"Everybody gets the blues once in a while, no matter whom you are…"
JP Soars: The Deepest Cut of Blues
Born in California and raised in Arkansas, JP Soars has called South Florida home since 1985. John Paul Soars is not a typical blues guitarist. He has a diverse musical background that encompasses a multitude of influences. From T-bone Walker, Jesse May Hemphill, Wes Montgomery, and Django Reinhardt, to Muddy Waters, Johnny Guitar Watson, Guitar Slim and Louis Jordan. But also he love Tito Puente, Miles Davis, Hank Williams, Black Sabbath and Slayer. Soars toured the globe and recorded several records with some of the most extreme metal bands in the world before finding his home in the blues! It is these attributes that are giving Soars an instantaneously recognizable style. Soars is also a prolific songwriter, penning a number of tunes in his repertoire himself. His first blues cd Back of My Mind 2008 garnered rave reviews and received a considerable amount of airplay on XM Radio's Bluesville; Comcast digital and other blues stations around the world and continues to do so. JP's release More Bees With Honey has earned Soars a BMA "blues music award" nomination for Best Contemporary Male Blues Artist of the year! (Photo: JP Soars)
In 2009 Soars and His Band took home top honors in Memphis TN by winning first place in the IBC "International Blues Challenge" as well as the coveted Albert King award for most promising guitarist. That win combined with Soars' intense work ethic, pure passion for the music he plays, a constant desire to improve and a continual strive for "customer satisfaction" has allowed Soars and Company to develop themselves into an in demand international touring band that is growing day by day, week by week and year after year. J.P. SOARS recorded his album LET GO OF THE REINS (2019) at producer Tab Benoit’s studio in Houma, Louisiana, for release on Benoit’s Whiskey Bayou Records. The seven original songs and four covers span a wide range of styles. The album kicks off with a funky rockin’ blues version of J.B. Lenoir’s “Been Down So Long,” then follows with a Stones-y rock groove cover of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ “If You Wanna Get To Heaven,” the uptempo blues of “Freddie King Thing,” and the hypnotic, slide-powered stomp of the title track. The album closes with the relaxed folky feel of “Old Silver Bridge,” which brings in acoustic guitars, dobro, and dulcimer. This incredibly diverse set of songs is unified by J.P. Soars’ soulful, bluesy vocals and razor-sharp guitar work. JP Soaps, acclaimed blues-rock guitarist/vocalist and King of the Cigar Box Guitar, hits the road with his longtime group The Red Hots, with a performance at Pennington's, 106 E. Main St., OH. Saturday, July 30. Show: 8:00PM.
JP, when was your first desire to become involved in the blues, what does the BLUES mean to you?
I got to see BB King play in 1988... I won a guitar from a music store and got two tickets to see BB King, meet him and have him sign the guitar... So from that point I have had a huge interest in the blues. The blues to me is a timeless music that anyone can relate to and feel at times. I feel it and I feel a deep connection to it when I hear it...
Who were your first idols, what have been some of your musical influences?
My father played guitar and had some friends that played as well. So that was my first introduction to music…I loved Kiss when I was a kid.. I also liked Ted Nugent, I played in some extreme metal bands for years …I love Django Rienhardt, T-Bone Walker, Guitar Slim, Wes Montgomery, Tito Puente, Miles Davis, Muddy Waters... The list goes on and on… If it moves me I dig it...
How do you describe JP’s philosophy about the blues music? What characterize JP’s sound?
I think that as a musician I am a constant student of the blues… always trying to learn. It’s never ending... I think that the blues cuts strait to the soul...It’s a feeling... It can be both happy and sad. My sound I think is rooted in tradition but steps outside the box now and again. I enjoy trying to incorporate all of my influences somehow. Refreshing.
"That generally most folks are the same no matter where you go. There’s a lotta good people everywhere. Music is the universal language. Treat folks right as you would like to be treated. It will most always be reciprocated." (Photo: JP Soars with his 335 plays the blues on stage)
How has the Blues music and culture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?
I’ve learned that pretty much wherever you go in the world you can find good people and likeminded individuals and souls. For the most part people are nice, good folks. Blues and music in general is the universal language. Typically, artists are greeted with warmth, smiles, curiosity and kindness. It’s a beautiful thing.
How do you think that you have grown as an artist since you first started making music?
I’ve grown tremendously. When I first started writing and recording I was playing mostly extreme heavy metal music, but at the same time I loved the blues/jazz/Latin etc.. I’ve recent been diving into some Bossa Nova. I’m constantly finding new things. The guitar is still a mystery to me.
What has remained the same about your music-making process?
What’s reminded the same is my quest for perfections and a drive to do things the best I possibly can. For me the music always comes first. I always drive for quality and consistency.
Where does your creative drive come from? How do you want your songs/music to affect people?
It comes from experiences, situations, relationships, things I see that I feel some connection too. I want my music to make people happy and forget about their troubles for a while. I want to have a good time.
If you had a question you would like to ask another musician what would it be?
Depends on the musician. If it’s someone I look up to I would ask them for a piece of advice.
What musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? What do you think is key to a music life well lived?
Django Reinhardt, BB King, Howlin Wolf, T-Bone Walker, Black Sabbath, Louie Armstrong. I could go on and on for a while with this one. I think of you can be successful at something you love them this will bring much more happiness life.
"It comes from experiences, situations, relationships, things I see that I feel some connection too. I want my music to make people happy and forget about their troubles for a while. I want to have a good time." (JP Soars, Las Vegas Big Blues Bender, 2021 / Photo by Erik Kabik)
What has been the hardest obstacle for you to overcome as a person and as artist and has this helped you become a better blues musician?
Making the transition from day job to full time musician. This didn’t happen until I was in my 30’s. Once I could focus 100% on my music things really started moving forward. It made me a better musician.
You’ve one release with Tab Benoit’s Whiskey Bayou label. How did that relationship come about?
We met on the Legendary Blues cruise in 2010. We love jamming. We're been friends ever since.
How do you describe "Let Go Of The Reins" songbook and sound? What characterizes new album in comparison to previous?
It’s real, it’s raw, honest and from the heart. This album was recorded in five days. The original material was written within those five days. We captured the creativity as it was happening. My previous albums were recorded over a much longer period of time.
Are there any memories from your sessions in Tab Benoit’s studio in Houma, Louisiana which you’d like to share with us.
When we recorded the song Lonely Fire, all I had was the chorus, “I’m a Lonely Fire” which I kept saying over and over throughout the initial recording of the basic tracks, just to get through the song. So when we were listening back, we kept laughing and laughing every time I would say “Lonely Fire”. Finally Tab came in one morning and said he had written lyrics for the tune, but we still kept laughing every time the chorus came around. I still laugh when I hear it!
What touched (emotionally) you from “Been Down So Long", “If You Wanna Get To Heaven", Django and Freddie King?
When I first heard J.B. Lenior’s sing the lyrics, “I’ve been so long that being down don’t worry me no more” it struck a nerve in me that I related to on a deep level.. I’ve been doing that song ever since. Actually recorded a different version on my Back of My Mind Album back in 2008. “If you wanna get to Heaven” was a song I’ve been hearing since I was a three years old. My parents had the Ozark Mountain Dare Devils album and would listen to over and over when I was a kid. I’ve always loved that tune and the whole album for that matter. It reminds me of those times back then. I’ve been a huge Django Reinhardt fan for many years and have been playing the song “Minor Blues” for quite some time now. The drum beat that Tab played gives it a different feel from the original. More of a New Orleans feel.
"I’ve learned that pretty much wherever you go in the world you can find good people and likeminded individuals and souls. For the most part people are nice, good folks. Blues and music in general is the universal language. Typically, artists are greeted with warmth, smiles, curiosity and kindness. It’s a beautiful thing." (JP Soars / Photo by Marilyn Stringer / MJStringer Photography)
What is the hardest part of making an album? Why and how "Label" & "Producer" matter important today?
This album was actually very easy to make. For me the hardest part is knowing when to say it’s good enough, or that’s the take. Since 2008 I’ve been releasing stuff on my own Soars High Productions label and it’s done very well for me going that route. If one has the facility’s to do that then I think it can work out just fine. Especially in this day and age. I laugh when someone mentions the word “distribution”
I always ask distribution where? Lol. There aren’t really record stores anymore. Maybe a handful of Mom and Pop stores but that’s pretty much it. I can record myself farting into a tin can and put it on I-Tunes, Spotify, a Pandora, Amazon and sell it on my Websight if I wanted to. So “ distribution “as we used to know it” I feel is a thing of the past. Now that being said, a record label can provide the funds to record an album and manufacture an album which can be good if one doesn’t have the funds to do so themselves. The record label also can be a tremendous help in promoting the album and to help get it into the hands of folks that might not know about it otherwise. Also there a certain stigma that comes with being “signed to a label.”
Like “he’s on a record label so it must be good” there’s a certain amount of illusion and delusion that can come with that. And let’s make one thing clear, when a record label “advances” you money, it’s simply that an “advance” a better way to say it, would be a “loan” as that money has to be paid back. As far as a producer. I think having a good producer who can bring the best out of somebody and get out of them things that wouldn’t come out otherwise can be hugely beneficial. Tab is a great producer.
What do you learn about yourself from the Blues people and culture? How do you want your music to affect people?
I’m not sure what you mean when you say “Blues People” I know folks of all different “cultures” that like Blues. I hope for people to be able to relate to my music in some way. To feel some sort of connection to the music. I want make em feel something. Feel good and forget about their troubles for a while. Put a smile on their face, dance. Embrace creativity, art and humanity. The universal language of music. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s brought me many places and introduced me to lots and lots of wonderful people. I love it and I feel blessed and honored to get to do it.
Do you consider the Blues a specific music genre and artistic movement or do you think it’s a state of mind?
"I like to feel the energy that I am putting out, coming back to me from the audience…and letting that energy build into a frenzy." (JP Soars / Photo by Marilyn Stringer)
How do you describe your previous album "Southbound I-95" songbook and sound? What has made you laugh from album's sessions?
A diverse and interesting musical journey. We had some laughs figuring out the song order.
Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Seeing and meeting B.B. King in 1988. Best advice anyone ever gave me was to persevere and pursue your passion.
What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
The genuineness of it. I hope that younger folks continue to discover it. My fear is that going and seeing live music will be ignored.
If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
I would like to change the fact that wanting to become a musician is often frowned upon. I’d be nice to see music and the arts be more embraced in schools.
Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?
I think the best moment was winning the International blues Challenge in Memphis TN in 2009. The worst??? Well…yaddda yadda yaddda blab bla bla…
How would you describe your contact to people when you are on stage?
I like to feel the energy that I am putting out, coming back to me from the audience…and letting that energy build into a frenzy.
Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?
Probably living in Los Angeles Ca... I grew up in a very rural part of North West Arkansas… So living in LA was quite overwhelming... in a good way… I learned a lot and grew a lot…
Are there any memories from INTERNATIONAL BLUES CHALLENGE 2009, which you’d like to share with us?
Well,, here is a funny one,,, when our name was announced as the winner, I thought that they were announcing the 2nd place winner when we stepped out on to the stage but, when I looked down at the trophy I read “ 1st Place”! It was a shock…hahaha…
"I think that the blues cuts strait to the soul...It’s a feeling... It can be both happy and sad. My sound I think is rooted in tradition but steps outside the box now and again. I enjoy trying to incorporate all of my influences somehow. Refreshing." (JP Soars / Photo by Marilyn Stringer)
Would you mind telling me your most vivid memory from Jimmy Thackery? What advice has given to you?
Eating dinner at his place in Arkansas. His wife Sally cooked up this amazing dinner. The best green beans I ever had…Best advice Jimmy gave me was to get a new nut and bridge on my guitar to get it more properly in tune..!
Which of historical blues personalities would you like to meet?
Muddy Waters… and T-Bone Walker to start with…
What’s the best jam and gig you ever played in?
The best jam? Hmmm,There have been many of those… The best gig? Well I played a soccer stadium in Mexico City with a Latin metal band from Puerto Rico called Puya. It was insane, like 40 thousand people... going crazy! Awesome!
How/where do you get inspiration for your songs & who were your mentors in songwriting?
I get influence from all sorts of things. Different situations, things I see or hear about, something I may see a friend going through… all kinds of stuff... It’s unpredictable when it happens.
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians thinking of pursuing a career in the blues craft?
Persevere and don’t give up….
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your paths in blues music and people?
That generally most folks are the same no matter where you go. There’s a lotta good people everywhere. Music is the universal language. Treat folks right as you would like to be treated. It will most always be reciprocated.
Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us. Why do think that is?
Once again, it touches the soul… Everybody gets the blues once in a while, no matter whom you are…Plus it is at the root of most popular music…
What characterize the sound of cigar box guitar? What are the secrets of cigar box guitar? (JP Soars / Photo by Jim Hartzell)
"The blues to me is a timeless music that anyone can relate to and feel at times. I feel it and I feel a deep connection to it when I hear it..."
From whom have you have learned the most secrets about the cigar box guitars?
I learned about the finger picking style that I use... I learned it from the late great Jesse May Hemphill.
How did your involvement with musical instruments begin?
I started playing a penny whistle when I was 6 years old…
How much time do you spend on an instrument? How difficult is the construction of an instrument?
My brother builds them... I put the electronics, strings and pickups on them... The cigar box guitar that I play is not that difficult to build... Pretty easy actually…
Do you know why the sound of cigar box guitar is connected to the blues?
Because it’s homemade, it’s played with a slide… That’s what folks could not afford a guitar would make so that they could make their music…
To which bluesman do you want to send one from your guitar?
What touched (emotionally) you from the sound of Cigar-Box guitar?
The simplicity of it and the ability to make music from a simple homemade instrument.
What is the impact of Blues music and culture to the racial, political, and socio-cultural implications?
Music is the universal language.
Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?
Go back to my childhood for a day would be pretty cool.
From whom have you have learned the most secrets about blues music?
People I have backed up and played with... Watching people play... Listening…
(JP Soars / Photo by Marilyn Stringer / MJStringer Photography)
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