Q&A with UK Blues musician Bex Marshall, powerful melting pot of old black woman’s heartache and rock diva soul

"Music is a release for me the lyrics the musicianship and the sentiment is all relevant... blues has been for me and always will be a solid platform of inspiration and learning … I don’t think that will change; I hope that whoever listens to my music will find something to take away from it … I hope that the vocals and lyrics will catch the attention of all ages and the sentiments imparted will go a long way. This day and aged people probably need a bit of blues music grounding than ever."

Bex Marshall: Born Under a Fortuna Sign

British Blues guitarist, singer and songwriter Bex Marshall will be released her brand-new album “Fortuna” by Dixiefrog Records (Release Date: March 1st). The album was recorded at House Of Mercy Studios and Snakepit Studios in London, produced and arranged by Bex Marshall and Nick Hunt. It’s been ten years since Bex Marshall’s last release. During this time, Bex has experienced a busy touring schedule, independently breaking into several international markets. Happily she was able to take a break and recruit local London musical luminaries and friends including Richie Stevens on drums, Toby Baker on keyboards, B.J Cole on dobro, New York's  Robert Eugene Daniels on bass, Aurora Mannola on bass, London's gospel Queen Shola Adegoroye, and legendary Danny Bryan on percussion. This long-overdue studio album is a ten-track Blues tapestry that bulges with addictive hooks and story lines.               (Bex Marshall / Photo © by Rob Blackham)

Bex proves herself a writer of note with eight original tunes and two covers that push the boundaries of Blues, blending in potent draughts of Funk, Rock, and rootsy Americana. Bex steps toward the forefront of female Blues guitarists here, filling Fortuna with soaring lead work, astonishing ragtime technique, and ballsy slide playing. The album's lyrical content touches on the all too familiar addictions of life, from love to liquor, changes in society and bitter regret. The album features nine original tracks, one being an instrumental and one cover.

Interview by Michael Limnios   Special Thanks: Howard Wuelfing (Howlin' Wuelf Media)

How has the Blues and Roots music influenced your views of the world? What does the blues mean to you?

It certainly keeps me grounded, I think blues and roots music is very educational in many areas it has taught me humility, acceptance, humour and lessons in love are always well appreciated! The blues is as real as it comes with a no refunds, it is what it is, and if you can cut it live you won’t last long! You have to understand emotion and weave it into the timing of the songs... you either got it or not.

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

My sound is blues roots, rock, soul vocal, with back porch edge Janis J, Bessie Smith, Tina Turner are all in my mind’s eye when I sing, I love to keep that core vocal sound, blues rock, slide, gritty, dirty soulful... I think I covered it … music philosophy … the positive aspect of the music business will always out-do the negative … but it has to be pursued daily … the live show, the writing process, recording, releasing, touring … especially when you have no one kicking your BUTT... I wake, I think then I get up and DO! I am independent and love it like that, keep yourself surrounded by better players but teach people when you can! Jam with everyone and after lockdown I plan to record something every year!!

My songbook is a mixture of songs about life’s lessons, inspiration, heartache and history mostly when I look back at my albums there are also songs which include animals (for some reason) … I like to create parallels and have comparisons in my songs also I enjoy creating songs that can relate to lots of different situations, not just the obvious, I include humorous lines a lot. My drive comes from always keeping my eye on the ball, small successful steps, to keep practicing and developing ideas, it should never stop, to be a better player, better singer there’s always something to improve... if you don’t shake and groove it, you loose it!

"I guess the artists of the past really lived the blues much more than artists of today, maybe a little more authentic in their singing and attitude to life, it’s never an easy road, sacrifices have to be made and many more mistakes may have happened back then regarding peoples’ choices... it came through in their songs much more, I think. I hope the blues gets more recognition generally in the world of music and my fear is it won’t!" (British Blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, Bex Marshall / Photo by Barry Warren)

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

I think giving up a perfectly good job with a good wage … that moment always sticks in my head … you are what you do! It was the best feeling, it felt right then, and it still does! I met my late husband Barry who was a music promoter and taught me more about music history than I could ever had imagined, I think I became most creative then, I felt the sky was the limit! I have enjoyed winning accolades from the UK and European Blues Awards and being able to tour the USA multiple times, breaking in to South America independently and being invited multiple times to the BBC to perform and to be highly complemented! They have all been incredible moments and gradual stages. I have worked hard for and appreciate it all immensely. One highlight was being asked to be the voice of Janis Joplin for the Big Brother and the Holding Company was defiantly a highlight! Sam Andrews told me “I gave Janis the first job and you the last. “

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

I guess the artists of the past really lived the blues much more than artists of today, maybe a little more authentic in their singing and attitude to life, it’s never an easy road, sacrifices have to be made and many more mistakes may have happened back then regarding peoples’ choices... it came through in their songs much more, I think. I hope the blues gets more recognition generally in the world of music and my fear is it won’t!

What were the reasons that made the UK -since 1960s- to be the center of blues researches and experiments?

I think there was probably a huge amount of inspiration at that time, for one thing, an unprecedented drug culture was rife in the UK, which probably spurred a whole generation of free love and ambitious songwriting then coupled with indulgent musicianship.. BINGO I think the music society was a much more of a free spirited place with not so many hard rules which allowed people to create and be creative without the pending penalties you get today. All which can defiantly stop the flow of a movement there is much more angst and anxiety generally today which gets written about and reflects the problems and issues there are in society now. The UK had the biggest pop/ rock bands in the world back then breaking into the USA and it was an infectious music culture at the time, pirate radio of which my late husband was one of the ordinal DJs helped the movement along and was feeding the artistic ground with the US blues rock and psychedelia which was being sent over for radio play underground.

"My songbook is a mixture of songs about life’s lessons, inspiration, heartache and history mostly when I look back at my albums there are also songs which include animals (for some reason) … I like to create parallels and have comparisons in my songs also I enjoy creating songs that can relate to lots of different situations, not just the obvious, I include humorous lines a lot. My drive comes from always keeping my eye on the ball, small successful steps, to keep practicing and developing ideas, it should never stop, to be a better player, better singer there’s always something to improve... if you don’t shake and groove it, you loose it!" (Bex Marshall, British Blues Award winner Marshall’s unique style of guitar playing is a combined technique of slide, blues rock, ragtime and roots pickin’ / Photo © by Rob Blackham)

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

Well it’s a quote I relay quite often “it don’t mean nothing without a woman or a girl …“ it will always be a testosterone fueled business.. that’s fine … the truck don’t load it’s self! But I often find after several male frontmen it’s refreshing to have a female artist on stage … it ticks the box … there are more and more female artists coming through … although it’s harder … the choices of having a family can get in the way of a music career touring etc. … I chose not to have children for several reasons, it has certainly been easier and something I didn’t have to factor it in... it’s a profession which you have to push from all sides and yes you can defiantly get pushed down the bill because of being female, but that’s it’s all the more reason to get better than the guys in my book!

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

Music is a release for me the lyrics the musicianship and the sentiment is all relevant... blues has been for me and always will be a solid platform of inspiration and learning … I don’t think that will change; I hope that whoever listens to my music will find something to take away from it … I hope that the vocals and lyrics will catch the attention of all ages and the sentiments imparted will go a long way. This day and aged people probably need a bit of blues music grounding than ever.

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

To be humble and grateful … you’ll get nothing and like it!... the gig is the most important thing that happens on tour, and it must go on … accept anything free … leave egos at the door... never have a relationship with another band member on the road … don’t expect anything extra … get lots of sleep! and take time to smell the roses!

Bex Marshall - Home

(Bex Marshall / Photo © by Rob Blackham)

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