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Home arrow Interview Blog arrow Interview Archive arrow Interview: Fiona Boyes cuts the blues
Interview: Fiona Boyes cuts the blues PDF Print E-mail
Release Date:
21 March 2007
Fiona Boyes Interview
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Fiona Boyes and Salty Dog Interview
Fiona Boyes is Australia's premier female blues guitarist, both as a soloist and fronting her electric band The Fortune Tellers. Fiona's growing international reputation has her in demand throughout Australia, Nth America and Europe. Whether playing traditional acoustic blues or laying out the sweet stinging riffs of southern-style New Orleans blues and zydeco on her Telecaster, Fiona weaves a wild set of rootsy blues - some of the best you will find. Interview recorded with Salty in Melbourne, Australia in early 2007 and includes great Boyes tracks throughout.

Fiona Boyes’ debut US release ‘LUCKY 13’ was officially nominated by the Blues Foundation in Memphis, TN for the 2007 Blues Music Awards (W.C. Handy), ‘Contemporary Blues Album of the Year’. Past winners include BB King, Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Marcia Ball - you get the picture!

Here's an update about the Blues Foundation Awards from Fiona (21 May 07). Originally posted to Fiona's myspace blog:


1st Australian Blues Music Award nominee in Memphis…a long way from home!

The Blues Music Awards are the peak accolades for blues performers and, along with the Blues Hall of Fame Induction Dinner and allied shows on famous Beale Street during what used to be called 'Handy Week', it is THE place to strut your stuff and be seen. For someone in my position (part musician/part blues fan), it is incredible to be a part of a press conference along with veteran performers like Sugar Pie Desanto, Irma Thomas and Willie 'Big Eyes Smith. Sitting between Duke Robillard and Charlie Musselwhite, both of whom I have long-admired, while explaining how exciting it is to be the first Australian nominated for a BMA was a surreal experience! The talk amongst all the musicians revolved around the feeling of validation and recognition in being nominated – veteran and first-timers alike – with boogie pianist Mitch Woods commenting that he finally felt like he'd 'joined the club'. My first US album, 'Lucky 13' had got me into that club on the first attempt! Even better, I was nominated in the prestigious 'Contemporary Blues Album of the Year' category. The only regret I have in not actually winning on the night, was that I didn't get a chance to publicly thank all the people that have loved and supported me along the way.*

The day of the Awards dawned hard on the heels of a late, exciting night where, accompanied by a resplendently attired Preacher, I attended the Blues Hall of Fame Dinner. Listening to the presentations at the Hall of Fame event is like suddenly finding yourself in a very cool school, getting an instant history lesson in fascinating people of the Blues and Soul pantheon. A high-light of this year's dinner was Dr John's acceptance speech, which most of us could follow despite the lack of sub-titles. I topped off Wednesday night jamming until the wee hours at the New Daisy Theatre with Tommy Castro, Deanna Bogart and Duke Robillard.

Excitement mounted as the day of the awards unfolded - including extra (unwanted) excitement for me when I discovered a burned out switch in one of my guitars at the sound-check. Thank you to Ryan, guitarist with multi-nominated band 'Watermelon Slim and the Workers' who came to my aid with his rockabilly-styled Telecaster. The night was a long one – full of great performances, networking and people-watching – and by the time I took the stage, backed by Tommy Castro's band, it was after 1am and I was really ready to play. The performance was described by a member of the Blues Foundation executive as 'taking no prisoners'. You bet! Thanks for your kind words…

Friday: Time to return to the 'Scene of the Crime'. Everyone is blown out after the BMA's but we're musicians in a musician's town, so The Preacher organizes a gig at the 'Pig on Beale' – the bar where I won the International Blues Challenge back in 2003. Fellow-nominee Rich Del Grosso (mandolin) and I kick off the show with a very well-received acoustic duo set followed by the searing slide of Bob Margolin. Accompanied by nominee drummer Jimi Bott (Fabulous Thunderbirds) & bassist Bill Stuve (Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers) and, later, 2007 BMA bass player of the year Mookie Brill, my various guests and I had a roaring electric show that rocked the place. The show also provided a fine opportunity to draw the winner of our 'thank you' competition for supporters who voted in the Blues Awards. The prize: a Maton Mastersound electric guitar signed by myself and Hubert Sumlin. Thank you to Maton Guitars and all the people who joined the competition and congratulations to our winner Carmen Blain, QLD Australia!

The Rum Boogie Café is the cornerstone juke joint on historic Hwy 61 and Beale St, Memphis - a place that stands by its slogan – 'eat, drink, boogie – repeat!' The club has great soul food, atmosphere and an enviable collection of blues memorabilia, including the original neon signs from STAX studio. Bob Margolin invited me to join him at his gig there later on Friday evening. Imagine my surprise when I took the stage, along with Bob, Mookie Brill (bass), Chuck Cotton (drums) and 'Rosy' Rosenblatt (harp & record label head-honcho) and was stopped, before I could get a note out, by a burly guy called Kyle (Phoenix Blues Society) who told me there was to be a special announcement. In front of a packed house, he presented me with a guitar to sign on behalf of the management. The Rum Boogie is renowned for the huge number of guitars, signed by a stellar range of musicians and celebrities which adorn the walls and I was to join them. (Check out the guitar link on the Rum Boogies' web site to get the vibe.) Putting my signature on the instrument, I played my heart out to an appreciative audience, thrilled to feel part of the Memphis scene and its blues tradition.

The Blues Music Awards are over for another year, but everyone that was part of scene in Memphis over the last few days is saying the same thing – 'I've got to be back here for this NEXT year…' Me too!

Best wishes

Fiona xxx

*Thanks to:

The Blues Foundation My family, friends and supporters, especially my mother Margaret, my husband Steve 'The Preacher' Clarke and Suzanne Holmes of Blue Empress Artists. My mates, Kaz Kazanoff who produced 'Lucky 13', and Bob Margolin (my musical mentor) and all the other wonderful musicians who joined me on the recording session – and to Mike Powers of Yellow Dog Records for his faith and the creative freedom to make an album like 'Lucky 13'.

I have received a lot of support from the Australian Blues scene, including the Melbourne Blues Appreciation Society and many blues-lovers around the country – thanks to you all! Special thanks to Maton Guitars for their on-going support and beautiful instruments. Here in America, I have also had some people really help me out – thanks to Category 5 Amplifiers, Analysis Plus cables and Dean Markley strings – and Steve White who custom-built my 'Blue Empress' Telecaster.

Finally, thanks to all my new American family, friends and fans, especially Craig Speer – supporters like you are really what keep the Blues alive!

Web: www.fionaboyes.com

Purchase: www.cdbaby.com

Winner 2003 International Blues Challenge, Memphis, USA

“ I ain’t never heard a woman finger-pick a guitar like that since Memphis Minnie. She’s the best gal guitar player I heard in more than 35 years.”
- Delta pianist & Blues Hall of Fame Legend, ‘Pinetop’ Perkins

“ Far and away the most significant Australian female Blues performer”
- Rhythms Magazine

Legendary Blues artists are acclaiming Fiona as one of the great emerging blues women of our day. After 14 years of live performances in Australia, fronting her Southern and New Orleans style blues band, ‘The Mojos’, and five album releases, Fiona embarked on her acoustic career. In 2000 she released her debut solo album, ‘Blues in My Heart’ to critical acclaim. It won her the 2001 Female Blues Artist of the Year, the 2001 APRA Song of the Year, and 2002 Blues Performer of the Year awards, as well as accolades from reviewers and audiences around the world. She was named 2004 Female Blues Vocalist of the Year by the Australian Blues Music Festival Awards (the Chain Awards), following her scooping of the 2003 Victorian Blues Music Awards, with Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Artist of the Year.

In 2002 Fiona recorded her second acoustic album, ‘Gimme Some Sweet Jelly Roll.’ It was the material on this album that took her, in January 2003, to the birthplace of the Blues, Beale St. Memphis, to compete in the 19th International Blues Challenge, the world’s premier showcase for emerging Blues talent. Fiona became the first Australian, and the only woman, to win the acoustic division of this prestigious event. She returned to the US in May to perform at the W C Handy Awards, the Blues Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, Chicago Blues Festival, New York Rhythm and Blues Festival, Portland’s Waterfront Blues Festival, and leading venues across 15 States. ‘Gimme Some Sweet Jelly Roll’ was listed in the top three albums by ‘Jazz Review’ (USA) Best Blues Albums of 2003, alongside Marcia Ball’s and Rory Block’s latest releases.

Fiona’s success as an acoustic player has not meant the relinquishing of her great love of playing electric guitar with a full band. At the end of her US tour she was joined by Muddy Waters’ slide guitarist, ‘Steady Rollin’ Bob Margolin, and multi-Grammy and W C Handy award winning sax/harp player and producer, Mark ‘Kaz’ Kazanoff for a live recording at Atlanta’s ‘Blue Note West’ club. The album, ‘Fiona Boyes & the Fortune Tellers: Live in Atlanta’ was her first band recording since 1999, and was released in March, 2004. By November of that year it had moved to #2 on the Chicago Blues Radio playlist charts, between Buddy Guy and B B King.

In April, 2004, legendary Howlin’ Wolf guitarist, Hubert Sumlin, joined Fiona and her band ‘The Fortune Tellers’ at gigs in Melbourne, Sydney, and the southern hemisphere’s largest blues gathering, the East Coast Blues & Roots Music Festival. Hubert has just released an album with Eric Clapton and Keith Richards, and is the driving guitar-force from the famous Howlin’ Wolf Chess recordings. His most recent guest appearance was with the Rolling Stones, at Madison Square Gardens. Hubert joins a growing list of international artists who Fiona has performed with, including Pinetop Perkins, Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith, Tommy Castro, Michael Hill, Ana Popovic, Ann Rabson, Katie Webster, Saffire, The Legends of the Mississippi Delta, Trudy Lynn, and most recently 2005 Grammy winner Alvin ‘Youngblood’ Hart.

This promises to be another great year for Australia’s Blues guitar gal, Fiona Boyes. Fiona has been signed by Memphis label “Yellow Dog Records”. With connections back to the STAX label, Yellow Dog is one of the fastest growing labels for blues and roots music in the US. The first offering on this label is 'Lucky 13', and has rated on blues charts everywhere and nominated for best Contemporay Blues Album in 2007.

Fiona’s touring schedule includes Festivals and clubs in Australia, North America, and Europe. Her many years of experience, coupled with her deep love of blues and roots music, has earned her the respect of some of the world’s great blues artists, with whom she has played and recorded. She is, without doubt, one of the foremost blues women playing today.

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