I don’t know.

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

All meetings with other musicians and people and general are important for me to develop as an artist a person. I know that sound like a politically correct answer but it’s true. Everyday I meet people that inspire me, and most of the times they aren’t musicians, just people going through their lives.

I don’t usually give or take advices. I believe you should go with your gut and follow your desires and ambitions. Other people’s advices may be good for them and absolute disastrous for you. Having said that, I once saw a video of Dick Dale saying that a musician should always be his own boss, that was very inspirational for me.

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

Tons of great memories. I always like to invite other musicians to play with me and that always leads to great experiences. It’s really hard to choose from them.

"Most of all, I think you learn a lot about life and people. Both Blues and Rock’n’Roll are popular music forms and therefore deal with the  issues that interest people, like pain, love, happiness, sadness… All bundled together. Like life is. Honesty. Telling it like it is. Laying your life on a song. No bullshit." (Photo: Fast Eddie Nelson, Paredes de Coura, 2014)

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

I think the blues is doing pretty well. 20 years ago it wasn’t so much the case. There has been a great resurface or the Mississippi scene, due mostly to labels like Fat Possum, Alive Records! and others. The Martin Scorsese documentaries were also important in getting the blues to a broader audience. What I would really wish for the future is that musicians that have their particular voice can continue to survive in a world of massified musical product. I hope people get fed up with flashy and innocuous MTV video soundtracks and search for real artists. They are out there…

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

I believe we are experiencing the most active Blues moment in Portugal ever. Many bands are into the Blues or are inspired in many ways by the Blues.

What are the lines that connect the Blues from US and UK to Portugal? What touched (emotionally) you from the local blues circuits?

Music is an international language that transcends nationalities. The Blues, being a popular music, usually dwells on issues concerning people everywhere. That’s what I find the greatest thing. You can have someone in the States, or Portugal or Greece, and you feel there’s a connection there. And there is. Music sometimes helps us remember we’re all the same.

"I believe, that the Blues, sadly, lost most of that power or at least has transferred it to other musical forms, like rock’n’roll or hip-hop, & has become instead more of a form of entertainment."

Are there any similarities between the blues and the genres of local folk music and traditional forms?

There are indeed. Fado, wich is a traditional Portuguese urban folk song type is very similar with the Blues in terms of structure. We have an opening verse, that then repeats, and then a conclusion with a different verse. Even the musical intervals kinda resemble the blues format. Lyrically it addresses most of the same issues. Fate, longing sadness and the many problems of everyday life.

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

I believe, that the Blues, sadly, lost most of that power or at least has transferred it to other musical forms, like rock’n’roll or hip-hop, and has become instead more of a form of entertainment. That’s not how I see it obviously. And I know that for many people it also is not. But that’s what show-biz has turned it into. Guitar virtuosos performing incredible feats on the guitar and singing verses like, ‘I woke up this morning’ and ‘my baby left me’ and not even knowing what it all means. I believe the ‘real Blues’ survives on the fringes of all that. There are still many artists that create meaningful songs inspired by the blues, but are many times discarded by mainstream media and blues purists because they choose to alter the form in anyway or don’t do 30 minute solos. The great Mississippi masters didn’t do them either.

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

That’s really hard. Choosing just one day of all the glorious moments in the Blues history. I would have to go with the chance of watching a performance by Charlie Patton and Son House back in the day. They are my all time heroes. If on the way back we could make a pit stop in the 60’s and take a peek at Hendrix live that would bee the cherry on top!!

Photo by Joaquim Gomez

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