JLTT catches up with the young guitar hotshot before he tours with Red Butler and brings Walter Trout over to join him at the Leadbelly benefit show in June at London’s Royal Albert Hall
PS: First thing, how are you doing? You’re off to Brussels aren’t you?
LJ: Yeah ,we got through to the final in Brussels so we’re on the way
Good. So what’s happening next?
Well we’ve got the contest which we’re really looking forward to – The European Blues Challenge and it’s just an honour to be a part of that. We’ve got some great competition and we’re representing the UK for the best blues band and we’re just gonna go out there and do our thing
Well the English leg was fun to be at. It was really entertaining because all of the acts were so different I thought
Yeah everyone was different in their own right and it was very versatile. That’s what is great about the British blues scene because it’s everyone’s attempt on the blues ..all the acts were individual and good
But then you’ve got Babajack, Jon Amor and everybody on the scene doing their thing and that to me is why it continues to be an exciting prospect. Everyone can do their own thing but it’s still rooted music
Exactly and everyone has different influences from somewhere else and they are taking little bits from there. They learn about it on the road and it’s just great how everyone can come together and play an event like that and hear all the different types of blues
I thought it was a real buzz. We caught you on the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Tour down at The Hawth in Crawley. In a nutshell, what were your thoughts on touring with that crew?
Well I was talking to Kenny backstage and he comes out of his dressing room and goes ‘Hey Laurence I’ve been getting some really great reviews and comments on my Facebook and Twitter about you. It’s an honour to have a great band to open up for us. My fans are quite loyal, I’ve had a few bands that have opened up for us and they tell it how it is. If they think they’re rubbish, they tell them they think they’re rubbish. You’ve been getting some great feedback and I’m really happy with it.’ To hear that from Kenny Wayne Shepherd was absolutely amazing.
I can imagine. I’ve talked to him not only about his own stuff but his work with Stephen Stills and The Rides. Barry Goldberg’s an old friend of ours. The reason the older guys in The Rides respect Kenny Wayne is because he brings his style into the party but he doesn’t try and be king of the world
No he doesn’t need to be because he’s got such an amazing feeling
His band with Chris Layton and Noah are absolutely incredible aren’t they?
Oh yeah. They’re fantastic. Yeah it was really cool. We even got to jam with Chris in sound check because he wanted to play on Miri’s drum kit!
This leads me to my next topic. You know some bloody useful people to play with don’t you?
(Laughs) Yeah I’ve jammed with a lot of my heroes and people I grew up listening to
But your own personnel that you use for your gigs, they all strike with me as exactly in tune with making the songs catch fire. Especially Roger (Innis), what he brings to a song is amazing
Yeah I’m very lucky to have a great band with me – Roger Inniss and Miri Miettinen. I did my first big European tour and Roger and Miri were the house band and after that tour which lasted for four months around Europe, we just gelled and clicked. Then we made the new record together
I’ve just received a couple of bits of the new album. What are you gonna call it?
It’s called ‘What’s It Gonna Be?’
The bits I’ve heard of it, Laurence sound very tight and very you
Great, Pete! Well I think the third album is the hardest. The first album is an introduction; the second album is baring your soul and the third album you really have to prove you’re not copying anyone and it’s an honest album. All the songs on there are from experience I’ve learnt from being on the road, touring, playing live ..so that album is me and I’m not trying to be anyone else.
The bits I’ve heard sound like you’re on an adventure
Yeah and that’s exactly what it is! The sleeve notes on the album every song has got a story behind it and a meaning that’s close to my heart. That’s what’s important especially when I come offstage, I want to be able to believe and feel what I’m playing rather than just playing a song about picking the cotton fields.
I understand. The other thing is this – it’s very easy when you reach a certain level of ability to play your clichés. You have to put your head into a different place where it is an adventure and you’re not gonna rely on what you know is gonna work.
Yeah exactly and in the studio you could be whatever you want. It’s your song, your lyrics, your guitar sound. Be you, there’s no point of trying to place down something on record that’s already been done that you can never compare to. You can never be someone else. You can look at your influences and ask ‘How did they get their influences?’ Like how Eric Clapton did with Robert Johnson and Walter Trout has done that as well. It’s just great that the blues is an ongoing thing you know?
I guess you’re at that stage now, where you just want to paint your own pictures?
Yeah and I feel like I am painting my own pictures. I have paid my dues, I’ve been on the road professionally for five years now and I’ve really built it up and had a lot of experiences. I’ve learnt a lot from my heroes. I just think in terms of my playing, I could never try and be someone else even if I wanted to sound like Stevie Ray Vaughan, I couldn’t so I don’t try to. I’m trying to do it like the bands in the fifties and sixties building their audience up slowly. If I stick to that level I know that my fans will be loyal to me and respect that
Your singing is pretty much your own thing as well because to me you don’t sound like you’re trying to emulate any singer you love
No I mean everyone always says to me ‘I used to just look at myself as a guitar player’ because when I first started a band eight years ago I got a girl singer who used to sing for me and I was the guitar player. But I knew if I wanted to have it in my own name I had to have a voice. Not just being able to sing but my voice has to be up to the scratch of my guitar playing. An artist has gotta have the whole package so I’ve had singing lessons and also touring incessantly I’ve also learned a lot. Now I really enjoy singing just as much as I enjoy playing the guitar
Let’s get back to the album which will be out very soon. What particular cuts are you happy with so far?
I’m really happy with the title track ‘What’s It Gonna Be?’ and we’ve got two special guests on the album; Sandi Thom which I’m really happy about. Its track that’s different to any other track I’ve recorded record. It mellows out. Also, we did our own take on a Leadbelly song which is called ‘Good Morning Blues’. I’m very grateful to be doing The Royal Albert Hall on 15th June
That’s my next topic actually. This is gonna be one hell of a show isn’t it?
Yeah it’s gonna be absolutely amazing. I asked Walter to play with us and I’m honoured that Walter’s gonna be coming onstage with my band to play ‘Temptation’ a song that I wrote for him when we all thought he was a goner. I recently just skyped Walter and he’s still so inspirational. He’s just a strong human being and he’s getting better which is amazing
Absolutely right, Laurence. His main concern when I spoke to him in hospital was nothing about himself – it was getting his band working and paid. My friend Danny Bryant went out and toured with the band. What an incredible character. Not a trace of self-pity and all he’s worried about is band getting paid until he gets better
When you’re on the road, your band our like your family and he spent years with his band. I’ve been together with my band for about a year as well. So I know how he feels
Can I just quickly ask you about your charity work? It’s linked in with Leamington Spa isn’t?
Yeah. Thursday 2nd April is my album launch night and it’s a night for Crohn’s Disease and Colitis UK Organisation and I’m raising a thousand pounds for them. It’s a charity that’s really close to my heart. I’ve suffered with Crohn’s Disease for five years now and it’s been such a struggle from having perfect health to deteriorating. It’s completely changed my life so I wanted to give back a bit. Also prove to people that you can go out there and do what you love even if you do suffer. The Crohn’s Disease people are coming down on the night. My fans are raising awareness and it’s so great that my fans are so supportive of me in that way as well.
Quick geeky point, what is that guitar you are using on the studio sessions?
It was a PRS Custom 24. The guys from there kindly sent me four guitars to play on the record. An acoustic, semi-acoustic and two Custom 24s and also a Custom 50 PRS amp. Some people don’t know that PRS do amps
Thank you mate – great to talk to you and I hope it all goes well. You’re going out on tour with King King aren’t you?
Yeah we’re going out with King King so that’s gonna be really cool and I’m looking forward to that
Laurence Jones’s new album ‘What It’s Gonna Be’ is out now on Ruf Records.
For more information about the new album and tour dates visit www.laurencejonesmusic.com
For more information and to donate to Crohn’s and Colitis UK visit: www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk/
Thanks Golly, thanks Laurence, thanks Kieran for the gallery (gig at The Hawth)
Footnote – Laurence’s Album Launch in Leamington Spa not only had the venue upgraded but raised a grand total of £1730 for Crohn’s and Colitis UK and he included the charity’s logo in his album sleeve notes to raise awareness. Laurence has suffered with Crohn’s Disease himself for about six years and he wanted to give something back to not only the charity but also The Gloucestershire Royal Hospital who have supported him.