By Jose Oliveira and Emma Steeples, Rock At Night France Correspondents
Location of Interview: JAZZHAUS – FREIBURG – GERMANY – 1st APRIL 2016
José Oliveira – When I was on a Miami Musical Cruise, many of English guitar players said that you’re becoming the European Blues reference.
Danny Bryant – Oh! Really? That’s nice! That’s very good!
RAN – Many musicians pursue their art by keeping the spirit that drives their artistic vision. You’re one of them! Do you agree?
Danny Bryant – Yes. I think especially with blues music as a genre, it almost becomes like a religion. It’s something that you commit to, not because you have to, but because you fall in love with the music and you keep the artistic drive going. You want to improve yourself and you want to make the music better for your audience as well.
RAN- You grew up in England, so far away from the cotton fields where the blues was born. How did you come to this music style?
DB – Well, really through my parents. They have a very good record collection. Although they can’t play vinyl any more, I can, so they given it all to me (laughs). It started with people like Rory Gallagher and Eric Clapton and people like that, and then I went back further. You know like a lot of guys do, I thought ‘Well, where do these songs come from?’ So, it just developed from there and it was something that I fell in love with. I got my first guitar when I was 14 or 15 and blues music seemed to be the music where the guitar was always out in front. It was either a harmonica player or a guitar player. Whatever the key instrument was, it was the solo instrument and that was what appealed to me.
RAN – After Hurricane and Temperature Rising, your last works, you came to 2016 with Blood Money. This album received a widespread critical acclaim as well as number 1 hits in the iTunes blues category in three countries: The United Kingdom, Germany and Switzerland, since its release on the 29th January. What are your feelings about this?
DB- It’s great! You make an album and you never know when to it let it go, but due to financial restraints and time, eventually you have to say that you’ve finished it like making a film, or painting a picture. You have to say “Right, it’s finished, let it go”. But you never know that you get so absorbed within it, you don’t know what other people see, you can’t see outside of it. You can’t imagine how other people are going to perceive it. When you get good sales like that, it gives you validation that you did the right job and you made people happy, because my worst fear is that someone spends their money on one of my albums and is disappointed. That would upset me, because I don’t want them to waste their money and I care what they think.
RAN- But generally, there’s also a team that works with record companies; there’s a producer… I see you are working with Jazzhaus?
DB – Yeah, they are great. They are very supportive and very efficient. Also they allow me to be myself, so I have an idea and they let me go with it. We were talking about this the other day, Richard (the producer) really pushes us. Dave plays drums on the album, Alex played bass but he is home at the moment because his wife is having a baby so we have a different guy on tour with us but he really worked them in a good way psychologically.
Dave Raeburn – Yeah, he’s a great motivator making sure that he got the best out of us for the songs, but in a good way, a positive way rather than bashing you down, he was like a coach.
DB – Yeah, like a football coach or something.
RAN – Once again you team up with Richard Hammerton, as the producer. Why have you made this choice again?
DB- Well, I’ve grown very comfortable working with him. I trust him completely with the music, because sometimes he’ll get me to try things that are out of my comfort zone, which is what a good producer should do. I try them and he says to me, “Look, if this doesn’t work, it doesn’t leave this room no one else is going to hear it but if it works, it works, and you’ve lost nothing. So, he’s pushed me in different directions and made me rethink my music, rethink my band, so it’s a great working relationship. It sounds silly to say I’m shy, because I’ll go on stage and I won’t be shy, but in general I’m quite shy, so to work with someone who makes me feel comfortable is very important. Now, Blood Money is our third album together, so I feel very comfortable, like his family. It’s a very easy atmosphere for me.
RAN – Blood Money features two special and lovely guests: Walter Trout and Whitesnake legend, Bernie Marsden. What led you to work with them?
DB – Well, Walter Trout is my mentor. He’s like another father to me. I’ve known him since I was 15 and he sort of taught me how to play guitar. He’s a dear, dear friend. One of my all time biggest influences, so that was a natural choice. Walter had been ill, he had a liver transplant, so when he came back to full strength it was kind of like a celebration, he was on the mend, he was feeling better, so it was natural to have him on that song. Walter and I were going to write a song together, we were speaking on Skype one night when he was home recovering. He wanted to go on tour and his wife said that he needed to rest, so he was bored. He said “Let’s write a song”, so I started it, then I actually finished it! But I wrote it as a duet. So that’s the song, and with Bernie, I’ve known him for about two years. We’ve run into each other at a couple of festivals, and he’s a big influence for me as well. We emailed, and I sent an email to him telling him that I’d written this song and it would be an honor if he would play on it. I sent the email on Monday, and he arrived on the Friday!
RAN- Can you give us some news about Walter Trout’s health? We know that he had liver transplant surgery, as you also said.
DB – He’s stronger than he has been for a while. I’ve known him for 21 years now and he’s kind of like when I first met him. He hasn’t drunk alcohol or taken drugs since I’ve known him, but he did when he was very young, so he contracted hepatitis, which he didn’t know he had. He had that for thirty years without knowing it and I think it gradually ate away at his health. Because I know him very well, I noticed that over the last couple of years before he got ill, he seemed to be slowing down very quickly and not looking so good. Then suddenly, he became ill. Now he has this new liver, he’s just wonderful again. Completely back to himself. He went down to 120lb, and he has put all his weight back on and worked on his fitness, it’s a miracle, really.
RAN- Why did you choose Blood Money as the title of the album?
DB – As the title track, I felt that the connection with Walter was very strong with him being well again. It made sense to name the album after that. I don’t write about everything that happens to me because I live a very normal life, so I have to write about things I read in the papers or things I’ve seen, friends … there are a few different meanings of Blood Money. It just seemed to fit. It fitted with what the album meant. When you title an album, you want it to say what the content inside the album is. It’s like naming a book, so to me it’s quite direct.
RAN – When choosing the original material for Blood Money did you begin with a specific theme or specific tunings or harmonies?
DB – No, usually what happens is that I start writing a batch of songs (more than I need), then I meet with Richard, the producer, about two months before the first recording session, and we throw away all the songs that aren’t any good. I need an outside ear to listen to them, it usually works like that. Then we shape them around that.
RAN – Are there any songs that you find more challenging during a live performance?
DB – Sometimes I have to play songs at a certain place within the set if it’s a long tour because my voice gets tired, so I start with an easy song to sing. As the tour moves on, I move the more challenging songs to earlier in the set so that my voice is tired after that. There’s a song that we called “Master of Disaster”. I found that was quite hard on my voice, so now we do that and then do an instrumental straight afterwards so it gives my voice a rest. It’s about a strategy of putting songs in the correct order.
RAN – What did you admire about these guys? Hendrix, Clapton, Albert King, BB King (Showing him some old LP’s covers)
DB –Oh! Great albums! Well, Albert King is one of my all-time heroes. If you see my house, it is completely decorated with pictures of blues guys, and the biggest picture that I have in my house is of Albert King. I just love Albert King. BB King, he’s my all-time number one hero. Hendrix, to me, set the benchmark. There was a “before Hendrix” and “after”. My mum used to go and see Jimmy Hendrix every week when he came to London, she saw him at The Marquee, The Bag of Nails. She remembers when he first came over and he wasn’t very well known, and she remembers one time when she was at the bar with her friends and he came up to the bar and bought a pint of bitter. The barman charged him for it and she was too nervous to say hello to him. Well, Clapton, you know … for me, out of all of those guys, from the sixties, he’s the greatest blues player of all time. My favourite Eric Clapton album, which I’ve just got on vinyl, is “From the Cradle”, from the 90s when he went back to doing blues.
RAN – How do you see the blues scene today?
DB – I think it’s very healthy. Better than it’s been in a long time; guys like Joe Bonamassa have done a hell of a job helping it and reviving it. It takes one guy to reignite people’s interests, then they start looking at what else there is. He’s very good and gracious at telling people about other artists. They look around, in the 80s it was Robert Graham and Stevie Ray Vaughan, in the 60s of course it was Clapton, so it’s a music that’s about human emotion so it’s never going to die. It will always come back round and it will have its dips and high points. To answer your question I think that at the moment it’s very good, very healthy.
RAN – You are a JAZZHAUS artist. Do you feel at home, when you play here?
DB – Very much, yeah. Because of the label connection, obviously, but this is our third time playing here. I find that once I’ve played a venue twice, I feel very comfortable there anyway. Of course, the people that run this are the label that I’m with but they’re also my friends. They’re very nice people.
RAN – A message to your American lovers?
DB – We haven’t been to America for almost two years, but we hope to come back and play in the States soon, so we look forward to it.
RAN – Many thanks Danny!
DB – It was my pleasure!