British blues rock guitarist Joanne Shaw Taylor has been referred to as “the new face of the blues” and it’s a well deserved accolade. Discovered by Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics at the age of 16, she was inspired in her early teens to play the blues after listening to Stevie Ray Vaughn, Albert Collins and Jimi Hendrix. She was invited in 2002 to perform on tour with Stewart’s supergroup D.U.P.. Taylor released her debut album White Sugar in May of 2009, followed by Diamonds In The Dirt in 2010, both of which peaked at #8 on the US Billboard Top Blues Albums charts. She won Best Female vocalist at the British Blues Awards in both 2010 and 2011, as well as the Songwriter Of The Year award for her song “Same As It Never Was”. Releasing 4 more albums between 2012 and 2016, Taylor signed in 2018 with Sony Records and their recently re-launced imprint, Silverstone. This year saw the release of her 6th studio album Reckless Heart, an album of firsts for her-the first album she has made in her adopted hometown of Detroit, the first produced by her good friend Al Sutton (Greta Van Fleet/Kid Rock), her first album largely recorded live and the first to feature an unplugged solo performance. Combining vintage grooves with a modern twist, she displays her most powerful and intimate vocals to date, drawing influence from soul greats such as Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin and Mavis Staples. Having spent the past decade releasing highly successful albums, touring the world and drawing praise from the likes of Joe Bonamassa,, Stevie Wonder and Annie Lennox, she now splits her time between Detroit and London and has begun to reveal more of her soulful side. Having recently completed her US Reckless Heart Tour, Taylor has plenty of summer festival appearances ahead of her! You can follow Joanne Shaw Taylor and stay up-to-date with all upcoming music, tour dates and news, as well as stream and purchase her music, via the following links. Check out her video for “Bad Love” below. Photo Credit: David McClister.
Your new album Reckless Heart will be released in the US on May 17th. What can you tell me about the inspiration behind the album? What was it like working with producer Al Sutton?
It was great. Al and I have been close friends for about a decade, so I was a little nervous. It’s really the first time I’d worked closely with someone I considered to be a good friend first. I think it made the whole process easier though! There was a lot more back and forth between us during the writing process, as I was less anxious than usual about letting him hear rough ideas or sending him snippets for feedback and direction. The inspiration behind the album was mostly my relationship which had hit a bit of a bump in the road so to speak during that period of time.
What led you to record the album mostly live, with no guitar pedals? What can you tell me about the musicians who played on the album with you?
That was really led by Al. He’d been telling me for years he wanted to do a more raw, live feeling album with me. To be honest, it was just good timing as that’s really what I felt like doing for this record and the songs lent themselves to that direction.
What can you tell me about “The Best Thing”, the lead single from the new album? I read that you wrote it in an Uber on your way home from a Chris Stapleton concert!
I did! Well I’d had the guitar riff lying around and after hearing “Tennessee Whiskey” I realized it needed to be slower and I got the hook “I’m the best thing you ever had” stuck in my head on the car ride home from the concert. So as soon as I got home I finished off the verse and recorded it.
Reckless Heart is your first album on your new label Sony/Silverstone. What has it been like for you to release music on the label that was home to some of your favorite artists, such as Buddy Guy, John Mayall and Stone Roses?
It’s amazing to be a Silverstone recording artist. Firstly, Sony has built a great team around me that are a pleasure to work with and are very supportive and just a cool group of people. Secondly, I grew up listening to all those artists so it’s pretty cool to see the Silverstone logo on the back of my own album.
You were discovered by Dave Stewart of Eurythmics when you were 16. What were those early days like for you and how do you feel you have grown as an artist since then? Do you feel that you faced any specific challenges from entering the music industry at such a young age?
I was really fortunate to be discovered by Dave and I had so many incredible experiences because of him, such as playing with Jimmy Cliff, touring Europe with BB King, etc.. But I certainly was too young to realize who I was as an artist. It was a bit of a blessing in disguise for me that the label folded, as it meant I was forced to go get a job for a few years and sit back and work on my music and really consider what sort of artist I wanted to be. I think I was then better prepared for my album debut release at 22.
You consider Detroit your second home and split your time between Michigan and the U.K. What has it like for you to split your time between the two? What drew you to Detroit specifically and with such a rich musical history, what is the music scene like currently?
I definitely see Detroit as my main base, but as long as my Dad’s around, I’ll always make sure to have a healthy amount of time in the UK with him as we’re very close. There are things I miss about the UK when I’m in America – a good cup of tea, a proper pub etc., but likewise there are things I miss about America when I leave. I’m fortunate I get to spend time in both places because of my touring. Detroit’s just got so much soul to it. I love cities that feel like they have their own heartbeat and personality. Detroit is such a gritty place, that’s survived so much and it’s always come out on top with more character. It’s great to be here while it’s enjoying this period of resurgence.
You’ve had a pretty rigorous touring, writing and recording schedule for many years now. Do you feel like you’ve found a balance between those things and spending time with friends and family?
I think I’m starting to. That said, every time I think I want to slow down I seem to find extra momentum and excitement to hit the road again. I will admit that my career still dominates my life to a certain extent, but I think I’m more at peace with that than I have been. At this time in my life, I don’t have any particular desire to have my own family, so I’m lucky I have the time available to focus on my music and career. This is the life I chose for myself at an early age and I’m very lucky to have maintained the level of touring I have for so long. I think I’m more in control of how and when I tour now than I was in the early days, which makes it easier to schedule in time to have friends/family/boyfriend come out on the road.
You have mentioned experiencing sexism over the years with being a female blues-rock guitarist in a male-dominated scene. Do you feel that things are getting better for women?
I haven’t had a lot of bad experiences. It’s mostly just constantly being referred to as a “female guitar player” that gets annoying. I don’t have a gender-neutral name, it’s obvious from my first name that I’m female, so the only reason to mention it is to highlight the novelty of it which is frustrating that people still think a women being able to do something is a novelty. Also, the “good for a girl” statement is just insulting. I’d rather people just say they don’t think I’m as good as other guitar players, which is basically what they’re saying with that statement, or worse it suggests I did well to be as good as I am with my handicap – my handicap being that I have ovaries.
You’ve said that the US blues scene is still very much focused on the traditional. How do you feel that your audiences in the US compare to those in the U.K./Europe?
I think there is a blues scene in the US that focus more on the traditional style of the genre but there’s a bigger live music scene to break on to. It’s easier in the US to cross over I think. As a guitar player, I feel people are pretty open minded here when it comes to not boxing people into genres. I can as easily play a jam band style festival here or an Americana festival, just as easily as I could play a blues festival and feel confident people will listen with open ears and minds.
You will start your Reckless Heart Spring US tour on May 17th! What are you looking forward to the most with this tour?
It’s going to be really nice to be back performing in the US. I love meeting the fans here and landscape wise, it’s such a beautiful country to see. We’re playing some pretty cool festivals too, such as Telluride, Las Vegas Blues Bender etc., mostly festivals I haven’t played before so that will be nice. I’m also using some of the players who played on the album over the summer to mix things up a little so I’m really excited about that.
What’s next for you?
I fly to Europe next week to perform at Montreux Jaxx Festival, which is a huge honor and bucket list moment for me. Plus I have a show with Rod Stewart in the UK, then I return to the US for some summer festivals.