With a well received album 'Diamonds in the Dirt' on Ruf records
crashing on to the Billboard charts and armed with an award for
Best British female vocalist of the Year and a successful May
2011 tour under her belt, exciting rock/blues guitarist Joanne
Shaw Taylor hits the road again for a 10 date UK tour starting
on November 15.
Pete Feenstra caught up with Joanne to ask her about her
early career, her current album and living and recording in the
You've said that the first album you bought was Albert
Collins 'Ice Pickin', what drew you to that?
Actually I got that from reading about Jonny Lang talking about
Albert Collins. That was some 10/12 years ago. We didn't have
the internet back then and I was reliant on guitar magazines and
people talking about other players etc.
So I checked that out and a few other things. But the real
important thing for me at the time (I was only about 13) was
that people like Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd showed that
someone my age was listening to this stuff as well and making a
living from it.
Who else were you influence by at that time?
Well I was in Brum (Birmingham) and used to go to rock clubs all
the time whenever I could really, especially the old Robin at
And I saw a lot of rock bands and some blues touring artists
like John Hammond and The Paladins who had an album out called
'Million Mile Club' which I really liked. They were a rockabilly
band really but that album was bluesier. And then of course
there was also the home grown heroes like The Hoax who I thought
Was there anyone on the local Brummy music scene that was an
Yes lots of people, but particularly Ian Parker who was a great
help and inspiration. He was a big influence in terms of singing
lessons and my guitar playing and there was Aynsley Lister of
course, but there were different people for different areas. I
listened to a lot of different music at the time.
You presumably started playing guitar when you were young?
Did you have a problem finding people your own age to play with?
Yes very much so but I started very young as I realised it was
what I wanted to do.
Was there any resistance to you being taken seriously as a
young girl guitarist at the time?
Oh sure but I knew I could play.
You were discovered at 16 or so by Dave Stewart and later
worked with Bill Wyman, what did you learn from them?
Lots from both of them, but Dave became a big musical influence
for me and a guiding hand generally when I was 15 or 16. He said
things like you are good at blues guitar but you should try and
sing too. That led me to having the confidence to write songs
Dave really made me realise my early potential, he'd always be
suggesting more things to try and explore. He would say you have
the ability to do this, what else would you like to try next.
He also showed me that great blues players can write good songs
too, people like Bonnie Rait, RL Burnside and several artists on
the Fat Possum label etc. He also gave me some great studio
experience which was invaluable. He had his own studio in Crouch
End called The Church and I was living in London at the time and
used to go there whenever I could. I used to bump into the Davey
Brothers from The Hoax down there too.
So do you feel at home in the studio?
Not really it's a strange situation really, you can do something
like 200 gigs a year and then suddenly for a 10 day stretch you
are suddenly in the studio and in a completely different
environment. But Dave did teach me to approach everything more
professionally so I can deal that situation now.
Both 'White Sugar' and 'Diamonds in the Dirt' are full of
strong songs as well as great playing. Do you find song writing
I don't really get to write as much as I should, as in between
the gigs and touring there's lots of flights and travelling.
Actually I've just gone down to Texas to focus on my writing for
a while and try and work on some songs.
Generally speaking, I think about what I have to do and then
spend a week or so panicking about it - not really being very
productive at all - then I'd have some red wine and some more
red wine and then maybe finally get down to it (laughs). It's a
bit of a busman's holiday really.
Do you approach songs in a standard format like with riffs,
grooves etc or do different things inspire you?
I'm usually pretty set in my ways when it comes to writing. The
music comes first with the melody etc, then the lyrics. But with
'Lord Have Mercy' for example, it was different as I had a riff
and a poem so I simply stuck the rest on top.
Was there a lot of pre planning to the album in terms of
setting yourself goals to achieve?
Well there was a big difference really between 'White Sugar' and
'Diamond in the Dirt', because with 'White Sugar' I'd spent ten
years working up to my first proper record.
By contrast, 'Diamonds In The Dirt' was something very quick. It
only took something like 10 days to write the songs, record, mix
and master them.
It was also the dreaded second album syndrome. I also wanted to
make 'Diamonds' different from 'White Sugar'. I certainly wanted
to make a better album to start with. But it was a different
album in terms of how it came about, as it wasn't until we
nearly finished 'Diamonds' that I really appreciated what it was
going to be like.
It was very organic then?
Yes it was. It was more of an album based around what a two year
old tour band sounded like rather than trying to establishing
myself with the first album.
You worked Jim Gaines on both albums and he recorded you in
Tennessee. Did some of that environment rub off into your music?
I guess it did yes, especially on 'White Sugar'. Apart from the
recording we tacked on a bit of vacation in the Deep South - me
and label boss Thomas Ruf - and soaked it all up. Since then
I've lived in Detroit for about 2 years so I know more about
What did Jim Gaines bring to the recording?
The great thing about Jim is the relationship you have with him
as a person. He never panics, he helps me focus on the job at
hand, he contributes to the arrangements, picks the musicians
for the project and really just does everything to try and get
the best performance from the artist.
Above all I trust him with my music and because he's honest
enough to tell you if it's a good take or not. He was the first
person to try and straighten out my West Country accent on the
vocals for example.
You also seem to have gelled with the rhythm section of
drummer Steve Potts and bassist Dave Smith?
Very much so, Dave and Steve have played with everyone from
Jonny Lang, Al Green and Luther Allison and they know what's
Very often they'd listen to a song once and literally after it
had been played back to them they'd nailed it. So a lot of the
stuff we did was live in that way with a few guitar overdubs.
'Same As It Never Was', 'Jump That Train' are particularly
impressive and 'Can't Keep Living Like This' is a standout
track. Did you have any favourite songs at the time of recording
Well I liked 'Jump That Train' because I had a riff and the rest
of the song came together very quickly. In fact we needed
one extra track at the time and it fitted perfectly.
I also like 'Can't Keep Living Like This' because of the lyrics
and I hope it shows how I've developed as a lyricist. Then
there's the title track and 'Lord Have Mercy' which I also liked
Did some of the songs change from their original form after
you started working on them?
Some were exactly the same but 'Can't Keep Living Like This' was
totally different. Originally I played it much slower and it had
more of a Steve Winwood style vocal on it. .
'Let It Burn' reminds of some of some those Texas bands like
the Arc Angels and Storyville and a bit of Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
I love them all but the song actually came from the title as I'd
always wanted to write a song with that title and with a Texas
You've moved to Detroit now, has that give you any new
Yes in many ways. For one thing I've been hanging out with PAUL
(Paul Andrew Ulysses Lamb) who doubles as my bass player when we
tour the US. And he has lived a colourful life and you certainly
get to know about Detroit that way (laughs).
There's lots of interesting places to see and characters to
meet. But it's also opened my eyes to a lot of different music
from rock, blues and country to a huge diversity of styles. I
guess if nothing else the current adverse economic situation
over there has pushed people into whatever works for them
You toured with Candy Kayne and The Blues Caravan with Oli
Brown and Virgil & The Accelerators. How was that?
Well firstly it was great hitting the road with other people
like that and leaning about touring as a group of people.
It was also great opportunity to hang out with other musicians
as you don't often get to do that, other than bumping into
someone at festivals etc.
It was very different from what I was used to and we seemed to
be in Germany for a long time. But it was good and there were
plenty of shows.
But sometimes you only played for something like 30minutes and
then you had to think about what you were going to do at the end
when we all played together. So it was very different from my
You are stepping up to bigger venues on your forthcoming 10 day
UK tour; do you have to change your shows at all to match the
There's not much different really as I do what I do and just try
and concentrate on putting on the best possible show I can.
The British Blues Awards nominated you for 'Best New Debut
Artist', yet you've been playing for quite some years. Did that
feel the award was a vindication of what you are trying to do?
Yes in a way it was. But its funny as in the States they
nominated me for the Sean Costello Award for Rising Young Blues
Artist, and I've been doing this for ten years and sometimes you
wonder just how long I can be considered for that category
before my star starts to descend (laughs). But it's great to get
any recognition, it's what we're all working towards I guess.
Finally, you also recently toured with both Black Country
Communion and on the Glenn Hughes tour as well. Was that a
They were both fantastic. BCC were awesome, the shows were great
and we were very well received. And I've been a fan of Glenn's
for along time since Trapeze; he's an awesome vocalist and an
example to us all.
Interview © November
2011 Pete Feenstra
Photography by Noel Buckley
Gig review (31.05.11)
Taylor tours in the UK in November
Tue 15th Nov
Pavilion Arts Centre, Buxton
Wed 16th Nov
O2 Academy Islington, London
Thu 17th Nov
The Tunnels, Bristol
Fri 18th Nov
Exeter Phoenix, Exeter
Sat 19th Nov
Princess Pavilion, Falmouth
Tue 22nd Nov
The Robin 2, Wolverhampton
Wed 23rd Nov
O2 ABC Glasgow (ABC1 & ABC2), Glasgow
Thu 24th Nov
Citadel Arts Centre, St Helens
Fri 25th Nov
Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield
Sat 26th Nov
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