Keeping The Blues Vibrant With Isaiah B. Brunt
New Zealand blues artist, Isaiah B. Brunt is due to launch his latest album Just The Way That It Goes in Sydney on March 26th. Having been a part of the blues world for many years and a veteran in music production, Isaiah branches out with this new album, steering away from a traditional blues style to a more eclectic electric feel. The album was recorded in none other than New Orleans, where the blues really all began. No doubt this setting inspired Isaiah to showcase a vast array of styles, whilst still maintaining to present the true essence of the blues.
We chat to Isaiah about his experience in New Orleans, what we can expect from his latest album, and the future of the blues music scene. Ayla Dhyani writes.
You’re getting ready to launch your album this month. How is that coming along?
Yeah, should be exciting. It’s going to be the first album performed with a band. I’ve played in trios, duos and solo a lot, and this particular band line up is pretty special. It’s got a couple of very well-worn veterans in the band who have there own careers going in the same genre, which is great.
You recorded the album in New Orleans. How was that experience?
I did. It was recorded in the French quarter of New Orleans. I went over there after doing some research prior to that. Probably about a year before I recorded the album, I made contact with some guys before committing to create the album there, and I decided I was going to do it and pulled out all the stops to make it possible. Then I found I actually had a cousin who married a Cajun guy who was living in New Orleans, which made the decision a lot easier to finalise in the end.
Do you feel that there is a stronger inspiration to write the blues being on American soil?
Well, when you’re talking about the blues, you can’t really get more entrenched in the history than being there, particularly in New Orleans. I mean, I’ve played in the UK, Ireland, France, around the pacific, and been over to the States before, but there’s nothing like being amongst where it all started.
What can we expect from the album?
The album is really a showcase of the electric side of what I do. My previous albums and EPs have been acoustically based in the tradition of the blues, but I’ve done a lot of electric guitar in the studio for years, so it’s always been a part of me. So who to put it together and record in New Orleans was a very fun way of getting that first electric album up
How do you find the blues scene in Australia in comparison to the States?
There’s actually a good following in Australia. We have our blues festivals all over the country. I was down at our latest Australian blues festival in February and saw a lot of the blues musicians that travel around the world and others that are more locally based. So you get a feel that it’s being kept alive, and keeping the standards up that we set years ago, which is good. There are a lot of younger blues guys coming through as well, who will hopefully take it to another level and refresh it to where it needs to go. In America, there’s a new rage starting out, that’s just grass roots based, which steers more towards indie-blues. One of the guys I’m working with in America who’s handling my publicity is helping me to push myself as an indie-blues artist, which is a good direction to go these days. For the past forty years, the tradition of blues artists coming out as traditional blues artists has slowly started to dry up. When I started out at about 18 or 19, traditional blues was still healthy and vibrant but probably it has started to wane significantly. The blues hasn’t had the same type of impact or drive that was pushing it from the movement in the 60s, so it needs that new revitalisation. But a lot of the traditionalists are still getting interest from magazines worldwide that will stick to the traditional side of promoting it as blues, which is good. But the indie-blues wave that’s currently underway has to happen because the pool of blues fans that were driven by the 70s and the 80s has been dramatically shrinking in the last 10 years. But I can see that there’s a good growth with the youth in the blues. For instance, there’s a blues festival that I’m negotiating with to play at who have asked me if I can do workshops for the youths in the context of the blues, and you didn’t have that before. So, yeah, it’s kind of picking up in some areas.
Tell us how your blues journey began.
It actually started it New Zealand. I was born in Aukland and my father played the ukulele and lap steel and my mother always sang and played guitar and at one point she was playing piano for the church, so I got a good grounding in music from that perspective. I used to sneak the transistor (laughs) into my room and listen to late night shows of the blues. Occasionally we’d get on the black and white TV shows that were direct from the BBC and I remember was watching Jimi Hendrix playing train a-coming, and I thought that’s the sort of style I’d like to do. My first band at about 18 was called the Soul Rhythm and Blues Band and we did a few Hendrix covers, even some Led Zeplin (laughs) and you know standard Robert Johnson style blues and Muddy Waters as well. I’d also hear a lot of the British blues invasion bands, like John Mayall and Eric Clapton, and I still play a few tracks like that. And yeah, it’s amazing how some of the younger fans recognise a lot of the older stuff as well, because a lot of the time when you mention artist like John Mayall and Skip James it’s normally the older fans that get it. But I’ve noticed a lot of the times I’ve played, the guys that have come up to me after the gig have pretty much been young guys who have done their homework on the blues.
Any other projects you’re working on at the moment?
Well, I’ve been offered different supports with some people that I’ve worked with in the past. I’m doing a support at The Basement in Sydney with an artist by the name of Marlene Cummins on the 23rd April. She’s got a documentary called Black Panther Woman that she’s showing all around the world. She was a part of the civil rights movement back in the 60s and 70s in Australia, which is very important to showcase. And in the mean time, while I’m using all these veterans for the launch, I’m actually auditioning younger musicians for the band for a tour later on. I’m trying to inject a bit of ‘fresh legs’ (laughs), plus it makes it exciting as well as they bring a whole fresh idea.
What stimulates your soul?
I have to say music. Listening to all sorts of music really. When you talk about the blues, a lot of people have this idea of just the traditional side of the genre, but depending on where you are, especially in the US, you’ll hear all sorts of styles of blues. I mean, in New Orleans itself you can wander around the French quarter and hear about several different styles in one street. While I was there, I saw a lot of young guys doing traditional, Cajun, Creole, Mississippi, Delta, but you’ll also hear the jazz blues from the French influence that was there over a century ago, you can feel it all around you.
When: 26th March 2015
Where: Spring Street Social, Bondi