Friday, June 29, 2012

Blues For Sale - Ten More Questions with Larry Garner

Larry Garner's new CD, Blues For Sale, may be his best yet.  It's loaded with some of Garner's best songs and he's never sounded better, either on vocals or guitar.  He produced the disc and took his time doing it, writing songs as he went, with great results.  In addition, he's backed by his regular band, which includes Jared Daigle on guitar, Shedrick Nellon on bass, Micheal Caesar on drums, and Nelson Blanchard on keyboards and they come up big, along with vocalist Debbie Landry. 

The great thing about a Larry Garner album is that it makes you laugh with songs like "Talking Naughty" and "Miss Boss," and it makes you think with tunes like "Broken Soldier" and "A Whole Lotta Nothing."  There's a great variety of tunes on here.  Some other standout tracks include "It's Killing Me," a devastating slow blues, the upbeat "Alone And Happy," about a woman being single and loving it, "Last Request (When I Die)," a delta blues-styled tune with a unique twist, and the tourist-friendly track, "If You Come To Louisiana."

Friday Blues Fix is grateful that the gracious Mr. Garner agreed to sit down and answer Ten More Questions from us.  He was our very first Ten Questions victim, errr, subject over two years ago.

Blues For Sale, like your other releases, features some great songs from your unique perspective.  You’ve produced your last two discs and they both seem to have more of a Louisiana feel than your previous efforts.  What are some things that you did on Blues For Sale that differ from your other albums?

It took a lot longer to finish Blues For Sale than any of my other cd’s because of touring, death all around me, and studio availability. I used my band and people who had toured with me for all of the songs, having Debbie Landry on vocals with me was a big plus.  Everyone playing on it is from the Baton Rouge area, no hired studio guns. On the past albums I pretty much had all the songs written before hand and with this one I would take 2 or 3 songs in at a time. It was a work in progress and I’m just happy that Philippe (DixieFrog) gave me a lot of time to deliver.

Can you tell us a little bit about your thought process when writing songs?  Do you do it in a structured way… many hours a day writing songs, or do things sort of happen spontaneously?

Different days different ways. Sometimes it’s a deeper thought that I have to think about for a while to get it right on paper and sometimes it’s a shallow thought that gets me excited and it don’t stop flowing. I really don’t have a structured time that I write I just get 'em as they come to me. Sometimes the music comes first and sometimes the words come first. I think my best feeling for actually sitting down writing is when I have to ask the bartender to borrow a pen and piece of paper. I usually complete a song that I start in a bar.

How many of your songs do you get from listening to other people’s stories?  “Alone and Happy” and “Bull Rider” (from your last album) sound like those types of songs.

Sometimes talking with others or watching others, I get ideas to write about.  Lots of my songs have lines that were inspired while talking to folks and  if you  know me at all, you will know that I will tell anyone , “That’s a great line for a song or that’s a great song title, or that would be a great name for a cd ….etc.” For some reason its second nature for me to think in song. Sometimes I have to dig deep to find the courage to sing a song that may offend  a certain sector but Gatemouth told me, “I’m gonna tell you right now, if them songs come to you and you don’t sing em, you know what………….they gon' stop coming to you”.

“Broken Soldier” recounts the plight of a veteran returning from the Middle East and his struggles to adjust?  Was this inspired by someone you know or just from your own observations?

There was a man who lived next door to us with his younger brother when I was a kid. He was what they called back then “shell shocked”. He was strange to say the least and as I got older I seen guys coming back from Vietnam in the same shape. More recently by having a street conversation with a PTSD vet in one of the big cities I felt I had to write the song.  I am a veteran and it's easy for me to talk with other veterans.  When I see them homeless and unemployed I’ll take the time to give them food rather than giving them money.  I’ve talked with some who are getting used to a new prosthetic arm or leg but its hard to talk with one who can't get new memories to replace the  mental trauma that they had to cause and that they also endured. `This ain’t a new thing, I’m sure there have been broken soldiers since the beginning of time because us humans sure have been killing each other since the beginning.

I listen to a song like “Last Request,” and it makes me think about your health battles a few years ago.  How much did your struggles change your perspective on your career and your life in general?

I don’t get as depressed or overwhelmed about life like I used to. I feel now that most of what happens in this world is based on foolishness and there is nothing I can do about that. I used to be afraid of what people would think if I said what I felt but not anymore.  If I see something going on that’s wrong I will say something just like if I see something that’s going on right.  I’m in better health now than I have been since I was in my 40’s and I feel great but I’m not afraid of dying anymore. I ain’t trying to rush it but when it comes I look forward to it because in my opinion its just another phase of existence.  I just don’t want that phase to be interfered with by man's monetary process. We have a family cemetery so Please! just put me in the ground naturally so I can go back to mother nature under the pecan tree. 

You recently finished an overseas tour.  How many countries did you visit?  How does the blues scene overseas compare to the U.S.?

This time it was Germany, France, Austria, England, and a newcomer to my list, Senegal.  Although I really get depressed when I know I’m gonna have to go though the airport crap, I really love it when I land in another country and be recognized as a Bluesman.  Tabby was the first to tell me, “When you go to Europe you are an artist and they treat you like one”.  The places that we play over there are usually places where people pay close attention to what you are delivering and you can hear a pen drop right before a thunderous applause. Most times at festivals people have the chance to dance and a lot of them do, mostly alone. Over here in most of the places there’s a different attitude toward the band (artist) but I‘ve gotten used to that. In a lot of places, nobody is interested in what you are saying they just want you to keep playing and keep them dancing. I loved Wilson Pickett and all of his songs but you can only do "Mustang Sally" so many times in your lifetime and it gets painful to play. There is a big difference and you have to learn and accept the difference because it’s a humbling experience to come back from Europe and go straight on the road here.  Makes me think about Joe Louis Walker's “Blues Survivor.”

The blues is an American music style, yet it, and the artists who play them, continually gets the short end of the stick here.  Based on your experience playing here and abroad, do you have any ideas about how to improve the standing of the blues in the U.S.?

Nah, no ideas anymore and if I did it wouldn’t change anything. So many times, people (not blues people) over here have asked me what do you do and when I tell them I‘m a Bluesman. They will say, “Oh you play jazz“, and I will correct them and say, “No I play the blues“ then they will say, “Oh I love the blues“, so I push the envelope and ask, “What was the last blues cd you bought“, and most times that’s the end of that conversation.  Everyone knows that America gave the blues away and the British invasion brought them right back and made millions. The Bluesmen and Women have given everything to America and for what…To be a support act for some kid who learned how to play by listening at their records.  I’m very happy for the few players who are finally getting some decent work over here, but it didn’t come easy for them. You got to suck ass, kiss ass and take whatever they feel you deserve just to keep the band working. You cant just be a Blues player delivering great shows night after night you got to also be cliqued up. I have never been a big joiner so I don’t expect much anymore now that I know how it works. Mr. Collins told Larry Neal and me, ”Fellows, you got to get used to it….some people have to pay their dues and some people got their dues paid for them”.  I’m very grateful to the folks who give us gigs and play my songs on the radio and internet to get the word out there. I’m especially grateful to the fans who love us over here and that’s why I continually say “I Thank Y’all For Coming Out and Thank Y’all for Helping Keep the Blues Alive”!

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love good sleep, Woodworking, Metalworking, cooking BBQ for friends, Fishing and watching shows I’ve recorded while I was away. I also like gardening but I don’t get to do that as much as I want. I don’t really like it, but I have to cut the grass…Lots Of It.

Musically speaking, is there anything that you want to do that you haven’t had the opportunity to do yet?

I’ve pretty much given up on most of the dreams that I’ve had that hasn’t been fulfilled. I just want to keep playing with musicians that respect the stage, respect the audience and respect the music that’s being played. Brian Lee has the dream of recording with Kenny Neal and me so I would like to see that happen for his dream's sake.  Anything else good that happens will be a surprise.  In the meantime go to  if you want to keep up with the few gigs that we do over here.

Now, check out a few song clips from the new disc.......

Larry Garner Discography

Double Dues (JSP Records)
 Too Blues (JSP Records)
 You Need to Live a Little (Verve/Gitanes)
 Baton Rouge (Evidence)
 Standing Room Only (Ruf)
 Once Upon the Blues (Ruf)
 Embarrassment to the Blues?(Ruf)
 Here Today Gone Tomorrow (DixieFrog)
 Live at the Trivoli (with Norman Beaker)
Blues For Sale (DixieFrog)

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