Q&A with Wayne Nicholson & John Campbelljohn - Elmore’s Blues an album/project, stunning tribute to Elmore James

"People genuinely want to be entertained and it's a performing musician’s job to do that. It's an honor and a privilege. Humility always wins."

Wayne Nicholson & John Campbelljohn: Elmore's Blues (The Legend Lives On)

Elmore’s Blues is an album/project from Canadian blues artists Wayne Nicholson & John Campbelljohn, a stunning tribute to Elmore James! Wayne Nicholson and John Campbelljohn have curated and recorded a masterful tribute to legendary bluesman, Elmore James. “Elmore’s Blues” (2020) is a fresh and brilliant homage to the slide master featuring 12 of Elmore’s greatest released songs and two originals. John Campbelljohn is multiple award-winner, whose accolades include wins and nominations for Maple Blues Awards, East Coast Music Awards, Real Blues Awards, and Music Nova Scotia awards. An incredible force on the Canadian music scene, John’s outstanding guitar work, powerful songwriting, rich vocals and distinctive prowess on the slide guitar have made him a favourite at music festivals in Atlantic Canada & Europe. He’s recorded and released 14 albums and has been featured on numerous others throughout his career.                      (Wayne Nicholson & John Campbelljohn / Royce MacRae Photography)

Wayne Nicholson has long been considered one of Atlantic Canada’s greatest blues-rock vocalists, often compared to legendary singers such as Paul Rodgers, Jim Morrison and David Clayton-Thomas. Having grown up with the sounds of early jazz and blues music (Bessie Smith, Robert Johnson and Louis Armstrong) and having evolved into a musician of his own with the strong influences of Elvis, Chuck Berry, the Beatles, the Stones, the Yardbirds and Bob Dylan, Wayne developed a very unique understanding of music. During his 50-year career, he’s recorded and released eight albums and has toured with artists such as Ike & Tina Turner, Gregg Allman, James Cotton, the J Geils Band, Jeff Healey, and more. He is also a past winner of the East Coast Music Awards’ Stompin’ Tom Award, given to performers who have made a mark on the music scene of Atlantic Canada and who are perceived as unsung heroes. Together, Wayne and John have curated and recorded a masterful tribute to legendary bluesman, Elmore James that no blues fan should be without.

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?

John: I live a simple life with my wife and daughters, raised in a blue collar family from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Karma can be a bitch but also a badass.

Wayne: Music shaped me, formed my opinions, let me show my influences, and brought me to where I am.

How do you describe your music philosophy and sound? What touched (emotionally) you from Elmore James' Blues?

John: Keep it simple. The visceral feeling that Elmore's voice projects from his performances on his records are staggering. (I feel Wayne captured that feeling.) Elmore was one of the blues greats who motivated me to pursue a living in that open chord blues style.

Wayne: I`ve learned "simplicity is beauty" means. As a vocalist, when I listened to Elmore sing, I loved his raw, gritty, and melodic voice, sometimes overlooked because of his brilliant slide playing and something John Campbelljohn gets completely.

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

John: In the blues world, hanging with King Biscuit Boy in the '70s. Richard's (Biscuit) knowledge of the blues was huge. Also growing up with Matt Minglewood in Cape Breton, Dutch Mason and Wayne Nicholson in Atlantic Canada. Best advice - Never worry about being as good a player as your heroes, but always work to be better than yourself.

Wayne: Meeting the blues rockers from the Maritimes in the 70`s and 80`s, some of whom I am still playing with today. I`ve met a few of my heros. Meeting Jim Gaines. Him producing me in Memphis and then having the privilege of co-producing an album with him. A true gentleman and friend. Delbert McClinton offered this great advice," Never leave your wallet in the dressing room", which I follow to this day.

"The blues is alive and well in Nova Scotia and in Canada. So many young, compared to me, and older blues artists, making so many albums with fresh blues music." (Wayne Nicholson & John Campbelljohn / Royce MacRae Photography)

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

John: Once I was doing a guitar session in Halifax for a concept project titled Buddy & The Boys, kind of a folk blues rock thing. One of the guys in the band fell asleep in the recording room, about 5 or 6 feet away from my mic. His loud snoring was interfering with the track I was trying to record, and threatened to bleed in to the mic, so I told the producer & engineer. They came in to the recording room, put a mic in front of him, tracked some of his snoring and aggressively woke him, just for the hell of it. His snoring and gasping awake made it on the album, as 'Buddy' waking up from his dream, seconds after my slide riff.

Wayne: Well there are many. This one stands out. We were touring with the Doobie Brothers. Thousands of people that night in Moncton N.B. We were having a good night. I was singing a ballad, backing up, when I backed into a monitor. I went are over tea kettle. I quickly got to my feet but lost my groove for the rest of the set. Well folks, that`s the first thing that popped into my head so alright.

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

John: The Beatles and The Rolling Stones on the Ed Sullivan Show. Buying BB King records at Woolco. As for hopes and fears for the future, we're smack dab in the middle of the Covid-19 Lockdown. That speaks for itself!

Wayne: I miss a good jam. One where the other musicians just let you go and they go. There are a lot of musicians who don`t know how to jam. I hope all my musician friends can get back to work, play live where they shine. I fear it will be a while.

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

John: The blues in Canada is in very good shape with many talented artists, many of whom live right here in Halifax!

Wayne: The blues is alive and well in Nova Scotia and in Canada. So many young, compared to me, and older blues artists, making so many albums with fresh blues music.

"Keep it simple. The visceral feeling that Elmore's voice projects from his performances on his records are staggering. (I feel Wayne captured that feeling.) Elmore was one of the blues greats who motivated me to pursue a living in that open chord blues style." (Photo: Wayne Nicholson & John Campbelljohn)

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

John: People genuinely want to be entertained and it's a performing musician’s job to do that. It's an honor and a privilege. Humility always wins.

Wayne: I try to be honest and true to the music I`m doing. Believe in yourself and the music you choose, and your audience will believe it.

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

John: "I wouldn't have seen it if I hadn't believed it.” by Marshall McLuhan

Wayne: The object is to make people move, and to move people. Music does and it will.

"The blues has been around since time began

Since the first lyin woman met the first cheatin man"    

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

John: Chicago 1955. It was the year I was born. The blues was all the rage and beginning to impact the world.

Wayne: I`d like to go back and hear what I was singin and how I sounded when I was 17. Can I do that?

John Campbelljohn - Home

Photo courtesy Bruce Nelson / Left to right: Neil Robertson, John Campbelljohn, Wayne Nicholson and Bruce Dixon.

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