An Interview with California based Chase Walker - the next generation of the blues has come calling!

"Blues is more about expressing emotion through a singer note than any other genera I have played."

Chase Walker: The Rising Age of Blues

This is a story about what a kid and a guitar can accomplish in a few short years. Born in 1998, Chase Walker, of Riverside CA grew up minutes away from the Fender Guitar factory in Corona, yet he didn’t start playing guitar until 2010. Today, he is a triple threat. Young Chase Walker is already an award-winning guitarist, songwriter, and vocalist creating and performing rock, blues and jazz with equal command. Walker was inspired to play guitar after attending the Doheny Blues Festival in 2009. Later that year, he got his first guitar for Christmas. In 2013, Chase was honored as one of only seven young guitarists selected from hundreds of applicants nation-wide to attend the Grammy Foundation's prestigious camp for young musicians held at the acclaimed USC Thorton School of Music.            Photo by Robert M Knight

He lists Tab Benoit, Warren Haynes, Albert Lee, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Otis Redding, Jim Croce, The Black Crowes and The Black Keys among those who have had the biggest influence on him. Although his band is comprised of teenagers, they play like seasoned pros, and its members have become sought after entertainers, performing at iconic venues like Buddy Guys Legends, Kingston Mines and the House of Blues, sharing the stage with BB King and Coco Montoya, and performing at music festivals and events across the States. Chase Walker is proud to have represented the Los Angeles Blues Society at IBC in Memphis. “Not Quite Legal” (2016) is Chase Walker Band’s sophomore second album featuring eleven originals (one hidden) by the band and two covers, one of which is the classic “Red House” by Jimi Hendrix. 

Interview by Michael Limnios

When was your first desire to become involved with the blues and guitar?

When I was 11 my parents took me to the Doheny Blues Festival in Dana Point California. I was front row to see a band called “The 44’s”. Something about how the lead guitar player Johnny Main played made me want to be a guitar player. After that show I asked my dad for a guitar. At that time I did not know I wanted to play blues. I just knew that I wanted to play guitar. 6 months later my dad got me a guitar and a Line 6 Spider Jam Amp. That amp had 100’s of back tracks on it from all genre of music. After trying all the genera’s I was drawn to playing the blues.

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

I play many genre of music, but what draws me back to the blues is the emotion that is captured while playing. Blues is more about expressing emotion through a singer note than any other genera I have played.

How do you describe Chase Walker sound and progress, what characterize your music philosophy?

Chase Walker band is influenced by a combination of Louisiana Blues, Zydeco mixed with Southern Rock. We also capture the spirit of the great jam bands, letting songs evolve on stage in front of live audience. We write and choose songs that move us. You cannot expect your audience to get into the music if you aren’t into it yourself.

"Many things have influenced my songwriting, lost friendships, girls I have liked, things I have heard from teachers. I try to write what I am feeling."

What experiences in your life have triggered your ideas for songs most frequently?

Many things have influenced my songwriting, lost friendships, girls I have liked, things I have heard from teachers. I try to write what I am feeling. I also pull from stories I have been told from friends. Backstage at a festival can be quite a story telling experience.

Are there any memories from ‘Not Quite Legal’ studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Well when we finished the album we had more songs recorded than we wanted to release at one time so we had to cut out two or three. The thing is when go in to record we never put any sort of fillers into the album, everything that is there is there for a reason, this combined with the fact that everyone had their own favorites on the record made it very difficult to decide which ones we would cut out. So there are a few unreleased tracks at the moment but I still don’t know whether or not they will get released separately.

Why did you think that the Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following?

Blues is a small percentage of the music loving world. Because its small I think it draws blues lovers together more than other genera’s of music. What I have found after talking to my fans after shows is there are a lot of blues fans that do not even know they are blues fans. I think there would be a lot more people that would categorize themselves as blues fans if blues was marketed better. It seems as every time there is a real successful blues band the record industry tells everyone they are Rock-n-Roll, such as Rolling Stones, Black Crows, and The Black Keys. These bands might not be 100% traditional blues but they are definitely more blues based than anything else.

What are some of the most memorable gigs and jams you've had? Which memory makes you smile?

I have had many memorable gigs, always good and sometimes funny. One time I was playing a county fair, right in the middle of a slow heart felt song the county fair turkey calling contest started, LOUDLY!. Over a loud speaker right next to our stage all you could hear was 30 people calling turkeys. You just don’t expect that and it was pretty funny. The past few years have been great and there are so many cool memories. Playing to a sold out crowd at the Rum Boogie in Memphis was amazing. Another great memory is a sold out show opening for BB King, standing in the dark on stage at The House of Blues just seconds before curtains are pulled. It was great hearing the crowd cheering for us even before we hit the stage. Playing the Gator by the Bay Festival and looking out into the crowd and seeing Grammy award musician Chubby Carrier standing in the crowd watching me really made me smile. We ended this year playing a private party at the home of a music industry executive. We made a ton of new friends there both industry people and musicians. I am looking forward to a great new year. The Chase Walker Band is already booking up. We will be releasing our new CD. It is going to be a great year!

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

What important meetings I have had goes hand in hand with best advice. I have been lucky to have some great mentors and teachers. I guess some of the best advice sounds like “stay humble, you have always got something to learn and take good care of the fans.” When you’re not playing shows, go see other bands you enjoy and learn from them. Mingle with the crowd and be personable. When you finish your shows go out and mingle with the crowd and talk with everyone. I have learned so much and have had some huge opportunities by a chance meeting with someone I had no idea was going to be there. Connecting with the fans is the most important thing.

Are there any memories from BB King and Coco Montoya which you’d like to share with us?

When I opened for BB King I didn’t get to meet BB. I think he was a little under the weather that day. I did get to have Tony Coleman, BB King’s Drummer, drum for me. Jamming with Tony Coleman was amazing! One of the biggest memories with a famous blues man was when I was playing a show at Legend’s in Chicago, Buddy Guy’s club.  After the show we were back stage and the club manager came in and said Mr. Guy would like to meet us. We didn’t even know he was in the audience watching. That was so cool!! I originally met Coco at a festival when I was 12. At that time I was just a fan and didn’t even have a band yet. So when I got to open for him two years later it was really special.

"For me great blues songs tell a story. They are not just rhythms, but they have a great story behind the rhythm. This is what makes the audience feel the blues."

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

That is hard to answer when you are only 15. I have no firsthand knowledge from blues of the past. From what I have been told blues used to be popular with a much younger crowd in the past. Today it seems like the typical blues lover is much older than me. My hopes are musicians like me can change that and bring a younger fan base to such a great genre of music.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues with Soul and continue to Rock and Country music?

For me great blues songs tell a story. They are not just rhythms, but they have a great story behind the rhythm. This is what makes the audience feel the blues. The same can be said for the great rock, soul and country songs.

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from your band?

I usually save the emotional, touchy feely stuff, for my music, but I guess one thing that happened recently was an argument me and Matt (CWB Drummer) were having over which AC/DC singer was better, Bon Scott or Brian Johnson; I was advocating for Johnson and Matt for Scott. Anyway, we asked Randon what his opinion was and he turns to me and says “ya I like that “Bob Scott” guy”. From that point on I knew we were doomed.

"I think that music in general has the power to change the minds of the world’s population, and with that said, I think there is a huge platform for a voice for social and economic change that is not being utilized."

What has been the hardest obstacle for you to overcome as a person and as artist and has this helped you become a better musician?

Well as any artist can attest to, in this profession one always has to deal with his or her own crippling self-doubt. Just as there are times when our egos are high like after a good performance or an album or record charting, there are equally low points for our egos when it becomes hard to see yourself getting to where you want to be in life as far as success or creativity. Overcoming this self-doubt I would say is the single hardest thing about being an artist.

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

If I could change one thing about the music world it would be so that people could see how lazy and ignorant popular music has become. What use to take one person now takes a team of 50 and what use to take one or two takes in the studio, now takes 100 over dubs plus midi tracks (computerized instruments). Do you want to hear something crazy? Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody was recorded with something like 12 tracks, no auto tune, and was written and produced by one man who could truly be called a musical genius. (Not Kanye west).

What is your MUSIC DREAM? How would you like to be after 10 years from now? Happiness is…

Some years from now I will be 25. I would like to have graduated from College and had my music listened to and loved by people all over the world. My music dream is to make a great living writing and playing music for fans all over the world. To be recognized by my peers as one of the premier musicians, to have won a Grammy.

Chase Walker / Photo by Robert M Knight

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

I think that music in general has the power to change the minds of the world’s population, and with that said, I think there is a huge platform for a voice for social and economic change that is not being utilized.

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

If I could go back in time for one day in a time machine it would have to be to spend a day with Robert Johnson. It’s hard to pick what day that would be, as his life and travels are not well documented. Days that come to mind would be November 23, 1936 when Robert recorded 16 songs. Another day would have been his last performance before he died in August 16, 1938.

How you would spend a day with Muddy Waters? What would you say to SRV? What would you like to ask Hendrix?

If I could spend the day with Muddy Waters it would be hanging out at Chess Records. Muddy, Little Walter, and the rest of the Chess Records Blues guys and I would spend the day jamming, writing, and recording. If I was able to talk with Stevie Ray Vaughan I would I would say “plug in, let’s play some guitar together”. I would love to spend the day jamming with SRV and let our guitars do the talking. If I was able to talk with Jimi Hendrix, like SRV I would more like to jam with him than anything. I would ask him about playing Woodstock and what stood out most for him about that show.  

Chase Walker Band - official website

Photo by Robert M Knight

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