THE NORTHERN ECHO INTERVIEWS KWS Posted on 25 Oct 15:30
Blues/rock guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd is 37, but has 20 years of recording and touring with the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Aerosmith and Van Halen, as well as sharing a stage with BB King and Hubert Sumlin from Howlin’ Wolf’s band. He talks to Mick Burgess
YOU’LL be playing seven shows this month across the UK. Are you looking forward to playing over here again?
Absolutely. We’ve played in Europe a number of times, but in the UK, we’ve only really played in London. We got a new booking agent and I told him we really had to go outside of the ccapital so this tour is a result of that request. The fans’ voices have been heard and we want to come and play for them.
Your guitar looks as though it has many stories to tell?
I have many guitars, but my main one is a 1961 Stratocaster. I found it when I was 15 or 16 and it was one of those moments that I knew when I laid my hands on it, it was meant to be mine and I’d never part with it. It’s been all over the world with me and on every record and it’s irreplaceable. It’s got a lot of battle scars and is very worn, but it’s been very well played.
You’ve toured heavily in the US. How do the crowds in the UK differ?
I get asked that a lot. I think the biggest thing is noticing whether they are enjoying the music or not.
I can feel the energy from the crowd in the UK and I feel the appreciation of the music.
I don`t think they are that different but I feel the presence of the audience a little more in the UK. I have a sincere appreciation of the English for supporting blues music over the years especially in the 1960s and 1970s when the Americans weren’t paying any attention to it. But you guys really kept it going.
You’re playing at The Sage in Gateshead. Is this your first time playing in the North?
I played there years ago when I first started. I opened for The Eagles and then I came back on my own.
What sort of show have you lined up for the tour?
There will be an emphasis on the new record and we’ll play some songs from previous albums too, but it’ll be more of a blues show this time so songs from previous records will the more blues-based ones.
You have quite a formidable band behind you which includes Chris Layton from Stevie Ray Vaughan’s band and Tony Franklin from Blue Murder and The Firm on bass.
Chris recorded my first album with me back in 1995. He’s been a constant member of my touring band for eight years. Tony is the most recent addition and this is his second or third year in the band. Riley, our keyboard player, has been in the band for six or seven years.
When did you and singer Noah Hunt first cross paths?
When it came to do the second album, we auditioned 12 people and Noah was by far the best so we hired him. Two weeks later we were in the studio making the Trouble Is album. He’s been with me for 17 years now.
Which songs did you particularly enjoy working on?
I’d say Still A Fool by Muddy Waters is one of my favourites because he is one of my favourite artists. If I could ever trade places with a guy and be someone else, it would be Muddy Waters.
You have an incredible array of guests on the album from Ringo Star to Joe Walsh and Warren Haynes. Are these all guys you’ve worked with in the past?
They are all friends of mine and I’ve worked with them all to varying degrees over the years. They are all very talented musicians and all have a deep appreciation and understanding of blues music. I knew they’d all bring something significant and unique to the performance. It was really great having each one of them on the record.
You’ve played with BB King and Hubert Sumlin and toured with the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, The Eagles and Van Halen. What has been the highlight of your career so far?
It’s really impossible to pick one moment and to do so wouldn’t do justice to all the amazing people who have been in my life.