Q&A with Mr. Downchild & Kasimira (Blues Meets Girl) - Down home, Soulful, Smokin’, and Passionate Blues

"The Blues transcends the barriers of politics, race, culture because everyone, absolutely everyone has had some Blues at some time."

Mr. Downchild & Kasimira:

Blues Meets Girl

Mr. Downchild and Kasimira (Steev Inglish & Kasimira Vogel) met at a jam session when a mutual friend asked them to sit in. It was immediately evident that their musical styles worked well together. Later, Mr. D would invite Kassy to show up at his gigs and have her up to do a couple of tunes. Before long, it became a real thing and Blues Meets Girl was formed. They way they weave their separate influences and past experiences together is undeniable. This is Down home, Smokin’, Sexy Blues. You can feel and relate to the soulful and passionate songs they write for and about each other as well as their unique renditions of the classics by Muddy Waters, Etta James, Big Mama Thorton, Elmore James and Sonny Boy Williams making this duo original in their own right. Blues Meets Girl is bonefide Blues thru and thru. Self-titled debut album “Blues Meets Girl” released in 2019.

Mr. Downchild: Growing up in a musical family, Mr. Downchild began his singing career after hearing British Skiffle legend Lonnie Donegan and had his first paying gig at the age of 5.  By age 15 he had performed on the London Theatre stage and T.V. both acting and singing until he discovered the Blues of Sonny Boy Williamson. This changed everything. A self-taught harmonic player and guitarist he discovered the open tunings and learned to play slide guitar. He played in various bands in London until he came to the U.S. in 1985. There he met Robert Lockwood Jr., who became his close friend and mentor. They recorded together in 1994 and since then Mr. Downchild had toured 25 states and produced 6 albums. He was equally influenced and encouraged by Pinetop Perkins and Junior Wells. Mr. Downchild plays the Delta/Chicago Blues and performs both as a one-man band or in his current project, Blues Meets Girl (duo) and with a band.

Kasimira: Texas born singer songwriter “Kassy” was greatly influenced by her parents vast collection of albums that included Jazz, R & B, Folk and Blues and music was always being played on the radio. At age 9 her mother sent her to a voice teacher and by age 17 she had performed in many concerts and theater productions. She went onto college furthering her musical studies at The Dana School of Music but to her dismay opera was the only option for vocalists. Always searching for great female artists, she soon discovered Etta James, Big Mama Thorton and Koko Taylor. Secretly she went with her friends in the Jazz program to the local Jazz & Blues clubs. Her voice teacher caught her performing at a downtown event, not singing opera, he confronted her saying “Miss. Vogel, the reason I cannot get from you the operatic qualities is because you are listening to that Jazz & Blues music.” Shortly after that she decided that she needed to make her own path and designed a degree thru the University for Musical Theatre, the first of its kind there. She continued to sharpen her skills as lead singer of several bands including Network out of Worcester Ma and The Pale Daisies. Kasimira has 2 cds under her belt and has toured 5 states. She is equally at home singing original material as she is paying homage to the great female vocalists that influenced her.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the Blues people and culture? What does the blues mean to you?

Steve: I am an old school Blues guy, but I have learned to keep an open ear, and follow that. I used to be narrow minded but now I accept new things and weave them into my traditional style. The Blues gives form to my expression of life experiences.

Kasimira: To me, Blues is a beautiful form of storytelling. The stories are always about relationships of all kinds, good and bad. I think that's why so many folks relate to the Blues. The stories are as old as man himself and there's an commonality that brings people together. The fact is we all have our trials and tribulations which are as unique as the individual.

How do you describe your songbook and sound? What characterize 'Blues Meets Girl' music philosophy? What is the story behind project's name?

Steve: My sound id traditional Mississippi/Chicago/New Orleans mix. Most of my songs fall into this category. BMG is exactly that, the "Blues" and the "Girl". We come from different musical backgrounds, yet we have a natural feel for what we do. The philosophy, if there is one, be real.

Kasimira: Steve has been a Blues man the majority of his life. Some have referred to him as a Blues traditionalist and he had little appreciation for those things that were outside of that vein. I, on the other hand, embrace the old and new alike. That's the beauty of this project - it is steeped in the old and traditional but in quite a number of our originals there's a bit of a twist. Ergo "Blues" (Steve) meets "Girl" (me). We also realize you can only speak from what you know so our philosophy, I guess, is to tell our stories, together and apart.

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

Steve: I have had friends and acquaintances. Friends: Yves, a French student staying with my family in London, UK in 1965, turned me on to Sonny Boy Williams!! Robert Lockwood Jr. offered to record with me in 1992 - He turned down The Stones. Pinetop Perkins because he liked my slide guitar. Acquaintances: Junior Wells liked my suits, LOL!! Johnny Shines who told me that "the Blues is American music"

My father gave me the best advice when I was young: When things go wrong, turn it to your advantage." That's why I do what I do, I sing and play the blues.

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

Kasimira: Actually yes, 2 memories. The first was a hootenanny held by a friend of ours where Lazy Lester was also in attendance. Oh man, such an incredibly nice and supportive man! And his wife, Pike (pronounced Pique) and I were like 2 peas in a pod. We were supposed to go out and visit but he passed before we could. I was so incredibly heartsick. It's funny how quickly you can become attached and love people.

The second happened just recently. We were on our way home from San Antonio and stopped to see Paul Oscher in Austin. Wow, just Wow. Listening to these 2 class act harmonica players sharing stories and talking their lingo was very kewl. Glad I was the fly on the wall. Then Paul mentioned Victoria Spivey. My heart skipped a beat. "Wait, you knew Victoria Spivey?" I asked. More stories and big smiles on my face.

"To me, Blues is a beautiful form of storytelling. The stories are always about relationships of all kinds, good and bad. I think that's why so many folks relate to the Blues. The stories are as old as man himself and there's an commonality that brings people together. The fact is we all have our trials and tribulations which are as unique as the individual."

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

Steve: I miss the legendary musicians that have gone, no more great shows, no recordings, no kind words of approval or encouragement - Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy, Hubert Sumlin, Pinetop Perkins, Robert Lockwood Jr., Johnny Shines, Honeyboy Edwards, the list is legion. Somebody's got to keep playing this stuff - that's my hope/fear. I have more hope.

Kasimira: I can't say that I miss anything from the past. If you don't know you can't miss. But I hear the stories of the folks who have been around for decades and they speak of weekend warriors and how difficult it is to make a good living these days unless you are an "A" lister... and even some of those once upon a time "A" listers are finding it difficult. Times have changed so much with the advent of Social Media and the older musicians, unless they have great support systems from peeps who have those skills, are left in the dust. There is more appreciation from Central & South America and Europe than here in the States. I'm hoping that changes. I do have hope though. Played some of BMG tunes for my 18 year old son's friends and they were like, "That's kewl! I'd have that on my playlist!" The younger generation is so open. They just need to be able to hear this kind of music.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

Steve: Tough question. I'm a bit of a practical person but when Ry Cooder came out with the documentary on Cuban music I was enamored. I have always loved that sound! Obviously different from what I do but it inspires me. These cats play their style, their thing! And it was on the endangered species list till Cooder made his film. I guess I would like to see all styles of music represented and played/heard by the masses. Stations that play everything. Yeah!

Kasimira: Simple, everybody is on a level playing field and gets appreciated for their unique contribution, no matter their age, gender, race or religion.

What has made you laugh and what touched (emotionally) you from the late great Robert Lockwood Jr.?

Steve: I told Robert I was thinking of taking a year off from music. He said "How you gon' to deal with the squares?" laughing. I loved his cackling laugh! Robert had a heart of gold, but you had to prove you were worthy. He also told me "Mr. Downchild, I don't think you know how many people love you for the music you give them." He was right.

"Robert Lockwood Jr. offered to record with me in 1992 - He turned down The Stones."

What would you say characterizes British Blues scene in comparison to USA Blues scene and circuits?

Steve: The Brit scene embraces the traditional styles of Blues, ie Chicago, Old Style New Orleans/Excello, Piedmont and Delta. The U.S.A. seems to be geared to a more modern feel … though there seems to be a resurgence with some younger artists playing traditional styles.

What does to be a female artist in a “Man’s World” as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?

Kasimira: Whoa nelly! Well, when I was young there weren't a great deal of women artists. All you heard was primarily men soloists and band on the radio which my mother was always playing. I actually went thru a phase where I only bought CDs of female artists in retaliation. Thankfully that has definitely changed. I honor those women who came before and those who are still out there. Guitar slinging, beat dropping, vocally adept women who have forever changed the face of music. Frankly, I recognize so many like Victoria Spivey, Etta James & Big Mama Thorton because they were more than "singers". Then you have Bonnie Raitt, Beverly "Guitar" Watkins, JoAnn Shaw Taylor and so many more including Larkin Poe who is currently in the lime light. Woman are stepping up and taking their rightful places.

What is the impact of Blues music and culture to the racial, political, and socio-cultural implications?

Steve: The Blues transcends the barriers of politics, race, culture because everyone, absolutely everyone has had some Blues at some time.

Kasimira: I feel unqualified to address this question but I can say this, Blues music, like all music, has the ability to cut thru all racial, political and socio-cultural barriers. It can inspire, uplift and bring people together like no other thing can.

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

Steve: "I would like to go to Heaven but the Devil keeps callin' my name!" On the Southside of Chicago playing harp with Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, Jimmy Rogers, Willie Dixon and Fred Below!

Kasimira: Honestly, I been learning how to just be, be in the here and now. That being said, I'd like to spend one more day with my dad. He passed when I was 21 and never met his grandchildren. I'd like to see him, tell him how much he has shaped my life and how much I love him still. Though I believe he already knows that.

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