"I believe that in this kind of music.... it's all about emotion. You can't fake emotion. However, it takes some technical skills to illustrate those emotions and make your voice and guitar convey them. I feel like I and most people can decipher whether an emotion is sincere or not."
Jeff Pitchell: The Blues & His Friends
Blues Hall of Fame award winning guitarist Jeff Pitchell’s style blends B.B. King and Duane Allman, which was endorsed by Gregg Allman. His diverse songwriting catalog recalls the variety of Eric Clapton’s classics and his vocal delivery, which ranges from smooth tenderness to Billy Gibbons ZZ Top-like power, received high praise from J. Geils. His songwriting award winning “An Eye for an Eye” was recorded by British blues legend John Mayall. An internationally acclaimed dynamic singer, songwriter and guitarist, Jeff achieved national recognition when his album Heavy Hitter (Pyramid Records/ EMI) reached #7 on the Billboard Charts, outselling Delbert McClinton, Robert Cray, Etta James, Johnny Lee Hooker & Muddy Waters. Jeff has recorded with such greats as J Geils, Rick Derringer, Dave Mason, James Cotton and Clarence Clemons. He received international recognition when he toured Europe, even playing with the Commitments as a special guest. (Jeff Pitchell / Photo by Mike Marques)
He won the "Best Guitarist" in the State of Connecticut at age 15. He has won numerous awards since, including two songwriting awards from the Great American Songwriting Contest. The International Songwriting Contest (ISC) judge and renowned blues legend John Mayall subsequently recorded Pitchell's song "An Eye for an Eye" on one of his albums. Pitchell and his band, Texas Flood, won the BEST BLUES ACT in New England in a six-state vote. Jeff Pitchell released the new album titled "Playin With My Friends" (2023, Deguello Records), an entertaining collection of new and classic songs performing and recording together with legendary musicians such as Rick Derringer, Jay Geils, Charles Neville and more.
Interview by Michael Limnios Archive: Jeff Pichell, 2013 Interview @ blues.gr
How has the Blues and Rock music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you've taken?
It has influenced my view of the world since I was very young. I always knew music and especially the blues were special. Growing up in a house full of musicians was a fortunate thing for me. My Uncle George playing professionally is probably the reason I became a musician. The effects of music and people have always intrigued and fascinated me. Not only is it positive but it brings people together who may never congregate otherwise. My view of the world was impacted profoundly when I toured Europe back in 2011. I learned many life-changing lessons there. I had five CDs out and the fifth had reached number seven on the Billboard charts. This enabled me to secure gigs overseas. The European back up bands had learned all the songs on my records and played them with astounding professionalism. These musicians also helped me sell my CDs and drive me to interviews. They even took me sightseeing and to guided historic tours. These people were not rich financially but we're rich in character. They enlightened me!! I didn't realize they had experience oppression and the music was taken very seriously, and they seem to appreciate American blues rock deeper than in the US. I am still friends with these folks, and they have influenced me more than they know.
What moment changed your music life the most? Where does your creative drive come from?
My life-changing experiences was the moment I perform with a B.B. King and the Allman Brothers Band live. They were my heroes since I was a kid. I had seen them perform hundreds of times and to play with them was surreal. I felt I accomplished my dreams and that all my hard work in the music biz had finally paid off for me personally. I became friends with BB King, and he shared many experiences with me. I also became friends with Gregg Allman because of Jaimoe the drummer. Gregg had told me at the Beacon Theater that I was a great guitar player. This really gave my life new meaning because my heroes had finally acknowledged my work.
"The past had songs of creative romance, passion and made you reflect on your life. Now we have been conditioned to make music that may not be as melodic, and I fear that musicians one day might be replaced by computers and algorithms." (Photo: Jeff Pitchell & Charles Neville)
Currently you've a new release with many friends: Duane Betts, Jay Geils, Rick Derringer, Tyrone Vaughan, Charles Neville, Christine Ohlman, and Claudette King. How did that relationship come about? Do you have any interesting stories about the making of "Playing with My Friends"?
Recording these songs with my friends is a proud moment in my life. For those friends I not only cherish the laughs and good times together.... but to record my songs with these folks is an honor and a debt I could never repay. I am so grateful for their kindness and collaborative efforts. They brought to the table talent and enthusiasm. There are too many funny stories to list I don't know where to begin. I can say jay Geils and rick derringer were both seasoned pros in the studio and the guitar riffs on their albums will be timeless that will be remembered forever. If you listen to Jays Slide work on Prisoner of love or Rick and I trading solos on unsung hero, you can tell we were enjoying ourselves. Charles Neville was the kindest man I ever knew. He taught me to meditate, relax and to surrender to the music! His Solo on So into You is very soulful and economical. Duane Betts can play any style and, on All Night Long we turn the studio into a Roadhouse! Christine Ohlman sang "I Like The Rut" with conviction!! Claudette King captures her Dads intensity on Playin' With MY Friends! It really is a special album.
What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
I miss the human touch and imperfections that were captured on live shows and in the studio back in the day. It made you see musicians were real and vulnerable. The human touch on of those albums will hopefully come back to today's recordings. Now it's all about technology and more surface concepts. The past had songs of creative romance, passion and made you reflect on your life. Now we have been conditioned to make music that may not be as melodic, and I fear that musicians one day might be replaced by computers and algorithms.
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?
I guess the most difficult Obstacle for me has been to balance family, friends, music, touring, creative energy charity work and faith! Sometimes we take on everybody's woes and sorrows as sensitive beings. That has helped me play from a more serious place in my heart It can be destructive too. You become a better musician when you believe in your message of helping people. I believe music is a gift and whatever derives from that gift is just icing on the cake. All this good stuff has derived from overcoming these obstacles I imagine. The deaths of my close friends make me appreciate life and making music much more significantly now. (Jeff Pitchell / Photo by Mike Marques)
"My most important lessons are: 1) Always bring a great attitude to every situation. 2) Always be grateful anytime you get a chance to make music 3) Always express gratitude to your fellow musicians for the efforts we all make because you never know when the last time is. 4) I have learned from music to be optimistic no matter what obstacles come our way and to enjoy the process."
What's the balance in music between technique skills and soul/emotions? What do you think is key to a music life well lived?
I believe that in this kind of music.... it's all about emotion. You can't fake emotion. However, it takes some technical skills to illustrate those emotions and make your voice and guitar convey them. I feel like I and most people can decipher whether an emotion is sincere or not.
What is the impact of music on the sociocultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?
I know that some of my songs speak to people and they can identify with the plight of the singer. When people tell me, they can identify with my song it's a high you can't buy lol. The socio-economic implications are tricky. It seems most everyone experiences these emotions in music. Music has the power to lift people up spiritually, financially, personally and to want to participate. I am opening a music school in an inner city with 2 partners to help reach out to and spread the knowledge of playing instruments and helping people through music!!
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?
My most important lessons are: 1) Always bring a great attitude to every situation. 2) Always be grateful anytime you get a chance to make music 3) Always express gratitude to your fellow musicians for the efforts we all make because you never know when the last time is. 4) I have learned from music to be optimistic no matter what obstacles come our way and to enjoy the process.
(Photo: Jeff Pitchell)
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