Australian Blues master and acoustic guitarist extraordinaire Lloyd Spiegel has dropped his eighth album, Backroads, and it is an absolute pearler. Described as a hard-edged, brutally honest account of Spiegel’s life outside of music, the album reinvents his sound for new audiences, delivering more punch in his most powerful studio performance to date. In celebration of the album (released in May), Lloyd has been hitting the road on an Australian tour.
Hey, thanks for chatting to Forte! Spending quite literally your whole life performing, at what age did you perform your first live show?
I started playing at the Melbourne Blues jams when I was nine but my first paid gig was at 11. That $50 was like a million to me at the time. I couldn’t believe someone would pay me to play guitar; I sometimes still can’t.
How did you learn to play guitar; were you self-taught or instructed through your life?
A mix of all of the above. I have little to no theory and most of my lessons were kind of just from hanging out with musicians and asking questions. I was really lucky to have grown up in a great time in Melbourne Blues and the local musicians were always happy to sit down and show me things.
Who are some of the more prominent influences in your music?
Those Melbourne Blues players might as well have been the Beatles to me. Absolute rockstars to my young eyes, but they were idols I could call on the phone. That was my true grounding in both music and life. Other than the musicians around me, I’m somewhat of a cliche when in comes to influences. BB King, Freddie King, Chuck Berry eye. They’re cliches for a reason I guess. You can’t really look past those guys.
From playing small bars to venues at Byron Blues Fest, how does it feel playing your music in such starkly different settings?
They each bring something different and part of the skill of a performer is to read the situation, understand what the room needs and deliver it. I haven’t played a bar gig for a long time but growing up in that scenario helped shape me as an entertainer. You’d get ignored in those places if you didn’t make sure they paid attention. The theatre shows need to storytelling elements to connect you to the back row but in a standing room venue, that won’t fly so you need to hit harder and faster if you want the crowd on your side. Playing rooms overseas in places like Japan or the Czech Republic also bring about a different show because all of a sudden you have a crowd that can’t understand your bits between songs. Those are the toughest, but I love that challenge on connecting to that audience.
If you could play at any festival or venue in the world, what would it be?
Part of me wants to seriously say Eric Clapton’s Crossroads guitar festival, and the other part of me wants to say The Muppet Theatre with Dr Teeth and the electric mayhem as my house band.
What can listeners expect from your upcoming tour?
I think this is the biggest show I’ve ever put together. Having Tim back on drums and my amps gives me back the grunt and some of the guests I’m adding to shows as we travel being something fresh and exciting. I’ve really worked on a setlist that will surprise and keep punching till the end.
When & Where: The Piping Hot Chicken Shop, Ocean Grove – July 7.