British blues rock guitarist Laurence Jones is getting ready to hit the road with LA based rock and soul troubadours Vintage Trouble.
In recent times Laurence Jones has been touring relentlessly in support of his fourth studio album Take Me High. For this album, Jones teamed up with legendary producer Mike Vernon (David Bowie, Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac).
Laurence will continue to tour in support of the album throughout the rest of the year including both headline and festival dates across Europe, as well as shows with both Kenny Wayne Shepherd and the previously mentioned Vintage Trouble.
National Rock Review recently caught up with Laurence Jones at The Cluny in Newcastle to talk about his new band, his forthcoming new album and what it was like to work with Mike Vernon.
NRR: Thanks for taking the time to speak to us here at National Rock Review. So you are currently out on tour across the UK in support of your latest album Take Me High. I was just wondering how have the shows been going so far?
Laurence: Yeah, really good. We’ve done fifteen shows across the UK. Some of our favourite venues we’ve been back to every year and we’ve seen a really good increase in numbers. I’m actually going out on an extended other UK tour after Vintage Trouble because we’ve had some requests to come back and play some other venues, which will be cool.
NRR: Speaking of Take Me High, I know you worked with Mike Vernon on that album. What was it like working with Mike and what did he bring to the table?
Laurence: Well it was really cool working with Mike, I’ve wanted to work with him since I was eighteen. I phoned him up when I was eighteen and he said the time isn’t right, he was kind of in retirement. So I phoned him up again four years down the line, and he said I’m not sure. I said come on Mike we need to do a British album, everybody keeps on doing this American thing you know trying to copy Joe Bonamassa and people like that. He said ok cool, he said seeing as you are the young guy and I’m the old guy we will come together and do this British thing.
It was cool working with Mike, he was so calm, like unbelievably calm in the studio and he was telling us some amazing stories about working with Bowie and things like that. One of the first jobs he ever got, he turned up to this studio and he was in the control room. He just heard like walking on pebbles and singing acapella and it was Bowie with his shoes off in a bowl of water and pebbles trying to get like this weird sound (laughing). So it was a really cool learning experience with him. He’s produced some of my favourite people like Fleetwood Mac and Clapton.
NRR: When I interviewed Sari Schorr recently she was also raving about working with Mike as well. Obviously, we saw you at HRH Blues in Sheffield the other week, which was a great show. That was the first time we had seen you with your new four piece band. Traditionally we’ve always seen you play in a trio, I was just wondering what made you want to go to a four piece and bring a keyboard player in?
Laurence: Well, it was more about filling the sound out, and not just making it all about the guitar, and coming together more with songs, which hopefully you will see in the show. Bennett is a great singer as well, so we are doubling up on the vocals. Yeah, it just allows me to have more freedom on stage and I can express myself more and I can develop my songwriting.
NRR: The new guys in the band – your new band mates, how did you come to meet them and can you tell us a little bit about them?
Laurence: Well Phil’s been in the band for a year and a half now, he’s best friends with Greg. They were previously in a band together. Actually, they’ve only ever been in bands together. Greg’s only really played with Phil, they’ve played together for over ten years. Phil recommended him and I’d seen Greg play with Sean Webster and he was really cool, he had a cool young vibe and really cool four string bass, and I thought that’s the sort of image that I want to go forward with, you know four young guys, it’s really cool.
Obviously, Bennett used to play for King King. I supported King King in 2012 and Alan was late for his flight, he was flying into London so Bennett did the soundcheck on the vocals and the piano and I was like wow, he’s pretty amazing and we just kept in touch.
NRR: I know you’ve been playing a few new songs out on the road and I know that you’ve got a new album in the pipeline. I remember in Sheffield you mentioned that you had been doing some recording in the Carribean is that right? I was just wondering could you give us a little bit of an update on your forthcoming record?
Laurence: Well, I’m still keeping it under wraps at the moment. I’ve finished my deal with Ruf Records now. We went to the Carribean to write our album – so we were there like three weeks getting in the spirit of things, and it was the first time the band had come together because they all joined in January.
So it was a nice experience for them to get together, and thrown into the deep end of writing songs. I wrote like twenty songs, and we picked the best twelve. We hardly got to see the Carribean, we were in the recording studio all of the time (laughing). But yeah, we are going to be bringing out a new album probably at the start of next year.
NRR: Where do you find the inspiration for your songwriting?
Laurence: Mainly on the road, meeting different kinds of people and different experiences. You know I see a lot of crazy shit (laughing). Yeah, I get a lot from my Crohn’s disease, you know I can feel quite a lot of pain through that and if I want to get deep I sort of can.
NRR: We got to see you jam with Dan Patlansky the other week as well. What was that like for you and how did that connection come about?
Laurence: I spoke to Dan about five years ago now, he had an amp, that’s a Dr Z. I just messaged him on Facebook and said what do you think of this amp. Then we got talking about geeky things with amps, and we kept in touch.
So I knew him before anyone got a bite of him really when he arrived in the UK. So when he first came over, we did a show together at Mr Kyps in Poole, it was like the first show Joe Bonamassa did in England. Yeah, we did a double header together and just really clicked. So whenever he’s in the UK we always try and meet up.
NRR: Obviously, you’ve got some big support slots coming up too, you are going out on the road with Vintage Trouble and also Kenny Wayne Shepherd, so you must be really pleased about that.
Laurence: I’m over the moon, each year we are like how are we going to top that (laughing). Yeah, Vintage Trouble that’s the one I’m really looking forward to, I can’t wait to go out with them guys. We did a few shows with them last year; we did Curacao Blues and the North Sea Jazz Festival and they were really cool guys, they’re rock and roll.
NRR: We just mentioned there that you had sat in with Dan Patlansky. If you could choose any guitarist to sit in with who would be your dream?
Laurence: Without a doubt, Eric Clapton 100% (laughing). If I do that, that’s it, we can tick it off.
NRR: At HRH Blues you did a Clapton/Cream medley with “Cocaine” and I noticed you included in that a riff from “Sunshine of Your Love”.
Laurence: And Layla.
NRR: How much of an inspiration is Eric Clapton on you as an artist?
Laurence: He’s the first guy that got me into the blues, because when he used to play “Crossroads” and stuff like that and “Come On In My Kitchen”, I thought they were his songs and it was actually Robert Johnson. So then I looked backed and saw where he got them from and he kept mentioning Robert Johnson. Once I figured Robert Johnson out, I got into Muddy Waters, B.B.King and it just opened up the whole door for me. So Clapton is everything.
NRR: What’s your favourite song to perform live and why?
Laurence: That’s a hard one (laughing). Probably one of my songs “Live It Up”, which is about my friend who passed away, a young guy, and I played at his wedding. They had this amazing life plan together and it was really sad seeing that, and he was just the most positive person I’ve ever met. He always used to tell me you’ve got to live life to the full, you’ve got to live it up. So I dedicate that to him every night.
NRR: What’s the one album in your record collection you couldn’t live without?
Laurence: Probably, Jimi Hendrix “Are You Experienced”, I like that and Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert King “In Session”, that’s kind of not like blasting blues in your face, you can put that on when you are cooking or relaxing.
NRR: The last question I’ve got for you basically is what else do you have in store for the rest of this year?
Laurence: Well we’ve got festivals all over Europe, we are doing Bospop and the International Blues Festival in Holland and that’s great. The day we are on it goes us, Rival Sons, Kenny Wayne and Buddy Guy; that’s going to be a cool gig. Yeah, we’ve got a great tour of Holland in October, we are really taking off in Holland, more than anywhere to be honest. I did a TV show there and it just seemed to work after that.
NRR: It seems Holland is really popular for blues in general, I know quite a lot of Dutch blues fans and like you say they get the serious festivals out there.
Laurence: Yeah, they really love us out there for some reason (laughing).
NRR: That’s great, thanks for taking the time to chat with us again.
Laurence: Thank you.
Take Me High by Laurence Jones is out now. You can also see Laurence on tour across the UK with both Vintage Trouble and Kenny Wayne Shepherd as well as a newly announced headline tour later in the year.
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