US blues guitar virtuoso Kenny Wayne Shepherd recently released his incredible new studio album Lay It On Down via Mascot Label Group/Provogue.
Shepherd has been on tour in Europe this summer in support of his latest offering, and he will be making a return to the UK at the end of October for a run of headline shows.
National Rock Review recently caught up with Kenny Wayne Shepherd at Ramblin’ Man Fair in Maidstone, Kent to talk about his latest album, his side project The Rides and his recent collaboration with Walter Trout.
NRR: Obviously, you’ve been touring Europe at the moment. I was just wondering how have the shows been going so far?
Kenny: They’ve been going great, with the exception of the rain, because we’ve played several festivals and it’s seemed to have rained so far at every show. But tonight we are playing in a tent so that’s a good thing.
NRR: What’s been the highlight of the tour so far?
Kenny: Well I think tonight might be, we haven’t played yet, but we’ve certainly been looking forward to this show. It’s our first actual proper festival in the UK, so we’ve been anticipating this, so we will see how it goes.
NRR: You recently released your new album Lay It On Down. I believe you recorded it in your home town of Shreveport, Louisiana. I noticed you even honoured the town by recording “Louisiana Rain” on the album. I was just wondering how much did it mean to you to record the album in your home town?
Kenny: Well we did our last album in the same studio and we’ve never had a big studio like that in Shreveport, so that’s why I’ve never done a record there. So when we did the last record that place was brand new, and we had a really great experience there, so I wanted to make this album there as well. Because it’s just right, I was born there, I was raised there, I discovered music there, I learned how to play the guitar there, my family is there, it was just the right place to do it.
NRR: Obviously, on Lay It On Down, you’ve got some very distinctive Blues numbers on there, the type of stuff that everybody knows you for, but also you’ve got some different stuff on there with new tracks like “Nothing But The Night”- there’s a diverse array of material on there. Was that intentional when you went into the studio or did that just kind of happen organically?
Kenny: Well, we just chose what we thought were the best songs, ten songs. The songs come to life in the studio, the demos are on the acoustic guitar. So yes, things just evolved naturally in the studio and the end result is yes, we have a very diverse collection of songs with the common thread being Blues music and guitar, but it shows a lot of diversity.
NRR: I believe also that when you recorded this album that everybody was in the studio at the same time in the same room. How beneficial was that approach to the overall recording process of the album?
Kenny: Well I mean to me music is about the human element, it’s about making music together. So I don’t like it when people are layering tracks on top of tracks and emailing songs to people, that’s not how I want to make music. So we all play together and there’s a certain energy and a certain vibe that you can only have when people are playing music together.
NRR: Honestly, you’ve got an incredible band behind you – I mean Chris Layton on drums, Noah on vocals and Kevin McCormick on bass. What’s it like performing with those guys each night, it must be a lot of fun?
Kenny: Oh yeah it’s great, we have the same band here. We used a different keyboard player in the studio, but we have a guy from New Orleans that’s just joined the band. But yes, it’s a very talented group of musicians and you know everybody is at the top of their game, so we elevate each other as we play. It’s really great.
NRR: From the new album, what’s your favourite track to perform live and why?
Kenny: I don’t know, right now I’ve been enjoying doing “Diamonds and Gold”, its a lot of fun, I really like that song.
NRR: Having been a musician since a very young age, I was just wondering with the benefit of hindsight is there anything you would have done differently?
Kenny: Not really, I mean I have no regrets. I graduated high school and started selling millions of records and playing all over the world.
NRR: Earlier this week we got to hear a new track which you recorded with Walter Trout which is “Gonna Hurt Like Hell”. I was just wondering what was it like working with Walter and how did that collaboration come about?
Kenny: Well Walter is tremendously talented, I was honoured that he asked me to be on his record. I just went in and did my thing you know and I hope that I gave him something that he was happy with.
NRR: Also, last year you released your second album with The Rides Pierced Arrow, it seems like that project it’s got some longevity to it, it’s not like a flash in the pan supergroup. I was just wondering is there anything new in the pipeline for The Rides?
Kenny: Yeah, we just did a tour in March of the States and at the end of that tour we were talking about making another album. So we should be going back in the studio to make a third record.
NRR: What’s it like working with Stephen Stills, obviously the man is a legend?
Kenny: Yeah, he is, he’s great. He’s like my big brother you know, we are very close, but obviously, I’ve learned a lot working and recording and writing with him.
NRR: In terms of your own musical taste, what’s the one album in your record collection that you couldn’t live without?
Kenny: It’s a Muddy Waters album called Hard Again, it’s the best blues album ever.
NRR: What else do you have in store for the rest of this year?
Kenny: Well we are going to be touring, so we’ve got another week and a half here. We come back to the UK in October and then we are planning another tour here in the spring, and summer of next year August and September we are touring in the States. Now that the record is out we will be on the road for a year to a year and a half.
NRR: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us we really appreciate it.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s new album Lay It On Down, is out now via Provogue/Mascot Label Group. Kenny will also be returning to the UK in October for a tour in support of his latest album.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd UK Tour Dates:
Fri 27 October – Mr Kyps, Bournemouth
Sat 28 October – London Bluesfest, O2 Indigo
Mon 30 October – Assembly Rooms, Leamington Spa
Tues 31 October – Tramshed, Cardiff
Wed 1 November – Ritz, Manchester