Q&A with Brandon Hudspeth of Levee Town, Kansas City-based new blues with roots that run wide and deep

"I believe that kindness and respect are so important no matter what field you are in. The music business is cutthroat for sure and I've seen it turn very kind, loving folks into bitter and angry people. On the flip side of that there is so much joy to be able to do what I love for a living and to hopefully be able make people forget their problems for at least just a moment. I've learned to remind myself of that when I get frustrated with the business."

Brandon Hudspeth: Modern Roots Vibe

Trying To Keep My Head Above Water (2022), the new album from Levee Town, is the musical equivalent of a reverse centrifuge. Instead of separating into distinct components as things begin to spin faster, everything begins to coalesce from an array of different influences across the blues-roots-rock spectrum to form a new sonic organism. Constructed over an elaborate blues base that calls everything from T-Bone Walker, Freddie King and Bob Willis to the Tennessee Two, Davie Allan and Ennio Morricone family, Trying To Keep My Head Above Water is new blues with roots that run wide and deep. Guitarist, singer, teacher, and songwriter Brandon Hudspeth was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma. He began taking guitar lessons at an early age after hearing Johnny Cash on Sesame Street. In high school, heavily influenced by the Blues, he started playing weekend gigs around the Tulsa area. Soon after high school he moved to the Kansas City area where he freelanced with many bands, eventually forming his own band, Levee Town.                                                       (Photo: Levee Town)

Levee Town represented the Kansas City Blues Society in the International Blues Competition twice, placing in the top ten in Memphis in 2009. While touring the US, Europe, and Canada Brandon has opened for artists such as Buddy Guy, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Leon Russell, George Thorogood, Savoy Brown, Sonny Landreth, Lee Roy Parnell, Chubby Carrier, Dale Watson, Bobby Rush, Bobby Bland,  and David Alan Coe, just to name a few. Hudspeth has played with Curtis Salgado, Chuck Rainey, Albert Lee, Tommy Castro, Ana Popovic, Mike Zito, Watermelon Slim,  Randy Mcallister,  Lazy Lester, Clark Terry, Dustin Arbuckle, RJ Mischo, Chris Duarte, Larry McCray, Louisiana Red, Lee McBee, Big Bill Morganfield, Mud Morganfield, Bob Margolin, Kenny Neal, Gary Nicholson and many others.

Interview by Michael Limnios           Brandon Hudspeth, 2016 Interview@ blues.gr

How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I think it has been hard to be a traveling musician for a living for the past several years of course. That in itself has affected how I think of the world. One of the reasons it's so hard is because of the gas prices of course. I guess all of us musicians are in the same boat so when we get together, we often discuss how it is right now and possible ways to navigate the times. 

How do you think that you have grown as an artist since you first started making music?

I've changed a lot over the years but still have stayed the same in many ways. I still believe that the core to music is the "soul" and how it makes a person feel. I remember being young and thinking to myself that soul is ALL that matters, without putting into practice the specific tools I can use to express myself through music. I now see that rhythm is one factor that moves me a great deal. Rhythm mixed with melody and a strong lyric is what really gets to me so that is what I've grown to work at getting better at. 

What has remained the same about your music-making process?

The thing that has remained the same is that the SONG is what I love about music. I hear myself say "man, that's a beautiful song," a lot more than saying, "I love that guitar solo." That being said I am a complete guitar geek who has spent considerable time learning guitar solos lick for lick and could talk about just guitar playing for days and be a happy camper.

"I'd have to say that having a child has changed my life the most so far." (Photo: Brandon Hudspeth)

How do you describe Trying To Keep My Head Above Water songbook?

I think our songs have a modern roots vibe. We have so many influences that I think it comes out in the songs. The songs I write are about the things I see around me. Lately I've been trying to write through others peoples' eyes which I find really fun.

Do you have any interesting stories about the making of the new album Long As I Got My Guitar?

My wife and I had a beautiful baby girl right about the time the album came out, so the recording process was filled with optimistic expectancy. I remember recording and producing those songs with a lot going on in my head. I think that made the recording process even more enjoyable. 

What moment changed your life the most? What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?

I'd have to say that having a child has changed my life the most so far. I still road dog it pretty hard and have lots of stuff in the books coming up. It's a lot harder to leave but it so sweet coming home! She and my beautiful wife have been the highlights in my life. I'm really proud to have received a Blues Music Award nomination in 2020 and have been fortunate to have played on some great festivals in the US, Canada, and Europe but I think playing with some of the legends has been the music highlights for me. Playing a gig with Louisiana Red really sticks out. Also playing with Lazy Lester and fishing with him was so memorable.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

I believe that kindness and respect are so important no matter what field you are in. The music business is cutthroat for sure and I've seen it turn very kind, loving folks into bitter and angry people. On the flip side of that there is so much joy to be able to do what I love for a living and to hopefully be able make people forget their problems for at least just a moment. I've learned to remind myself of that when I get frustrated with the business.

Levee Town - Home

(Photo: Levee Town)

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