Interview with Lee Shropshire & Andy Scheinman (Eight O’Five Jive) -- swingin’ blues and early rock ‘n roll

"The blues is the soundtrack of American history, even though the style of music has found its way to so many musicians in the rest of the world."

Eight O’Five Jive: Back to Nostalgic Era

Eight O’Five Jive has enough energy to power a small fleet of ’57 Cadillacs, with more than adequate fuel to ignite any stage on fire with their driving sound of swingin’ blues and early rock ‘n roll. Reminiscent of the classic era of the late 1940’s to the late 1950’s, when men wore fedora’s and strong women with attitude ruled the cocktail dress, jump jive defined an exciting era of music and dance. Freddy King, Mabel Scott, and Wynonnie Harris, and more, along with some original compositions, define Eight O’Five Jive as a creative ensemble of jump, and swingin blues. A few well-placed steamy jazz standards round out the sound, but also entice an intimate moment to linger over a martini, or a sloe gin fizz. Eight O’Five Jive redefines this exciting era not lost in time, but alive and jivin’ with classic and rare material that is well suited for dinner and drinks, but best suited for tapping feet and a lively dance floor. Eight O’Five Jive was founded by the wife-and-husband team of vocalist Lee Shropshire and guitarist Andy Scheinman. Adding bassist Bill Bois, saxophonist Patrick Mosser, and cocktail drummer Duane Spencer, the group exploded onto the Nashville scene in 2014 playing regularly at top clubs and dance halls around town. With tremendous support from the Nashville Blues Society, the Markey Blue Band, the Andy T – Nick Nixon band, Ted Drozdowski, and of course their fans, Eight O’Five Jive is making their mark in Music City and the nation.                           Photo by Bill Steber

Lee Shropshire cut her teeth in Peterborough and Toronto, Ontario’s music scene, performing in theater, operettas, cabaret, rock and punk ensembles. After moving to Nashville in 1995, she studied at the Nashville Jazz Workshop and has performed with legendary Nashville blues singer Marion James, Jerry Lackey, Duffy Jackson, and Ted Wilson. Andy Scheinman was an original founder of the New York post-punk band The Astorians. He also had a prominent career in the Americana world and has shared the stage with the likes of artists from Steve Earle and Iris Dement to the post-punk rockers The Replacements. Recorded at The Jive Hive in Nashville, TN and produced by Eight O'Five Jive, new second CD "Swing Set" -Coming in January 2017- features 10 band originals plus a creative re-imagining of Rudy Green's "My Mumblin' Baby". The band -- a tight, inventive ensemble -- includes Lee Shropshire (vocals), Andy Scheinman (guitar), Bill Bois (bass), Duane Spencer (drums) and Patrick Mosser (sax) (On "Swing Set", Mosser overdubbed multiple saxophones into a 'virtual' section the band calls the “Horn Stars!” -- additional applause - Mitch and Jenny Ross). Eight O'Five Jive is heading back to the International Blues Challenge 2017, representing the Nashville Blues Society for the second year in a row!

Interview by Michael Limnios

Photos by Eric Petersen, Michelle Conner, Bill Steber & Mary Blankenship

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

Lee: Blues has always been a way for me to tell my story, and listening to other people’s stories and different blues styles has connected me to a vast genre of music that spans several generations through incredible times in our history. I’ve always been attracted to material that shows wit, struggle, humor, and strength of character. The women artists we cover fought personal and professional issues on every level to tell their stories, and in the telling is a level of depth that exists mainly in blues ‘elements of style.’ This is the thread and code of our voices in blues music.

Andy: The blues to me is the soundtrack of American history, even though the style of music has found its way to so many musicians in the rest of the world. If you look back in American history from slavery and emancipation during the 1800s through the early 1900s, the great depression, the Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s in the U.S. to where we are today, the blues has always been present. For me it’s a way to learn about it’s characters, songs, and allows me to pool all the styles of music that I’ve played and incorporate that into the style of blues that we play in Eight O’Five Jive.

How do you describe band's sound and songbook? What is the story behind the name?         Photo by Mary Blankenship / Courtesy of Nashville Paw Magazine

Lee: We pick and write material that is mostly upbeat, has lots of room for melody and backup harmonies, and that lends itself lyrically to irony, wry humor and a dash of willful irreverence. The songs are fun and mischievous and challenging in their arrangements. It’s important to be challenged and to work with a group of musicians who help each other raise their individual and collective bar in a positive and reinforcing pattern of communication. That’s been so great with this band! It works, and we have a blast together.

Andy: Well the story behind the band’s name would be better answered by Lee. She’s the one who came up with the name from "8:05" an old Moby Grape's song that she liked. My philosophy on music is to play what you love to play. I’ve played so many different styles of music and at those points of my life, those styles were what I loved at the time. I believe that we should be open to all kinds of music. It doesn’t mean you have to like it all, but you’ll know what works for you.

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

Lee: My first private vocal guide, Ada Lee Barker, sang with the Count Basie Orchestra. She provided me with instruction handed down to her from the great Canadian opera singer, Maureen Forrester—floor exercises, breathing techniques, breathe placement, vocal wheel, etc. She knew how to read my body mechanics and pin point my range issues. She brought Count Basie to Peterborough, Ontario, during the early 1980s to give a concert at the Peterborough Civic Center. Ms Barker introduced me to ‘The Count,’ and I was able to speak with him. He was as he seemed to the outer world… generous and spirited, vibrant and jovial. He told me to always be a student and learn from as many people as possible, and to enjoy the process. What a rare opportunity, and good advice!

Andy: Meeting Lee was probably the most important experience for me, not only for putting together the band, but she agreed to be my wife! Meeting the guys in the band, Bill, Patrick, and Duane also too is very important. We put together this incredible band that’s truly a hell of a lot of fun to play in. I gotta say my first guitar teacher, Paul Lehrman, who I met when I was very young had a huge influence on me. He really set me on a path to playing great music, Rock, Jazz, Blues. Learning from Jazz greats Sal Salvador and Woody Mann also played a huge part. The best piece of advice I was given and which I share with others is, that it’s okay to take breaks from music from time to time to gather up life experiences other than music because it will make you a better player or writer with more insight.

"My fear is that the corporate entertainment industry will continue to marginalize the heart and soul of how we listen to and see ourselves in our cultural climate." (Photo by Mary Blankenship / Courtesy of Nashville Paw Magazine)

How do you describe "Swing Set" sound and songbook? What has made you laugh from album’s studio sessions?

Lee: Swing Set is an extension of the jump/blues era we expressed on our first cd, ‘Too Many Men’. It is hard driving with a very strong swing element that blends humor and pathos in an accessible means that also combines a healthy dose of jazz. There is a song on the new recording about a woman who refuses to wear flat-souled shoes to her ex’s funeral. We had a lot of participation on this song! A friend contributed all the different style of heels one could wear, and we all cracked up during the arrangement of the bridge. It’s a scream!

Andy: “Swing Set” is simple straight ahead fun music without all the effects. The songs are tongue and cheek underlying everyday real life issues.

Why did you think that the 1940s & 1950s music continues to generate such a devoted following?

Lee: There was so much energy during that period, and great musicianship with this material with all the passion of a changing culture. Racial divides were blurring and jazz, blues and popular swing styles were crossing over, in both mainstream and underground styles.

Andy: That music was infectious. Music that swings is hard to ‘not’ move and groove to and the music of that time swung. People like to groove!

What were the reasons that the band started the ‘old school’ music researches and experiments?

Andy: Lee really started this whole thing from listening to a radio show in Nashville called ‘Nashville Jumps’. She realized that this was the style of music that had been inside of her for a long time. We listened and listened and studied the style and from there put the band together. The music is simple sounding, but demanding to play.  It forces you to keep getting better as a musician while keeping all the fun and humor that make many of the songs less serious.

"There was so much energy during that period, and great musicianship with this material with all the passion of a changing culture. Racial divides were blurring and jazz, blues and popular swing styles were crossing over, in both mainstream and underground styles."

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

Lee: There are years of memories, and memories that I can’t remember! Do you want the book or film version? Really the best memories are where the band and I are well rehearsed to the point where we can let loose and float around the form and structure of the song because we know where and when to land. We can feel it when we’re gellin’. It’s a great high!

Andy: Probably one of my most memorable moments was when my band ‘The Astorians’ opened up for ‘The Replacements’ at a club in Washington DC in the late 80s. We all had a few too many libations and they had destroyed their dressing room. When we came out for our set there wasn’t any room to move in the club, the place was packed. We figured no one would be paying too much attention to us, but we really won the crowd over. After the evening, Paul Westerberg came up to me, shook my hand, and said “You guys can open for us anytime”! That was a good moment.

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

Lee: I think what I miss from the music of the past is the lack of audience inhibition in participating with what’s going on, on the stage. I like that this is the era of capturing music moments on our phones to share, so the audience has the potential of being very large. The bar and wait staff, many of whom are musicians, are better off if we all show up in person. We are all better off if we show up in person. My hopes are that music continues to connect and ignite a collective consciousness to live more passionately and compassionately. My fear is that the corporate entertainment industry will continue to marginalize the heart and soul of how we listen to and see ourselves in our cultural climate. There of course are popular artists who have the money and opportunity to use their voice for change in the market and media arts, much like artists did in the past, such as the provocative singer, Ruth Brown, who championed the fight for artist royalties in the 1950’s. The battles are recurrent and similar and seem to always be challenged by industry greed, and media misrepresentation. I personally like bringing a cultural discrepancy to a musical forum.

Andy: I can’t really say I miss much from the music of the past.  It’s all accessible and if I want some nostalgia, I know just what to put on the record player. Thank God for YouTube! I just hope that folks will continue to make great music and aren’t afraid to put out what they want to say for fear of censorship.

"The women artists we cover fought personal and professional issues on every level to tell their stories, and in the telling is a level of depth that exists mainly in blues ‘elements of style.’ This is the thread and code of our voices in blues music." (Eight O’Five Jive - Photo by Eric Petersen)

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

Lee: My change would be that every child has access to music and art education, and that the arts are publicly funded in all schools, as an option and choice throughout the course of every child’s educational experience.

Andy: For me that’s a two-part answer. First I’d like to see more music education so that young people can become more exposed to music in school along with their other studies. Whether as players or just for music appreciation, to me that’s all so important to help make a well-rounded individual. The other change I’d like to see is that we go back to listening on better equipment rather than just on an IPod or computer. So much is put into a recording to make it sound as best as it possibly can only to then be heard on ear buds or tiny computer speakers. That just doesn’t make sense to me even though I’m guilty of it as well.

What are the lines that connect the Blues with Rock n’ Roll and continue to Jazz, Cabaret and Punk music?

Lee: I would suggest that these specific genres of music are tied together by the artistic efforts to reflect the mood, status and freedom of expression during times of political and structural failure of leadership, combined with global, reckless tyranny and violent repression and territorial acquisition by very coercive and persuasive ideologies of industry. History repeats itself, and through time has given us music with roots that grew and migrated from the needs of repressed people who developed a musical language to communicate and soothe a brutal existence. Innuendo, metaphore, pathos, humor and mishap metered out with rhythm, and complex energetic arrangements contributed to stories of risk, rebellion, love and betrayal, as well as triumph, revenge and redemption.

Andy: There is a thread that runs through all those styles and you can’t leave out Jazz. Blues and Jazz is where it all comes from. It’s a melting pot of music that includes Jazz, Blues, Jump, Swing all jumbled up into what became Rock n’ Roll. Now if you weave some traditional country music and even bluegrass, which has a ton of blues sounds in those styles, you come up with Americana, which really to me all of this is Americana. Then going back to the early 60s groups like the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Led Zeppelin and the Who all were immersing themselves into the blues and bringing it to their music and from there you can find the first elements of Punk. Groups like the Clash, Green Day, The Violent Femmes, and  Elvis Costello and the Attractions all have some blues thrown into the mix of what they were doing whether it being in the sound of the music or the lyrics. You can hear elements of Chuck Berry and Bill Haley in all of that which, initially came out of the blues.

"Well the story behind the band’s name would be better answered by Lee. She’s the one who came up with the name from an old Moby Grape song that she liked." (Photo by Mary Blankenship / Courtesy of Nashville Paw Magazine)

What does to be a female artist in a “Man’s World” as James Brown says? What is the status of women in Blues?

Lee: For me it’s the best time ever to be making music. Of course the status of women is still struggling against industry attitudes, and there’s always a backlash for any gender or ethnic minority group who develops a voice. But artists from Marlene Dietrich, to Ma Rainey and Memphis Millie, Ruth Brown, Nina Simone, all made statements about the inequities in their music and artistic careers. Now I’m seeing as many, if not more women blues artists booked for paying club, festival and events. But I’ll also add that I’ve seen plenty of good talent of any element get screwed over by someone who has no business doing business with artists of any medium.

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the Music City’s chitlin’ circuits?

Andy: Every morning I get up and talk to my brother John in Baltimore, Maryland. We pretty well spend about an hour being completely ridiculous and cracking each other up with complete nonsense. I wish the chitlin circuit in Nashville was still going strong. We have some really great venues, but they’re not quite what the chitlin circuit venues were like. We’re very close to the Andy T. and Nick Nixon band and Nick will always tell a great story from those days. He was a big part of that scene when guys like Jimi Hendrix and Billy Cox were playing those clubs in Nashville.

What is the impact of Swing, Jive n’ Jump and Blues to the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

Lee: Music is a method to speak to people and unite common goals. Cultures were coming together, largely because of the appreciation and accessibility of music, played in mixed racial clubs. The music of this time often presented an antidote to oppression with complex and energetic compositions that were danceable and challenging.

Andy: The 40s and 50s were a very tumultuous time in America. The country was still feeling the effects of the Great Depression, World War II, segregation and the beginnings of the cold war with Russia. Swing and Jump Jive or Jump Blues were styles of music that allowed people to forget the troubles of the day. Because the music was fun and upbeat and the lyrics were often humorous, people could let loose, dance, and have a good time even though the world around them was not in such great shakes.

How has the 1940s 1950s music and culture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?          Photo by Michelle Conner

Lee: That was a favorite era of my dad’s. He had an expansive appreciation for artists like Louis Armstong, Oscar Peterson, Kid Ory, Fats Waller, Mary Lou Williams, Hazel Scott… his collection was huge! We listened to everything, including Jimmy Durante, and often, opera. He adored Pavorotti.

Andy: I’ve often romanticized about the 40s and 50s and what it must have been like to be in my prime during that time. The movies, music, and fashion just seemed to be exploding with style and creativity. No matter what might be going on  today I always seem to find myself looking for a correlation to that time.

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the Music City’s chitlin’ circuits?

Lee: There were so many performers that played the chitlin’ circuit in Nashville… Ike andTina Turner, James Brown, Nashville’s own Marion James, Johnny Jones, Etta James, The Imperials…. Jimi Hendrix and Billy Cox played the Del Morocco, and other clubs like Club Baron, Black Diamond, Club Stealaway hosted Little Richard, Otis Redding, Jimmy Church and scores of brilliantly talented artists There was such a dynamic and rich legacy of performers back in the day. All those clubs were in the Jefferson Street chitlin’ district, which at the time was thriving, way before Music Row evolved. That was an important aspect for these performers most of whom never were signed to a major label, and relied on these clubs to make a living. Over the years, most of the clubs closed and the area fell into poverty and disarray. Recently, Nashville, due in large part to the efforts of the great, late Marion James, has come to recognize what a treasure this area was. Now, we have the Jefferson Street Jazz and Blues Festival which showcases great local blues talent. That doesn’t necessarily make me laugh, but does make me smile! And the popular Elks Lodge is starting to revive as well. Last summer, Marion James (Nashville’s Queen of the Blues) and her Musician’s Aid Society held a benefit there to raise funds to erect a statue of Jimi Hendrix, outside of the Elks Lodge. I don’t know what the status of that project is since her death, which was a terribly sad loss to the local blues community, but there are efforts made to revive the area and the legacy of the era. Of course there will also be gentrification, which unfortunately is unavoidable in these sterile development projects that scourge the landscape. But the history lives on from the efforts of people like Marion, and also Lorenzo Washington, who owns Jefferson Street Sound Recording Studio and record label. And the Nashville Blues Society continues to promote blues bands such as ours and so many of our friends. Blues music remains strong in Nashville!

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

Lee: I’d love to travel to the Northwest Territories in northern Canada, during the peak of winter when the skies are a translucent, glittering film covering the universe, and where the aurora borealis is so vivid and colorful and massive that you can hear the sheets of ice collide and ring with sound as the frozen geometric patterns of crystals pass over each other.

Andy: There are a lot of places I’d like to go to, but I do have some great memories of being in Greece on the island of Tinos. I’d really like to go with Lee and check out your fabulous country again. A day on one of your beaches would be pretty fantastic.

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Eight O’Five Jive - Photo by Eric Petersen

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