Kenny Wayne Shepherd will bring his genre-defining, blues-infused rock n’ roll to Australia this October. His first visit in over a half-decade, Kenny is set to tour along the East Coast, with stops scheduled for Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.
“I’m anxious to see how many new fans there will be,” expresses Kenny regarding the forthcoming tour. “I’ll be very happy to see some familiar faces [in the audience] and people that have seen us before, but I’m especially looking forward to the reaction from the people who are coming to see us for the first time.”
With an impressive career spanning over 20 years, the American singer, songwriter and guitarist has produced eight studio albums, including recent release, Lay It On Down. Perhaps his most contemporary sounding record, Lay It On Down is the embodiment of genre-bending.
“If you’re familiar with me as an artist, you would know the foundation and core of our music begins with blues,” he explains. “But over the history of my career, we’ve always taken that blues foundation and tried to push it in different directions – and I’ve been successful in doing so by using other genres and mixing them together.”
Featuring country, rock and R&B influences, among others, Kenny says “there’s a real variety of material and sounds” at play within the release.
“We wanted to make an exciting record with a lot of different influences on it,” he says, “which I think we’ve accomplished.”
Growing up, Kenny was exposed to various music genres due to his father’s position working in radio, which is perhaps what allows him to so naturally draw from an array of styles and sounds within his own works. However, he maintains that it is blues music which has truly taken a place within his heart; only to be further reflected within his music.
“He [Kenny’s father] worked in many different formats – everything from country to classic rock, modern rock, or top 40,” he explains. “So I grew up listening to all different kinds of music, but there was something about blues that really drew me in.”
“I think it was the honesty in the music – it’s just a real form of music that’s about living life,” he continues. “Sometimes it’s funny and sometimes it’s sad, sometimes it makes you feel good and ultimately, it’s a form of music which heals.
“Anytime that I listen to it [blues] I always end up feeling better afterwards – and as a kid, I think I could relate to the sounds I was hearing, even if I couldn’t relate to the adult lyrics that were in the songs – the emotion that was put into the playing is something that I could still feel in my heart and in my soul.
“And I think that’s what really turns me on the most about blues; it’s played from the heart and that is something that everybody can tap into.”
Harbouring the intention to create raw and organic sounding music, Kenny makes the conscious effort to ensure a minimal amount of overdubbing takes place and the least amount of modern technology possible is used in recording.
“The production process [for Lay It On Down] was very similar to the rest of the albums,” he says. “I like to play as a band in the studio and have human beings interacting with human beings, creating music together, instead of people layering their parts on one at a time and e-mailing songs back and forth – I’m not a fan of that.
“We like to get people in the room and let the creative process begin, because spontaneous moments then become available and they actually happen.”
In anticipation of the forthcoming tour, Kenny recalls fond memories of past visits to Australia, specifically recounting the band’s first time playing on our soil.
“One of the first times that we came over there [Australia], we played the Byron Bay Blues Festival – that was such a memorable trip for me that I ended up getting a tattoo – and every time I look at the tattoo, I think of Byron Bay,” he tells.
“I’ve had plenty of great experiences in Australia – it’s one of my favourite places to visit, both for work and holiday,” he continues. “I just love the country and I love the people there.”
Joining him on tour is our very own Australian songsmith, Ash Grunwald. Ash has received numerous accolades within the Australian music scene and has been titled the bastion of traditional blues; the ideal guest to accompany the Louisiana born musician in performance during his trip down under.
“I was already aware of his [Ash Grunwald’s] music and I like his music,” says Kenny. “I think he’s an exciting artist and again, he has a blues foundation in his music and he also has an edge to it.”
“His approach to the music is a little different than mine, they’re both unique, and I really like what he does, I like what he brings to the table,” he explains. “I think it’ll be a great fit for the bill and I know he has a great following over there [Australia] already, so I think that the fans will be very pleased with the entire package.”
When & Where: Forum Theatre, Melbourne – Saturday 6 October
Written by Helena Metzke