Q&A with SoCal-based Andy Doty, owner of Old Town Blues Club and Producer of Temecula Blues Festivals

"Music is perhaps the best example that we should point to in proving that we can all get along."

Andy Doty: Under The SoCal Sun

Announcing the SoCal Divas of Blues Festival, taking place outdoors at Civic Center Plaza, 41000 Main St., in Old Town Temecula, Saturday, October 27, 2018, from 12 noon till 8pm (gates open 10am). October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month; the SoCal Divas of Blues Festival is partnering with, and donating a portion of all ticket sales, to both the National Breast Cancer Foundation and Michelle's Place, a Temecula-based Breast Cancer Resource Center. "This blues festival is unique in that we are solely promoting the dynamic influence of women in blues music today," explains Andy Doty, Festival Promoter and owner of Old Town Blues Club, the latter who are presenting the SoCal Divas of Blues Festival. "All eight acts are fronted by female performers, with most of the acts coming from the Southern California region." Doty previously presented the 1st Annual Temecula Blues Festival this past April, also at Civic Center Plaza.

Eight dynamic Southern California-based female blues artists will perform at the SoCal Divas of Blues Festival: Shari Puorto; Casey Hensley; Shyy But Flyy; Diana Rein; Brigitte Rios Purdy; Give Me Back My Wig; Mercedes Moore; and Jade Bennett. An After-Party at Old Town Blues Club will follow the Festival. Owner of Old Town Blues Club; Producer of Temecula Blues Festivals; and Director at Constellation Artist Rep Agency, Andy Doty talks about the Blues, SoCal scene and his projects.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the Blues people & culture and your paths in music industry?

Of all the Genres in American music I have learned that, “once a blues follower….always a blues follower”. Blues isn’t a trend. It’s rooted. I respect genres like Hip Hop & Rap but I do believe that there are many of those who love those particular genres in their 20’s won’t be listening to it in the 50’s. Additionally, I have learned that blues is best experienced live. Blues has got more feel, more heartache, more soul than any other genre and those emotions comes through and are shared with the listener in an intimate, live venue setting. The passion, agony, helplessness and devotion to faith, is so rooted in the African Americans who expressed all of these emotions as only they could, through their music. I assume that they probably weren’t allowed, during times of slavery to express themselves otherwise. So their struggles were expressed, through their music. Blues transcends generations and cultures. World wide, people love and are even fanatical about American blues music. As Keith Richards stated, blues is probably the best thing America gave to the world. I agree that’s right near the top.

How started the thought of SoCal Divas Blues Festival & Old Town Blues Club? What touched (emotionally) you?

Regarding SoCal Divas, I did my first festival, the inaugural Temecula Blues Festival last April.  As each ticket was sold electronically, I received an email notification and noticed that about 90% of the purchasers of the tickets were female. As I was on stage, announcing the artist, I would look out to the sea of festival goers, and noticed that it was about 65% female. Look around the blues industry today…there are perhaps more up and coming young, female blues artists than there are male. If not, the female performers seem to be rising up the charts more quickly. There are so many young and very talented female blues artist out there today. What a joy to see. So it just seemed to make sense to focus on the female target-market. Never underestimate the purchasing power of women in the world. They love what they love and they love to share what they love with others. 

Regarding Old Town Blues Club…it’s so much fun to just watch the expressions of joy and happiness on the faces of my customers. Seeing those responses, is my reward for doing a good job in bringing in the quality blues performers. I feel like I have invited everyone into my home. The connection between the musicians and the audience…and again…in particular in an intimate setting is what makes it special. OTBC is intimate and I won’t have it any other way. Never want to lose that connection.

"Of all the Genres in American music I have learned that, “once a blues follower….always a blues follower”. Blues isn’t a trend. It’s rooted. I respect genres like Hip Hop & Rap but I do believe that there are many of those who love those particular genres in their 20’s won’t be listening to it in the 50’s. "

What characterize SoCal Divas Blues Festival & Old Town Blues Club’s philosophy and mission?

Life can be a struggle at times. We as humans, and I find this very intriguing, find solace, peace, happiness, calm and escape in listening to and dancing to music. It’s so cathartic and rejuvenating for the soul. If by coming to my club or my festivals brings people together emotionally by sharing some of life’s more positive characteristics, then that is what my philosophy and mission is all about. My customers win because they find joy in the experiences I produce and I win because I find joy in sharing and making people happy. So it’s a win/win for me and my customers.

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

Hmmm…you know, for me it’s meetings that when I have an idea and I bounce it off others of whom I respect and trust wholly…and they  respond positively to my grandiose ideas, ideas that may appear “crazy” to others…it’s those affirmations that I am doing the right thing or even a good thing that provide me with confidence. Then I get really motivated. 

Best advice I ever got probably came from an uncle of mine who was someone that I respected very much. The advice was in regard to making decisions. Often times we are at crossroads in life. Right? Which path do I take? Which is the right path? Sometimes you may have two very good options to choose from or simply don’t know which is the best path to choose. His advice was that sometimes you’ll never can know which is the right decision to make, so whatever you decision you make…you make it the right one. Make the decision you made work for you by taking the right steps in ensuring your vision is clear, your plan is as void of obstacles as you can make it and prepare for the unexpected.  

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

Playing on stage for the first time in front of an ultra packed house was quite fun and invigorating. Watching Sting during his Dream of The Blue Turtles tour. The band he built around him, Branford Marsalis, Omar Hakim, Kenny Kirkland and Darryl Jones…you could just tell that Sting had a vision for this show and it wasn’t about egos…it was about producing the best show and album that he could by surrounding himself with the best there was at that time. 

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

What do I miss most? Music used to have the feel of the street (Motown) or the garage (so many bands during the 60’s & 70’s).  Now it’s mostly studio work…which I am not criticizing it…it’s just more about the feel of the music that came from the roots.  A lot of new music doesn’t feel as rooted.  That’s all. I miss hanging close to your transistor radio or while driving in your car, waiting for the local radio station to play that new hit song by your favorite band (check out the scene from “That Thing You Do” when they hear their song played on the radio for the first time). I miss waiting in line at the local record store on a Saturday morning, waiting to buy your favorite band’s latest album and then going home, sitting around with friends and “breaking it in” by playing both sides end to end, over and over…picking up the needle and setting it down to play you favorite cut.Then of course there was also the artwork and notes of the album inside/outside covers. I guess it was more of an experience hearing new music. Lastly, I recall when FM radio was sooooo obscure and soooo limited. It was AOR (album oriented rock) music where I grew up. There would be an FM station that broadcast only at night from some DJ out in a small shack with a transmitter tower, playing complete album sides, uninterrupted without any commercials. I really enjoyed that. 

My hope is that young musicians learn to go the roots of American music and listen to all of the great sounds and use those sounds as inspiration. I think of The Black Keys as one those bands that have done that very well. You can hear it in their work. They definitely have their own sound, but their influences are undeniable.

My fears are that in the next 20-30 years that music relies too much on technology and songs aren’t being written from emotion and experiences to the extent that they have in the past. I will say though, that technology has also “shrunk” the planet and folks from around the world have opportunities to be heard and seen.  Lastly, ticket prices for shows have become so expensive. Not much you can do about that though.   

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

That money, fame and fortune didn’t change people (Hah!). So much talent has disappeared from our world because motivations change.  Once people “make it” (not all by the way), their drive diminishes, their reasons for writing music change. It’s human nature, I know. Yet there are artists out there who write because they can’t help themselves. They have to create. We need more of those folks. They are cornucopias of ideas and emotion.

What were the reasons that made the SoCal to be the center of Jazz, Blues, Soul researches and experiments?

I am not from SoCal, but for me personally, it is a “can do” spirit. Out on the West Coast, anything and everything seems possible.  It’s a culture of many people from somewhere else and I believe that collectively, when people leave where they are from to seek out a better way of life and “pool” in the same region, you get a “like mindedness”. We love new ideas and optimism out here. The weather and overall quality of life inspires that optimism. We live life with vigor out here and we also love to be entertained.

"Life can be a struggle at times. We as humans, and I find this very intriguing, find solace, peace, happiness, calm and escape in listening to and dancing to music. It’s so cathartic and rejuvenating for the soul."

What is the impact of Blues, Soul and Jazz on the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

Great question. It’s very much like the impact that sports has on racial relations.  Whether you are on a team or in a band, you have collective objectives and shared passions. Being in a band with someone goes a long way to liking somebody you are working with, regardless of race, religion, sex or political views. Honestly, I get some of my purest joy in seeing mixed race bands on stage performing in my club/festivals. Seeing the differences wiped away. It’s inspiring. Music is perhaps the best example that we should point to in proving that we can all get along.

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

Wow….since you didn’t say that this question specifically relates to music, I am going to choose April 4, 1968. I would want to do what I could to stop Martin Luther King, Jr. from being assassinated. I know that in regards to Civil Rights, a lot of positive changes happened as a result of his death. My gut tells me that, given more time on this planet, he could have had even much more of a positive impact on improving race relations in the USA. He was an amazing human being and understood the issue and actually had solutions. Where would we be today if he had survived? I just think things would be better in terms or American race relations. Wouldn’t that be great?

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