Joanne Shaw Taylor Interview Wednesday 2nd July 2014
comes clean on The Dirty Truth
JLTT: Hello sweetheart. Are you just back from the States ?
JST: Yeah, Pete we had our last show of the summer in Colorado on the weekend. So we just flew back
Cool. I know a lot of cats out there. Its good place for blues, country all kinds of music. How did you get on? Good show?
It was a good show yeah we did The Blue Turtle and we played it once before. It’s up in the mountains in Winter Park sort of in Denver with Ana Popovic and Larry McCray
I know her ! – I interviewed her once and I let my son take over…he was quite enamoured… Right, ‘The Dirty Truth’ and Axehouse Records. Now for this one I understand it you’ve gone back down to Memphis to work with Jim Gaines
Yeah. Obviously as you know, we did my first two albums and Jim also mixed the live CD last year. So I’ve worked with him a few times
I was probably one of the first people to review ‘White Sugar’ looking back. The Live set, it did sound like a chapter finishing and it did sound like you were rounding off that sort of era. Hopefully you enjoyed that Shepherds Bush Empire show in London with King King. It was very good, I thought.
Yeah that tour was great. They are a great band and great guys. It did a little bit I guess with the live album, for many reasons, one I knew contractual that was the last of that contract I was fulfilling and more just because I think when you’ve done three studio albums like that the live album was kind of approached as a ‘best of’ really with favourite tracks and fan favourites from the studio albums and make it one good live album that summarises those three albums. For that reason alone,really
It kind of says ‘We can play this live, too’ in a subtle way. ‘We don’t think we’re a studio-bound act so come see us burn it up’. I think that’s the subtle statement of a live album because if you listen to something… The Pet Shop Boys couldn’t make a live album because all you’re hearing is the studio tracks and a few people with painted faces dancing around. So what you’re doing of course is the other end of the spectrum from that. You don’t plan solos ever do you?
Not really. I mean, obviously you take things from the solos on the albums which you’ve obviously put a bit more thought into and it’s freeze-framed and there for people to review for years. You might have a set way of getting into a solo or a way out. But by and large yes, it’s mostly improvised
‘Mud Honey sounds very purposeful. There’s a thin line Tele in one of the pictures I’ve got
Yeah it’s actually a Double- Thinline Tele and we borrowed it just for the recording. It’s got two F holes on it.
You know what? I don’t think we actually used it on Mud Honey’ because the only problem with that Tele, though it’s lovely, it was so bright… because it was DoubleThinline it was a bit overkill. I think that’s actually my Les Paul
Some people prefer me playing a Telecaster but that Les Paul I’ve got is so bright in itself that it actually sounds like a Telecaster on a lot of those tracks
Right. It’s a bit Southern rock-ish kind of sound. My notes say ‘stark breakdown and arpeggio’ and that is almost classic Rory Gallagher style dynamic isn’t?
Yeah that’s interesting actually. I hadn’t picked up on that. Originally, I thought it was going to be a heavy rockabilly track that was the intention. It was meant to be an instrumental…however I kinda felt it was a bit of waste to not write some lyrics to it. But that’s interesting that you’ve picked up on tha.
Well I learnt off Rory. First guitar I ever got was a copy Tele on open tuning so I started playing slide before playing straight guitar. ‘The Dirty Truth’ title track there’s some great reverbs on this. I tell you what, there’s kind of echoes Pete Anderson who does Dwight Yokam really knows how to get the best out of those pokey guitar sounds. This one, you’re almost steering close to Miranda Lambert territory. Is that just from being in the area or are you listening to this stuff?
To be honest, with that track a lot of that stuff comes down to Jim. One of the main reasons I worked with Jim originally and apart from the personal relationship we have as it’s like working with family, and the reasons so many guitar players use him like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Santana etcetera is that he is the guitar guy. Not a guitar player himself he just has a really good ear for what that track needs in terms of the guitar sound, the guitar solo, the way you approach it. A lot of that I’ll leave up to Jim really. You’ve gotta trust him to do his thing
The thing is that’s true and it’s different from someone like David Z who can also capture guitar sounds really well. But they tend to be a little more urbany sounding
Yeah I think a lot of that’s down to probably the fact he’s a Minneapolis bloke. So he’s grown up in that school with Prince and a lot of those sort of guys
I met Prince one time, very strange man. But there’s a pure Jo lyric here ‘I’d rather shoot than be killed’. Which makes you think this is not a Southern lady; this is someone with your perspective. But that’s a pure Jo lyric isn’t?
Yeah. To be honest, when I started writing that song I was trying to write a country track. The riff ended up differently… the guitar parts a bit more Southern Blues. But I decided to keep the idea of writing a country song. Most of the country I listen to is like outlaw country ..Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and stuff…
‘Wicked Soul’ I liked. It’s got a twisting, turning sound to it and there’s a great Hammond part a
Yeah Mr Rick Steff is a fantastic keyboard player
Ok. I’ve been listening to guitarist Jane Getter. Have you heard of her?
I haven’t no…should I ?
I’ll send you something. You’d love her. Very assured style but a bit different and her other half is one of the keyboard players who used to be with Miles (Davis). How on earth do you stay off the Wah-Wah for this cut ?
Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of Wah-Wah. I like it for rhythm, but I was having this discussion … I kind of see Wah-Wah as a different instrument in itself like slide guitar. People who do it do it really well and then others mess around with it and it doesn’t quite work for me. I’ve kind of put myself unfortunately in the second category because I haven’t done it too much so I don’t consider myself a great Wah-Wah player. Though I do like using different rhythm a lot and when we got that tone, I thought I could lay on it and it sounded quite haunting. Obviously, the vocal and lyrics are a bit dark and nasty so it kind of suited it
I’ve got written down ‘Aren’t men dreadful?’ …well we are and we can’t help it
It was actually written about a female friend that I fell out with so I kind of embellished on that thing
Anyway, it’s got some nice progressions and it’s a nice memorable song I think. ‘Fall in Love’, again you’ve got this great rockabilly guitar sound. I thought it was probably a single and there’s a lovely lyrical guitar solo in there. But who’s the chorale on it?
It was me !
Was it you?
Yeah I did all of the backing vocals…
You clever thing. It’s a fair question.
They are probably very buried in the mix so it’s hard to tel.
Yeah but it is an effective part of the track. ‘Wrecking Ball’ is very choppy. It’s not the Miley Cyrus song. What’s going on?
Yeah that was funny. Everybody told me about that and I didn’t know because I don’t listen to Miley Cyrus!
Basically, you get a very large metal ball and you swing around on it not wearing very much really. That’s how you get attention in that field!
(Laughs) I’m good, thanks!
Alright. There’s as neat bridge in this
Yeah that song was the one that changed the most from the demo to the recording. Originally, I intended it to be like ‘Jump That Train’ which is an earlier song.
Yeah I know it well.
There were too many changes and it was messy so we restructured that…It worked a lot better actually. It’s different to anything I’ve done before, different vibes and it ended up being one of my favourites
My notes here say ‘Getting over a kicking’
The song is basically about falling in love and not expecting it but it came crashing in like a wrecking ball and I didn’t have much option.
Ok. ‘Tried, Trusted and True’ had Hendrix-y lament. That is obviously an album highlight; do you think that’s a fair comment?
I’m glad you said that, Pete – actually because it turned out to be one of my favourites. I think it breaks the album up quite nicely as I don’t do that many slow ballads. I do more funky stuff but I was really happy with that one. It’s funny, I had that riff for ages and I couldn’t write any lyrics to it and they popped into my head one day. It was quite an enjoyable one to write as wel.
Yeah I mean ‘lost love’ is always a great theme. It haunts your love. The real gunslinger track here is ‘Outlaw Angel’ and that’s very punchy. It sounds like a set-opener. Is it?
Yeah, I kind of felt it was a bit of a ZZ Top shuffle and I love that Texas blues
‘Fuzzy grinder’ in my notes.
It has that Texas blues vibe to it and lyrically
There’s a lyric here ‘Time to turn the tables’ and that’s your ‘That’s enough of this’.
Yeah exactly. I’ve always been fascinated by that theme of ‘being born again’ just because I listened to a lot of blues and gospel growing up that redemption vibe. It’s that kind of vibe of someone looking over their life and realising if there is such a thing as judgement day I probably should have been a bit better
Yeah. The mellower take on that Jo is John Lee Hooker’s ‘The Healer’. Where he’s actually saying what’s picked me up when I’ve been down is music. You can say that and I can definitely say that…
‘Shiver and Sigh’, you’ve got this very moody tremolo guitar and the steady drums. It’s kind of vulnerability.
That’s an old song of mine actually. I co-wrote when I was eighteen and it didn’t feature in the live set for years and t didn’t pop up in any of the album because it didn’t fit in but I thought it did with this one. You’re right it’s obviously about falling in love and unrequited love so that kind of tremolo sound hit the nail on the head with a vulnerable tinge,I suppose.
Ok. It’s got the best guitar figure on the album.
(Laughs) For what my opinion’s worth yeah.
It’s hard for me to tell because you get so engrossed in it
‘Struck Down’ has got an aggressive beat. Tinge of ‘Helter Skelter’ about this
Yeah that’s another one. The final two ‘Feels Like Home’ and ‘Struck Down’ we recorded both of those for ‘Diamond in the Dirt’ I think and I didn’t feel like they fit on. I think ‘Struck Down’ has got a little heavier over the years but it was just such a cool groove to play
I wonder, I would have put a tempo change in this but I suppose if you wanted to do that you could do it live if you wanted to
Exactly. They often creep in live anyway with the adrenaline
Yeah dead right. ‘Struck Down’ and ‘Feels Like Home’ let’s be honest, this is where Jim Gaines can actually help you get down what’s in your head. If you are working with Jim Gaines, he can capture the moods of those songs probably better than most producers can
I think you’re right there. ‘Feels Like Home’ I recorded on a demo before I was signed to Ruf and the arrangement is exactly the same but as you say, the way Jim records things and the sound he gets the tracks really benefit. Yeah. I think it’s time and I wanted to make an album similar to the first two that we’d done and it was natural conclusion to come back to
Yeah. On summary with this record, ‘Tried, Trusted and True’ was my initial favourite but now ‘Shiver and Sigh’ has got to me. That is now the official Sargeant favourite track on this for what it’s worth. What do you think?
My favourite track? That’s a tough one. I would probably say ‘Mud Honey’ because I just love that rock stuff and probably Tried, Trusted and True’ as that’s a bit of a personal song and one I needed to write and close the door on.
Most of my songs are fictional, but obviously at the end of a day it’s a release and that’s why. (Laughs) I write songs about shooting boyfriends!
Who’s to be playing with on these live dates?
These dates we are using Oliver Perry on the drums, Tom Godlington on the bass and Joe Peter on the keyboards.
Right. You know these people from where?
It’s a brand new band for me and I’ve been auditioning people in the UK. I haven’t got any previous experience with them
Well good for you. As I say, the records half your original style and half reached into different places. This is a record you need to make at this point isn’t it?
I think so. I wanted to make another album like ‘White Sugar’ really but it’s really hard to intentionally write the same record. So years pass, styles change and you change personally and in that moment it’s gonna be the album it’s gonna be. You can’t force that stuff too much anyway. I’m glad we went for that when we did this album and it’s still very different to anything I’ve done before. It’s a bit more stripped-down and rootsy which I kind of wanted to do. I hope people will like it
Joanne Shaw Taylor’s fourth studio album ‘The Dirty Truth’ is released on boutique label Axehouse Records.