Q&A with Texas based, Canadian bred musician Sue Foley, considered among the very top tier of blues stars

"I think in general young people are looking for something to feed their spirit, with all the technology that we lean on, I think more, and more people are just looking for something real to hold onto. What could be better than the blues? So, it's actually a good time for BLUES and I'm very optimistic that it will. It will keep growing and new audience."

Sue Foley:

Guitar Woman Keeps the Texas Blues Alive

Texas based, Canadian bred guitarist, singer and songwriter Sue Foley released her new album “Sue Foley - Live in Austin Vol 1” (2023) via her Guitar Woman Records. Recorded on May 19, 2023, at Austin’s legendary Continental Club, this electrifying album captures Sue Foley and her unique Texas blues sound. The album features 11 tracks of grit, sweat and devastating guitar playing that has propelled Sue Foley to the top of the Blues world. It’s a retrospective collection of songs from her recording career, with a few surprise covers thrown in. First arriving in Austin at the urging of nightclub impresario Clifford Antone, Sue cut her teeth amongst Texas guitar slingers like Albert Collins, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, and The Vaughan Brothers. Drawing on the inspiration from her early heroes, Foley branches out on this new release and delivers some hard-hitting blues-rock tracks. It’s real and it’s tough as nails. This is Sue at the top of her game. Featuring: Sue Foley (Guitar, Vocals); Jon Penner (Bass); Corey Keller (Drums); Derek O'Brien (Guitar); Angela Miller and Lauren Cervantes (Backing Vocals).     

(Sue Foley on stage at Continental Club, Austin Texas 2023 / Photo © by Mark Abernathy)

In 2023, Foley was awarded the Blues Music Award for Traditional Blues Female Artist (Koko Taylor Award) in Memphis - an award she also won in 2022 and 2020. She was also recently honored with Guitarist of the Year and Blues Act of the Year at the 2023 Austin Music Awards, and Guitarist of the Year at the 2023 Maple Blues Awards. Her last album, Pinky’s Blues, took home Best Traditional Blues Album at the 2022 Blues Music Awards.

Interview by Michael Limnios                       Archive: Sue Foley, 2021 Interview

Special Thanks: Sue Foley & Amy Brat (Brat Girl Media)

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

The blues, to me is the deepest form of expression you can have through music. Blues (to me) is about honesty, self expression, telling your own personal story and relating through yourself to other people about real human issues. Things like emotions, be they, sadness fear, isolation. exaltation, romance, joy you name it. It's really about being human and expressing all there is in the human experience.

By being a blues player, I'm always exploring my own life, and how to speak my own truth through the music. The blues is basically very simple music, but what it expresses is extremely complex and deep.

How do you prepare for your recordings and performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?

I practice a lot, both guitar and songwriting. I just try to get better at my craft all the time and to be a better musician. It's really just a day-to-day effort, no different from any craft person. We need to work at it to get better.

I keep up my stamina by staying healthy and trying to keep a positive attitude. It's important for me to eat better and take care of myself, get good rest and keep negativity away.                          (Sue Foley, Continental Club, TX 2023 / Photo © by Tim Fading)

"Texas has its own blues sound, and specifically a very distinct style of guitar playing has come out of this area. It has a lot of followers because it's very good and it stays good. The quality of musicianship here is very high and the bar is high for guitar players. There's a great history of Guitar in Texas, from Blind Lemon Jefferson through to the Vaughan brothers and beyond. It keeps growing and evolving. The Texas sound is kind of big and robust, and it has great tone and feel."

When did the idea of your own label “Guitar Woman Records” come about?

I decided to form my own record label to release this Live in Austin album mainly because I wanted to see if I could approach things a little differently than the average record label. wanted to have more control over how things are promoted and how we market the album.

Do you have any interesting stories about the recording day of the new album “Sue Foley Live in Austin Vol.1”, at Continental Club in Austin, TX, May 2023?

The album was recorded live, so there are no overdubs or redos. The club was packed two nights in a row, and we played for over three hours each night. There was a lot of music recorded. That's why this is called volume one. We're assuming there's going to be at least one more volume because we have so much extra material. Basically, I wanted to revisit some of my older albums and redo some songs that I haven't played for awhile. I have many albums and I've actually forgotten many of the songs on them.

After revisiting them, I realized I missed them, and thought that it would be fun to play them again and bring them back to the audiences. So the first volume, volume one is a lot of my older material. We had an amazing time recording it because the crowd was with us and there was just so much energy in the room.

Why do you think that Texas Blues scene continues to generate such a devoted following?

Texas has its own blues sound, and specifically a very distinct style of guitar playing has come out of this area. It has a lot of followers because it's very good and it stays good. The quality of musicianship here is very high and the bar is high for guitar players. There's a great history of Guitar in Texas, from Blind Lemon Jefferson through to the Vaughan brothers and beyond. It keeps growing and evolving. The Texas sound is kind of big and robust, and it has great tone and feel.  

"The blues, to me is the deepest form of expression you can have through music. Blues (to me) is about honesty, self expression, telling your own personal story and relating through yourself to other people about real human issues. Things like emotions, be they, sadness fear, isolation. exaltation, romance, joy you name it. It's really about being human and expressing all there is in the human experience." (Sue Foley with Billy Gibbons & Jimmy Vaughan, Antone's, Austin TX  2017/ Photo © by Rodney Bursiel)

What moment changed your music life the most? What's the balance in music between technique skills and soul/emotions?

The moment that changed my music, life was probably the moment I had a child. That's when I started to really connect myself with the rest of the world. There's something about the human experience that the more you experience the more you're able to connect with your audience. So, growing older, is a good thing, and in the blues it's the best. We need to have real experiences to be able to relay them back to our audience that we understand what they're going through, and help the whole process of connection grow deeper. I'm in a great place right now cause I have had a lot of experience in my life, but being a parent is probably the most profound.

As far as technical versus emotional approaches to playing, ideally, both are important. It's great to have good technique, but good technique along without some depths of emotion is kind of empty. And being too emotional without good technique isn't that great either. Ideally, you have both. I work very hard on technique, I still practice my guitar every day, and I try to get better. I also try to get more understanding as a human being and put that in my plan too. So I would say they're both equal but, I might lean more on the emotional connection rather than technique alone.

Do you think there is an audience for blues music in its current state? or at least a potential for young people to become future audiences and fans?

I think the Blues audience is actually coming back around, and there are young people coming out. But young people want to see young acts. There's only a limited number of Young Blues acts right now but that number seems to be growing. There are some tremendous young acts out there. Kingfish and Jontavious Willis are amazing,

I think in general young people are looking for something to feed their spirit, with all the technology that we lean on, I think more, and more people are just looking for something real to hold onto. What could be better than the blues?

So, it's actually a good time for BLUES and I'm very optimistic that it will. It will keep growing and new audience.

Sue Foley - Home

(Sue Foley at Continental Club, Austin TX 2023 / Photo © by Mark Abernathy)

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