Interview with Belgian guitarist Jurgen Demeyere - energetically mixture of rockabilly, blues, country and surf

"I guess, that Blues ‘n Roll is still going strong with the younger generation. It is also a chance for these styles of music to continue their legacies even in a more modern way!"

Jurgen Demeyere: Rock The Boogie

Jurgen Demeyere started playing guitar as a 5 year old and formed his first band, The Young Byrds, at age 11 in 1982. This band with youngsters had their first double single out after one year and gave them some success in Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany and France. In the beginning of 1985 the members of The Young Byrds decided to quit due to their other musical interest as individual musicians. Jurgen and his parents decided to visit their family in Canada for a while. As a young musician J.D. learned all about Country Music and the guitar picking style from his nephew Mel Hyland. Mel was a country singer and a saddle bronc rider at that time and even now Mel (known as "Big Bull") is inducted to the Canadian Professional Hall Of Fame.

J.D.'s Canadian trip leads to his decision to start a Country Band in Belgium. Back in Belgium J.D. found a new bass player (current member now Clint) for his band through Mr. Bobby Setter. J.D. still needed a new drummer for the band and was contacted by Mr. Dirk Watson. As the band was formed at that time as "The New Byrds" their efforts in Belgium as a country band went well! They worked for Bobbejaan Schoepen several times and so they met Mr. Jimmy Lawton and Mr. Steward Barnes. After two years as The New Byrds Jurgen, Rudy and Dirk decided to change the band’s name into "Roadliner". The band continued playing country music and J.D. still worked on his own style of picking.

At some point and time in Europe "Line Dancing" became more and more known but after several time this country dance style became a style of itself at the "dance scene" and after a while it was not used with country music only but also with more modern styles of music. Since it was getting harder to play gigs at Line Dance clubs the band had the chance to cooperate with VTM (Belgium) in the series of the Planckaerts. After this adventure the band started to think about changing their name into "The Roadliner Band". Their sound is described as "Country-fed Rockabilly Twang". Their music is a mixture of rockabilly, country, surf, and blues, all played so energetically with their own style and sound.

Interview by Michael Limnios

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

Well, my sound could be best described as Country Fed-Rockabilly I guess. Some people say it’s Country picking and some are saying it’s a mix of different styles within Rock/Blues/Jazz/Surf etc...

As for myself I consider it’s just fun developing a style without copying someone else’s style where I can attend to all kinds of music. My progress is something that will continue for the rest of my life. Music is so beautiful and artistic wise you can still learn forever or find new guitar techniques.

My music philosophy is very simple: enjoy it and bring (play) it with your heart! If you believe what you play or sing, people will hear that and feel it too.

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

Everyone has his ups and downs in their lives and that is something that can reflect in a song.

Although if I go through some tough times in life as a musician or artist you can find the positive energy putting it into music. That is what I am using as a trigger for ideas.

"I think Blues n’ Roll music is one of the basics and roots that contains real stories in their songs."

Which is the most interesting period in your life? Which was the best and highlight moment of your career?

Haha, the most interesting period in my life was when I have discovered “The Guitar”. I started as a 5 year old kid who could not hold it properly but I was so fascinated about the instrument that I was very determent to learn to play it!

The best highlight of my career till now, was that I received my first award from the “Akademia Music Awards” at Beverly Hills-CA.for best instrumental album and recently that I was given the opportunity to become a representative for “Lindy Fralin pickups” in Belgium were I am very proud of!

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

Well, I think Blues n’ Roll music is one of the basics and roots that contains real stories in their songs. People can find similar things from their lives in song lyrics but there is also the joy and happiness. Blues is the most influencing style of music that inspires young musicians over and over again. It is a way of telling a story with your voice or with your instrument that you can do in a 12 bar progression.

R’n’R or Rock had a lot to do with young people revolting back in the 50’s. They could shake their hips and go wild on lyrics although it was disapproved at that time. That is why, I guess, that Blues ‘n Roll is still going strong with the younger generation. It is also a chance for these styles of music to continue their legacies even in a more modern way!

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

This is a tough one to answer…each gig is memorable and each jam I did too. It is always a pleasure seeing the crowd go wild or enjoying as listeners the music I play with the band. I do have one gig I enjoyed so much and this was at the Blues and Roots Festival with Mr. Wayne Parham from Charlottesville. Wayne came in from the U.S. that evening, joined us on stage and we freaked out with our guitars for an hour! Ever since we are friends for life and talk a lot about Blues music and guitars. This is also a memory that makes me smile!

"The Rock ‘n Roll scene in Belgium is at a revival right now with festivals and custom car meetings while live bands are playing the 50’s Rock ‘n’ Roll/Rockabilly and Blues. It looks like people are willing to go back and enjoy the roots of music again."

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

I had the pleasure to meet Mr. Jerry Donahue (The Hellecasters) in the 90’s here in Belgium when he was giving a guitar clinic and that I could meet Donna Summer in Antwerp.

The best advice I ever received..: Believe in what you do, Enjoy what you do, treasure what you have in life and cherish your family. Be open for critique and “keep your two feet on the ground”, learn from anything that crosses your path in life…  

Are there any memories from the Roadliner Band and Young Byrds which you’d like to share with us?

Oh, there are a lot but one of the funniest memories I had with The Roadliner Band was when we were driving to a gig. We had a long drive a head to a gig and we decided to make a stop on the highway to France…As we get out of the tour bus I forgot something and had to go back. So while we were heading to the road shop I asked for the keys so I could go back to the bus. Meanwhile I was playing with the keys throwing them from the one hand to my other but they slipped and fell into the sewer. Now.., believe me this was a panic moment! We could see them lying just at the edge of the hole deep inside but we couldn’t reach them by hand. So we went to the shop and tried to find something that we could tie together and make a hook on the other side. We found some luggage winders there and sat down around the sewer hole. As we were trying to “fish” the keys out of there we placed our drinks and candy, we bought at the shop, on the side step. All the people and cars who passed us by where very interested! They thought we were fishing the candy out of the sewer!

With the Young Byrds… in the middle of our performance at a festival the drums fell out of our monitoring and as I turned around towards our drummer he was gone. He had fallen backwards with his chair from the stage! Luckily he wasn’t injured!  

"My music philosophy is very simple: enjoy it and bring (play) it with your heart! If you believe what you play or sing, people will hear that and feel it too."

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

Well, I do not miss anything from the music of the past actually. We have to go forward and as technology continues to develop there are a lot of new ways to make music. What I do miss on the new recordings (if I compare it with the recorded music from the past) is sometimes the “real live” feeling on tracks. Nowadays takes are sometimes cut with computers and copied. Also the analog sound from the past had something to do with it. In the early days musicians and bands had to play it in one take and it had to be good because retakes where out of the question. I know for certain musicians and the stars from these days are going back to the old method of recording at the studio and that is a good thing which you can hear in their music!

I hope for the future that the instruments will not be too much digitalized. If you look around you can find all new stuff from robot guitars to digital saxophones and drums. I can give some examples: like a student of mine telling me it is not necessary to learn him how to get his guitar in tune because his does this all by itself… or the drummer telling his bass drum is to loud sounding and that he can’t play like this before he can turn his amp down…these examples are also my fears for the future…. Maybe I am too old school but these are only my thoughts about it.

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

O, hard to say…Well…, we all know music is a universal language…no matter from what origin people are, musicians

Worldwide can sit together and play together. What if music would be the only language the human race could speak and write? Would we have a better world without conflict and wars??  

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues with Country, Surf and continue to Jazz and Rockabilly music?

You can read many history books about music and their legacies and what connects different styles, but there had to be one person (musician) who have started this all. If you can imagine that this one person played some notes first that turned into a melody and then added more notes on this melody at the same time (as chords) this is how it all started. Then another person who liked it, tried to study it and passed it on. In this way people created a new style over and over till someone invented a method for it. What I am trying to say is that this ongoing process are “the lines” that we can recognize in the same way as the lines that connect the legacy of these music styles.

As a musician is a creative person, it is in our search that we try to “add” or “connect” things we love to hear and play. These music styles are all developed over a short time scale and you can still recognize the same patterns of chords used in these styles. It is only the sound we add with our instruments to everyone’s taste that changes the genre. At the end of all this it’s the creative musician who is the connection and what he emotionally went through to tell (or sing) his story. I think he is the one who is the line, the connection and the legacy for these music styles.

Make an account of Rock n’ Roll scene in Belgium. What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you?

The Rock ‘n Roll scene in Belgium is at a revival right now with festivals and custom car meetings while live bands are playing the 50’s Rock ‘n’ Roll/Rockabilly and Blues. It looks like people are willing to go back and enjoy the roots of music again. A couple of years ago Belgium was more known for House music, New Beat, Rave, all this electronically music. But I guess we are going back to the roots now!

After a gig a kid (I guess 12 years old) came to me and asked me if I could teach him how to play like me, that made me laugh and I was very touched by this!

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

With what I know now, I would love to go back for a whole day to the place (where ever that could be) when the first music notes where written on paper and ask this person what he felt writing it down as a melody.

I have enjoyed this interview a lot and I am honored that I was given the opportunity sharing my thoughts and story. Keep the Blues and its legacy alive!!

Jurgen Demeyere - official website

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