Q&A with Italian guitarist Umberto Porcaro, the blues is always his home, plays along with the greatest bluesmen

"Music has always been at the center of my life. The blues is my life. Music in general and the blues in particular has always meant curiosity, research and respect for other cultures. It has made me grow as a person."

Umberto Porcaro: Take Me To The Blues

Italian blues guitarist Umberto "Burt" Porcaro, born in 1979, has been playing guitar for the last 30plus years. His passion for Blues music started in his early age, and it has brought him to play along with the greatest, international blues men. After his first experiences with local bands, Umberto visits Chicago for the first time, where he gets to perform with Billy Branch and The Sons of Blues, Fernando Jones, Johnny Dollar. He later wins the auditions for “Obiettivo Blues In”, during the Pistoia Blues Festival, earning the chance to perform with amazing artists such BB. KING, BUDDY GUY, ROBBEN FORD, ROY ROGERS, CANNET HEAT, THE BLUES BAND and to be included in the compilation of the Pistoia Blues Festival album. While in California, Umberto meets other great Blues artists such as KIM WILSON, KID RAMOS, JUNIOR WATSON, KID RAMOS, MURK HUMMEL and R.J.MISCHO. Umberto is now a well-known and appreciated musician, and he starts touring with several American performers such as Jerry Portnoy, Sonny Rhodes, Toni T.C. Coleman, RJ. Mischo, Andy Just, Pat Wilder, Texas Slim, Vivian Vance Kelly, Brian Templeton, Dave Ryley in the most important festivals and clubs of Europe.

(Photo: Umberto Porcaro)

In 2018 and 2019 Umberto tours around Europe with the historical drummer of BB King, Tony Coleman, who appreciates his great professionalism and sensibility. mberto recently won the Blues Music Award of 2019 as ambassador of the Blues made in Italy, and just published new project, investing all of his great experience and giving space to a sound that became mature and unique. With this new band led by Giulio Campagnolo (Hammond Organ) and Federico Patarnello on drums, he presents this new project, a mix of Soul-Jazz, Gospel and Blues loaded with a lot of experience and many roads traveled. "Take me Home" (October 2022) is the new release for Epops Music, with a couple of very special guest like Lurrie Bell, Anson Funderburgh, and Stanley Sargeant (bass player from Keb Mo, Al Jarreau).

Interview by Michael Limnios

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

Music has always been at the center of my life. The blues is my life. Music in general and the blues in particular has always meant curiosity, research and respect for other cultures. It has made me grow as a person.

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

I have listened to so much music in my life. Blues, Folk, Gospel, Rock and Jazz for sure. Today, I try to really express who I am and what I feel at that moment. I decided to call the new album Take Me Home (2022), since it really means a homecoming for me, the blues for me is and always will be home. Inside this album, I wanted to photograph my joys, my sorrows, my wounds. Who I am today is because of all the experiences I have had and the scars I carry. When I lost my father, I thought I would not make it, then I made songs out of it.

Why do you think that the Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following in Italy?

Albert King one of my mentors used to say, "If you can't dig the blues, you have a hole in your soul." How can you not love this kind of music. In Italy fortunately there are many fans and especially cool festivals.                            (Photo: Umberto Porcaro)

"Blues is a folk music, but it is not pop music. Like all popular music (folk) it plays more on the interpretation of a repetitive harmonic line within which the lyrics are tales of episodes of common life, thus popular. This ill suit the music business where the search for novelty at all costs is lifeblood."

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Of all of them I remember BB, I was 18 years old, telling me to never give up, with a hug that I will hardly forget. I am a lucky guy I was able to live very close with some of my mentors, lots of advice especially tricks. Seeing and hearing the great Otis Rush play a meter away I remember it was a lesson for life, I still remember the feeling like the bones were going to come off my body.

Are there any specific memories or highlights of your career that you would like to tell us about?!

I found myself touring with legends like Jerry Portnoy, and on the set list of the shows were songs that he played in his time with the Great Muddy Waters.

Or on Tony Coleman's last European tours, he played drums for 29 years with BB.King, he used to pay tribute the king of the blues, during the shows I would get to play guitar on songs like "Thrill is gone”, “Caldonia”, “Never Make Your Move Too Soon”, amazing!!

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

The bad motherfucker attitude, I'm kidding, a little bit of it is true though. Freddy King, BB, Albert, John Lee Hooker, Otis Rush Albert Collins of course many many others!!

"Damm right farewell" could be Buddy Guy's last tour, that makes me sad. The future right now we're already living it with this new generation.

"Albert King one of my mentors used to say, "If you can't dig the blues, you have a hole in your soul." How can you not love this kind of music. In Italy fortunately there are many fans and especially cool festivals." (Photo: Umberto Porcaro)

Why was the Blues never a part of the pop/popular music? What's the balance in music between technique and soul?

Blues is a folk music, but it is not pop music. Like all popular music (folk) it plays more on the interpretation of a repetitive harmonic line within which the lyrics are tales of episodes of common life, thus popular. This ill suit the music business where the search for novelty at all costs is lifeblood. On technique I can say something perhaps obvious but true: technique is always in the service of what you wish to express. From the super virtuoso to the simplicity of guitar riffs of...

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

From all of them I learned the most important lesson of trying to be yourself.

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