Q&A with Maine-based Bad Daddy (aka Paul Waring), a modern cocktail of feel good, soul-filled classic blues and roots rock

"I truly believe that music, generally, brings people of all colors and backgrounds together. That’s power. And, that’s love. The human spirit is an amazing thing to witness. The Blues genre is no pariah, yet the Blues community is small: is represented by a small community of devoted listeners, avid followers and creative genius. Notably, we’ve seen artists from all backgrounds become great creators of blues music, and that speaks volumes for it is the art form that crosses all borders and appeals to all kinds of people."

Bad Daddy: Main(e) Blues Rock World

Bad Daddy’s musical perspective is a geographical brew of Chicago and coastal Maine where he’s a celebrated yacht designer. His style is a gritty, crunchy compression of classic blues and dank, sticky roots rock. That sound anchors the themes in his new record, It’s a Mad, Mad Bad Dad World — including its kickoff single, “Pork Pie Hat.” Shaken together it’s a modern cocktail of feel good, soul-filled tunes that groove and move. Sitting in guitarist Pete Galanis’s studio in south Chicago on a cold February day in 2021, singer/guitarist Paul Waring knew the time was right to commit his newest work to a second Bad Daddy album. The two friends were drinking beers, talking music and working on Waring’s busted amp. The result, It’s a Mad Mad Bad Dad World, releasing March 11, 2022 on PieHole records, highlights Bad Daddy’s sound, rooted in classic blues and roots rock.

(Bad Daddy aka Paul Waring / Photo by Chris Monaghan)

Collaboration, a crucial feature in his day job as a Maine-based boat designer, drives PWaring’s aspirations for his musical projects. Waring had been hanging around Chicago blues clubs since 2010, when he began dating a Chicago girl. During trips to the city, he brought his guitar and played blues jam nights at Buddy Guy’s Legends and Rosa’s Lounge. Other nights he’d hang at clubs like B.L.U.E.S. and just soak in the music. Waring married that Chicago girl in 2014, the same year he met Galanis during a set break one Tuesday at Rosa’s where the guitarist has a residency. The two became friends and Waring asked Galanis to remaster his first album.

Interview by Michael Limnios            Special Thanks: Bad Daddy, Mark Pucci Media

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

I was a kid when I was exposed to blues, soul, funk, rock, R&B and jazz music. Some of the experience listening to my favorite artists and reading about their background led me to a deeper understanding where the music came from. I’ve always been interested to learn of who the players were in these bands and how our American culture shaped the history and evolution of Blues and Roots music.  Not to digress too far from the question, here, but this opened my eyes to a world view by becoming aware of the largest conflict we have in our society; one that we still witness to this day: the color of our skin and how this can dictate people’s life experience.

I grew up with divorced parents and when my mother remarried, to a black man. I witnessed so much pain revealed through that, as the two of them struggled to establish their relationship and build a family, my mother eventually having 3 sons – my half-brothers. But it wasn’t just the abuse my mother received from her parents and family—she was cast away, verbally and emotionally abused and then virtually left abandoned by her family at the age of 30 simply for her choice to love and marry a black man. 

My step father also had deep scars: growing up in a large, extremely poor family in the south and suffering all the conflict and outrage we know so much about from the history of growing up black in the south. Then, he went and served years in the Marine Corps, in the Vietnam War, where he suffered widespread abuse and inequity problems. He came out of that with intense PTSD, not only from a hugely flawed war, but from the mental and emotional abuses that came out of being black. 

The institutional and societal pressure put onto our black communities is a very real thing, and certainly don’t claim to have suffered a racist experience, but growing up as a white male with black step father and half brothers I can say I became sensitized to how messy and how impossible this situation is for people—for black people. I say all this because when I dove into the music that I loved, the black and brown artists that I admired, I could at least recognize connections of experiences I knew from home and be informed how these very real-life conflicts may have affected the musicians I came to adore and maybe I could understand the songs they sing with some insight.

When I figured out that a world of music is really more about connecting by communication, and that artists of all backgrounds and skin color could make and share similar styles of music together, this really intrigued me. To this day, I think about the struggle we have to face to end this divisive behavior, this hive mindset we’ve established to pick teams by skin color. At heart, the blues and roots music I’ve discovered on my journey still impacts the sound and tone that I search for in my writing, and if I can find a way to share this passion and have some small impact on our human conversation then that’s a success! 

A comment why I don’t speak about the peoples of this planet in terms of “race”.  If “racism” is defined by the act of humans turning on each other, separating and dividing each other by some construct that we have a “white race”, a “black race”, a “brown race”, and so on, this tells me we don’t have a deeper understanding of the way in which we throw around terminology, and this is crazy to me. Just take the word “race or “racism”, or “race relations”—this really drives me nuts. There isn’t any biological explanation for this separation of humans.  We cannot explain ourselves as peoples of different races; we are only different colors and there is a biological, evolutionary explanation for that.  As soon as we can recognize the fact that we are only one “human race”, and the sooner we stop using divisive, abusive language, like “racism”, or “racial relations”, etc., then the sooner we may begin to start repairing maybe start by simply erasing that damaging and divisive language that affects so much the way we think about each other, emotionally and psychologically. Only then, may we begin to heal by shedding the terms and constructs we continually use to promote this division and conflict. That would be start.

"The music industry is a very difficult place to make a living, too. Approaching things professionally is important, while also working together with your friends and compatriots is vital to making good music and have any chances of success." (Photo: Bad Daddy aka Paul Waring)

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

I love the idea of originality. I like to work with arranging music and to write melodies that are unique and original. I hope this comes through when you run through my discography. The songs tend to take on their own voice and the chord changes are not standard. I like to think I can make relatable tunes, but that’s in fact the hardest thing to do. It takes a lot of soul-searching and self-conflict to be able to edit and create something that works well for lots of listeners.  I think that’s a great challenge, but it’s not the only thing. Sometimes I need to just write something that makes me tick.  That, and I love collaboration with others—this is truly where magic happens and is what helps a song become a living thing. Among the musicians I’ve worked with over the years I think many would say I have a voice and approach that is a little different, maybe sometimes quirky, but I’m always exploring to make the music tasty and something that you can tap your foot to. 

The sounds I chase with my instrument are typically warm, fuzzy tube-driven guitar tones. I like simplicity, the natural distortion from a lightly-driven tube amp and not too many processed sounds in that signal chain. I’m a simple player, I don’t claim any particular virtuosity – I try to play what I hear—I feel true expression when my ear hears exactly what my heart wants. There is an organic connection, here, and that makes me a better player when I can find that nuance.

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

I’ve been lucky to meet a few greats over the years. Like so many of us blues nuts, I too have that obsessive love for the iconic Buddy Guy and have spent so much time following his music and driving all kinds of crazy distances to catch his shows over the years. I’ve met him a on only a couple brief occasions. 

One night, I went down to his club for an open jam in Chicago’s downtown “loop”, and I saw him sitting at the bar alone where he’s often found sipping a Crown Royal or a scotch. I just simply said, “Hey, Buddy! What’s goin’ on tonight?  What’s the word?” He looked at me with his shining eyes and gave me that million-dollar smile when he saw I had my go-to, the ES 335, with me.  He said, “Man, you look like you ready to have a little fun-- you come in here to make a little noise tonight?” I said, “Yeah, I’m gonna give it go and see what I can shake out!  You got any words for me?” He gave me that classic BG chuckle and simply said, “Son, whatever you do, anywhere you ever go, jus be you. Just give ‘em what you got and be yourself the best way you know.”

I think that’s a piece of advice that I always knew deep down, but I never really had anyone say it to me so plainly before that. It’s stuck with me a long time, and I just love the dead-pan simplicity of those kind of words.           (Photo: Bad Daddy aka Paul Waring)

"I was a kid when I was exposed to blues, soul, funk, rock, R & B and jazz music. Some of the experience listening to my favorite artists and reading about their background led me to a deeper understanding where the music came from. I’ve always been interested to learn of who the players were in these bands and how our American culture shaped the history and evolution of Blues and Roots music."

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

Just after my first album came out in 2008, I had a good run of gigs opening up for various national acts, like Roomful of Blues, Shemekia Copeland, and a few others. It was a great experience, and me being that little-known small-town, Maine, blues guy, it felt so gratifying to get the performance opportunities coming from the exposure of that first record. 

We did this knock-down-drag-out show opening up for Shemekia one night. The band absolutely killing it, and I felt great—the night was magical. Shemekia and her band came out really brought it, she just captured the audience and really gave us all in that room something to remember.

Her manager came up to me that evening and congratulated me on the show; told me how she loved my music and our performance.  “And, geez, we have a string of dates leading us down the East coast”, and, “Shemekia would love for you to come along as opener for the rest of the tour.” I was floored. I was ecstatic. That just tickled me. 

I didn’t quite know what to do next. I also knew that it the support tour was unlikely to happen due to a few of my band mates wouldn’t be able to split on a moment’s notice like that, and the tour was headed the next day. So, I went back stage and found Shemekia. I gave her a hug, congratulated her on the show and expressed my thanks and gratitude for the whole evening and offering that tour to me. Among all kinds of wonderful words she said to me in that moment, and the love and genuine care for musicians shining through, she ended by adding, “…And, baby boy, oh you have no idea what I’m up to…I just want you to get on the bus with me for the rest of this tour and I show you what love is….!” LOL. I think I really found out what that tour was going be like!

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

That’s a difficult idea to put a finger on. I don’t linger too much in the past, really. And, in fact, I’m not one to market myself as someone “who’s studied at the feet of so and so, or done such and such with historical accuracy” and all that. I don’t think that’s a thing for me, and it’s a stretch to make such claim for anyone. That’s not my jag. I do, however, have so much love for the sound and the creative genius from decades ago – just the challenges in which people made their music given the tools and technology at hand in the past. Skillful.

But evolution and new ideas are also exciting and important. I love some of the new music coming down right now. Guys like Eric Gales, and Josh Smith. Kirk Fletcher, Samantha Fish, Joanna Conner, and many others, you know all these folks are the face of Blues Rock these days, and they all got different styles.  There’s a lot of room in this family for all kinds. Hell, I would be honored to share in some small part of that and make my contribution to the conversation. I have great hopes for all of those working to find new and exciting riffs and melodies to create new ways to make the blues. 

I think the greatest fears I have are something to do with all the modern trends for getting our music out there. The digital world, the streaming world, and generally all these various distribution platforms are all gate keepers, and suggests the digital elites are in power somehow-- and this makes me worry about the “picking of winners” instead of giving everyone a fair shake. It really is a battle for every musician right now.

"I love the idea of originality. I like to work with arranging music and to write melodies that are unique and original. I hope this comes through when you run through my discography. The songs tend to take on their own voice and the chord changes are not standard. I like to think I can make relatable tunes, but that’s in fact the hardest thing to do." (Bad Daddy aka Paul Waring / Photo by Chris Monaghan)

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

It takes a village. Friends, networking, community and paying forward are all dynamics that make this work. Acting competitively with your community of musicians is a terrible idea and leads one to dark places and dead ends. The music industry is a very difficult place to make a living, too. Approaching things professionally is important, while also working together with your friends and compatriots is vital to making good music and have any chances of success.

What is the impact of Blues on the racial and socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

I truly believe that music, generally, brings people of all colors and backgrounds together. That’s power. And, that’s love. The human spirit is an amazing thing to witness. The Blues genre is no pariah, yet the Blues community is small: is represented by a small community of devoted listeners, avid followers and creative genius. Notably, we’ve seen artists from all backgrounds become great creators of blues music, and that speaks volumes for it is the art form that crosses all borders and appeals to all kinds of people.

As I went into “race”, above, somehow this question or topic sparks me, so here I go… My thoughts and experiences as a white male who grew up witnessing my black brothers and step father deal with things I would never experience because of my skin color really weighs on me. And it does give me some insight to the deeply infused social issues, like the continued inequities and flawed constructs affecting humans because of the color of one’s skin. In this country, black and brown people are constantly under this pressure. I can understand what is meant when we speak of our groups in terms of “race”, but I will point out that this is a flawed way to speak of the human predicament. The very word “Race” is a construct—and it’s flawed; the idea suggests we are all different from each other.  Tell me how that is true.  One race, or another; separate teams? What is that? I think the way we use language is impactful for how we think and feel about each other, and if we continue to think of our human populations as divided into races, literally different biology, doesn’t that put the wrong foot forward? 

I would love to know who, or how, this came to be. It feels off to me. I propose the very words like “race”, and “racial”, etc., are not representing our human population accurately, and in fact these words may do more harm misrepresenting the issue as they do—words in fact be little and gloss over the problem. If there is no biological argument showing how groups of humans are actually different from one another, there is no scientific support in the idea that we are separate races, at all. So, in 2020’s, why do we continue to speak of it like this?  If we start by talking about each other as one race and eliminate language that supports some kind of construct that we are different from one another, wouldn’t this be the start of a productive journey that embraces all people as on human race? And, therefore making room for the simple notion of thinking about each other in more equitable terms, instead of “racial relations”?

This is a long-winded explanation that gets me to the point: I would love our music to help express this notion, this love for all humans as one race and begin sharing all the emotions to celebrate this idea through any musical expression, but especially Blues and Blues-Rock.

"I think the greatest fears I have are something to do with all the modern trends for getting our music out there. The digital world, the streaming world, and generally all these various distribution platforms are all gate keepers, and suggests the digital elites are in power somehow-- and this makes me worry about the “picking of winners” instead of giving everyone a fair shake. It really is a battle for every musician right now." (Photo: Bad Daddy aka Paul Waring on stage)

Artists and labels will have to adapt to the new changes. What are your predictions for the music industry?

Right now, it seems the very notion of the traditional approach to creating music in an “Album” format is essentially a disappearing act. Maybe this is largely due to the nature of a rapidly changing market for the consumer experience on streaming platforms and downloadable singles, etc. It’s hard to wrap my head around making music that isn’t pulled together and offered as an album, yet perhaps we need to think about whether there’s a lot of opportunity in this we haven’t realized. I do think we’ll see less and less music produced onto an album grouping of songs. That sucks IMHO.

How do you think the music industry will adapt to it?

At moment it seems the music industry, in general, is lagging behind the trends and technology. How the industry adapts to it to promote a market situation where there’s equal access, equitable trades and economic opportunity is a fascinating question and ongoing problem that appears to have little pressure to protect the small guy. For instance, unless you’re a 1%-er type of popular artist, there’s no great channels for secure representation; the industry has pushed us all into DIY music, promotion, agency, and distribution. It’s interesting to have so much control over their work and communications, yet not have much financial leverage.  

Maybe this offers some kind of flexible benefit for many artists, but the situation currently seems hugely challenging. For instance, look at one example how artists are paid by streaming and digital distribution platforms. It’s terrible and makes little sense, really. Little Cents, actually. There’s a lot of talented people getting paid in well-wishes and thank-you-s, instead of dollars and cents.  Now, the other side to this is maybe the market is saturated—too many people trying to offer their songs and talents as musicians. Typical market forces don’t appear to be at work, and it’s essentially impossible to make a living for most. I guess it used to be that record companies screwed artists out of profits and opportunities, now it’s all headed to digital platforming and distribution where there’s even less leverage or ability for an artist to be have control of one’s business situation.

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

Well, as long as we have a time machine, my insane plan would be to find another planet to visit! LOL, I’m sort of a space geek and love the idea of interstellar travel. The very notion of extra-terrestrial life, other forms of intelligent life. I’d love to meet beings of a different race altogether. So, not totally answering this question, I guess, but I have a deep curiosity about how they “do it” on other planets. Ha Ha!

Bad Daddy - Home

(Photo: Bad Daddy aka Paul Waring)

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