Interview with Arkansas multi-talented Rachel Fields - rooted deeply in Blues, Gospel, Folk & Roots music

"I miss that good music use to be on top! It was about the music years ago. Now it is not, now it is about the image or the 'hook' or the money." 

Rachel Fields: Heartbreak Blues

Rachel Fields is a multi-talented musician. She was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas recalls hearing her care taker Ms. Marcella Jackson singing Gospel and African American Traditional music to her at the young age of 2 and 3 years old. Rachel began singing as early as three, entertaining her family. Rachel has sung in bars, venues, and churches from New York City to San Francisco, CA and everywhere in between. Rachel and her husband, Larry Brick found one another at a mutual music venue in Eureka Springs, AR in 2006, then “Brick Fields” was born. This couple’s original music is rooted deeply in Blues, Gospel, Folk, and Roots music.

Their musical combinations can accommodate venues from an intimate relaxed setting with the acoustic duo to a full band experience. This husband and wife team with Larry’s anointed guitar sound and back vocals along with Rachel’s, soulful voice, flute, and rhythm guitar continue to touch their audiences deeply. Brick Fields music can be heard on blues, gospel, folk, and even children’s radio nationally and internationally. The State of Arkansas has produced a self-sufficient amount of musical treasures over the years and some of them are still a best-kept secret. The Brick Fields Band is both a tradition-rich and forward thinking natural progression of that lineage. But with their work ethic and deep-rooted talent, the fences we have around this state will no longer be able to contain them. One more project of Rachel is Brick Fields and The Chosen Ones; come together with their natural approach of Original Arkansas Blues using a Gospel platform as well as an Americana Soul feel. Rachel Fields using her ambrosial voice while playing guitar and flute, bring together a stormy performance each and every time. Add The Chosen Ones of Arkansas, Jennifer Parker on bass, Chris Parker & Larry Brick on guitars, Matt Jenkins on keys, Morty Mortenson on drums and Ben Sass of Isreal on harmonica.  

Interview by Michael Limnios

When was your first desire to become involved in the music & who were your first idols?

I was singing and dancing at the age of two. When I was three I use to make a stage out of the three steps in my grandmothers foyer and compose musicals for the family that would last all day. My grandmother would knit and listen for hours. My first musical idols were the people in my life who loved me and who I loved. My granddaddy was my first musical inspiration. He would sit with me at the piano and taught me to pick out tunes, he danced around the living room sometimes playing his fiddle, he introduced me to jazz music such as Dizzy Gillespie, and we always had a date to watch the Lawrence Whelk show. My caretaker from the time I was a baby til I was about three was a sweet black woman by the name of Ms. Marcella. She would sing to me always. I can only guess she sang African American Gospel music to me. I just remember her singing to me always. My mother introduced me to every kind of music under the sun growing up but she mostly loved, rock-n-roll, the Beatles, and show tunes. My mother married my dad when I was three and he would always play country and bluegrass music for me and bought me my first guitar which I didn't play much. When I turned 21 I met my biological father who had at one time been a regional Rock Star in Southern Arkansas with a group called Johnny Jet and The Rockin 88's. He suffered from schizophrenia since his hard drug rock star days. Still he had the most awesome voice I'd ever heard and He encouraged me to begin playing guitar. His brother, my uncle Mike was an Arkansas archive and was well known as a songwriter. He had played with Arkansas legends such at the Cate Brothers and Levon Helms. These are all the musical influences I've looked up to and have idolized in my life.

"Music began in heaven but when the great musician fell it became something a bit different and then when earth was added to the equation it became a music that us as human beings can relate to."

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

What I learn about myself when writing or singing the blues is to reach deep inside myself and to take the most intense complicated emotions and thoughts and simplify them into a song. When listening to a good blues artist I learn that we all go through the same trials and suffering the same joy and love as we travel through life. To me “Blues” as well as Gospel music are the roots of all Southern American music and I am a Southern American woman so it is like home to me.

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

Our sound is the combination of my melodies and Larry’s progressions. Sometimes I will write the song with me and the guitar and then Larry will come in and add all the tasty chords to it so that it flows in a more soaring directions, Other times Larry might write the words and guitar parts and I’ll come in and tweak the words as well as adjust the melody to fit my need of emotions.  Sometimes we write the songs together beginning to end. We are a songwriting team. Our music roots from an emotional and spiritual place.  I like to call it testimony music. It’s like confession of my sins or a prayer for guidance, gratitude, peace, health, or forgiveness. I don’t ever have to go to confession because I do it every time I’m on the stage. LOL!!! The next album will be much different because I plan to write songs about the many experiences I’ve had in life, like story songs. This will be a challenge for me because these sort of songs come from a memory rather than a lingering emotion. I have realized over the past year that I have a lot of stories to tell and I should do that by putting them in a song.

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

Our last album was completely based around heartbreak. Simple as that.

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

I think it feels like home to a lot of us. It speaks to the soul and people who listen to blues are not caught up in things that the majority of the world strives on today. People who listen to blues music are connected by like minds and bleeding hearts. They have experienced real life rather than a plastic world.

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

Funny you ask, I have just recently had a great experience on stage that will last a lifetime. We were asked to play a showcase here in town and for an art event. All the players in our band had something come up at the last minute and they were not able to make it. So Larry and I go to play the showcase as a duo. Before the show began I got a phone call from my friend John Davies who is an international bass player (Michael Burks, The Cate Brothers), he had the night off and wanted to come hang out. I said come on and bring your bass. Then out of the blue my friend RJ Mischo, who is also an internationally known musician, showed up with his harmonicas.  All of the sudden we had a powerhouse quartet. We got two standing ovations and a ton of love that night. It was an awesome set.  There is something to be said about playing music with seasoned, professional musicians who are full of heart.

When I was in my early twenties I had the opportunity to tour with a festival scene and open for some big names. I still smile when I remember singing with JGB in North Carolina for about 15,000 people while opening for Wide Spread Panic and the night I got to open for Warren Haynes in Lansing Michigan was a night I’ll never forget. The crowd was small but grateful, the weather was warm, the sunset an array of color and they kept chanting more, more, so we ended up playing an extra hour. It was fantastic.

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

Since I’ve entered into the blues world I have had some real life changing encounters with good people who are a part of this blues family. If I told you about all of them I would be writing a book but I will say that I got a phone call one night from a wonderful supporter of the blues. That evening I was feeling pretty down and discouraged and she could not have called at a better time. This lady has been in the blues world for a lot of years and I guess she just felt the urge to call me and give me some much needed advice. She told me that the blues genre is much different from any other. She said that you have a family here and that I should know that and that when I reach out to folks about our music I should treat them as family. She was right. I had been encountered by other musicians in other genres my whole life that were so ego driven that I had put a wall up. It’s not like that in the blues. The blues family will hang in there together and sincerely support one another. This is what I love more than anything about it.

"I wish more of today's generation would put down their electronics put on some good blues and listen and appreciate."

Are there any memories from recording and show time which you’d like to share with us?

We host a weekly blues night here in Fayetteville, AR. We call it Wednesday Night Blues Therapy at Bear’s Place. We play blues and gospel. Actually our genre is called Ozark Gospel Blues. In America Wednesday nights are generally church nights for a lot of folks so we get a small but dedicated crowd of people who prefer not to go to church but rather come have a beer, a burger, and listen to music. It is always a great fellowship and spiritually enlightening time. We have different players show up every week because they choose to, always new faces in the crowd, and our favorite time is after the show when we get to sit down, have a meal and visit with one another. All the musicians come and play for the soul of it and a good meal. It is not a paying gig. Every Wednesday night is a good memory.

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

I miss that good music use to be on top! It was about the music years ago. Now it is not, now it is about the image or the “hook” or the money. I am not surprised though because that is what the world is coming to. Of course I would hope that it could be that way again for the good of the people that listen to mainstream music but I fear it will never be that way again. I just see that those of us who stay in touch with the real things in life will keep it going. I believe the future of our music will be out of the spotlight of today’s society. I don’t think this is a bad thing though, I think it is a good thing because it keeps us real, it keeps us honest, it keeps us humble,  it keeps us working hard and these are true treasures that we can take with us through eternity. Spotlights only last a moment. 

Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us.  Why do think that is?

I think the form of blues music comes from the source. It is a natural approach that is with-in most musicians. I believe that when King David sang his songs the melodies and rhythms were not much different from ours today. Some people call blues or rock the "devils" music. Well this may not be too far off because Lucifer was the angel of music. He was the top composer, the leader from the beginning of time. he was the great musician before he fell from heaven. So the angels, the saints, the spirits of the universe before time on earth were singing melodies and moving to rhythms that were composed by the angel of music. It is the first music our spirits have known that is why it speaks so deeply to us.

Music began in heaven but when the great musician fell it became something a bit different and then when earth was added to the equation it became a music that us as human beings can relate to. You can take the feel of a blues song and add your own intent to it whether it be positive or negative, they both fit. This is another reason why it speaks to so many people and will last forever in this world.

Give one wish for the BLUES

I wish more of today's generation would put down their electronics put on some good blues and listen and appreciate.

What does to be a blueswoman in a “Man Man World” as James Brown says?

It just means we give the men more to sing about. Like James Brown Said "A man is nothing without a woman or a girl."

Make an account of the case of the blues in Arkansas. What are the lines that connect the Blues with Gospel?

There are many blues artists who were born in Arkansas including my favorite Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Also from Arkansas is one of the longest running blues radio shows “King Biscuit Time” presented by the legendary Sunshine Sonny Payne in Helena AR along with the most respected blues festival in the world the King Biscuit Blues Fest.

Blues music rooted directly from Gospel Music. It was the music that was played outside of the African American churches in the early 1900’s. The musicians would take the beat, rhythms, and melodies that they were accustomed to from the church and change the words of the music to fit their life and experiences outside of church. When they would entertain at the backwoods juke joints they would sing about drinking their troubles away or about lusts and heartache. It was a way of expressing their desires and emotions in a different way that was not accepted in church.

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the blues circuits?

Last week I laughed harder than I laughed in a long time sitting around the table with my band after a Wednesday night Blues Therapy Session at Bear’s Place. We were all having a great time, making jokes and laughing. I was truly confused about a situation that had happened months ago so I decided this was a good time to ask. Three months ago we were playing a gig out of town and had wrapped up the show so it was time to pack up and head home. One of our band members says, give me five minutes then I’ll be ready to go. This girl had been flirting with him all night and he wanted to stay all night but couldn’t because we were car-pulling. So he asked for five min and then drove off with this girl. He was back in 5 min. All this time I’ve wondered, what in the world could he do with some strange girl in a car for only five minutes? So finally I asked him…well, I wish I hadn’t. When he told me, I turned bright red, jumped out of my seat, screamed and then laughed for about 10 min. I still don’t understand why any girl would get full-filled with 5 min in the car with a blues musician she just met. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a cutie, but really 5 min??? I laughed but it makes me sad for the girl too. What would her mother think? (Hum? Life of a musician. So stereotypical)

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

I’d go to the Mount of Olives to hear Jesus speak to the people, see him heal the sick and feed thousands with just a few loaves of bread and a few fish.

Brick Fields - official website

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