BluesWax Sittin’ In With
Peter Karp and Sue Foley
Beyond He Said She Said
By Kyle Palarino
Two weeks ago we ran Part One of Kyle Palarino’s interview with Peter Karp and Sue Foley. Since last week was dedicated to our tribute to Michael Burks, this week we catch back up with Peter, Sue, and Kyle in Part Two.
Kyle Palarino for BluesWax: I want to hit on the new website [www.karpfoley.com]. How long has that been up for ’cause I just came across it when the new album came out?
Peter Karp: The Beyond the Crossroads website?
PK: A few weeks, right?
Sue Foley: Well we had another one before that. Another design. We’ve had a website together for eighteen months or somethin’. The new one’s like a few weeks.
BW: Also on the website there is a tab talkin’ about a school that you guys are doing with teaching. I wanted you guys to talk about that. I also have an eleven- year-old that really likes you guys and I just wanted you to just get into that and what you guys do.
SF: Oh yeah, sure! You first.
PK: We started an online school. We also teach a little bit in Canada or wherever we are, but really it’s on Skype. I teach slide guitar, really focusing on slide guitar and piano. Sue teaches guitar, of course. We also have some other people if you want to learn something that we don’t really do, like jazz. We have a couple of other people whom we’ve brought into the school. And it’s been great. Skype is a great way of connecting, as long as you have a good connection. I’m teaching a guy in Florida slide guitar. We’re teaching someone else up in northern Ontario; we’re teaching people all over the country, all over Canada. It’s been really rewarding. It also makes you a better musician because it makes you think about music even when you’re not playing it. It makes you think about how to articulate certain things, how to show people things, and then you begin to connect dots as well. It’s been a really enriching experience that way.
SF: Very much so, yeah. I didn’t think I could teach first of all. I always thought, “No I’m not a teacher.” Peter actually convinced me to try it and it’s been like he said, very rewarding to share the resources that I have with somebody else. Then I thought I don’t know enough, but actually I’m surprised at how much I know. I’ve been doing this so long that our students are thrilled with what we are able to give them, because we are coming from a real place of experience and it’s not how they say some people teach and others do. Well, this is the opposite, we do and we teach. We hit our students on nights off on the road; we’ll Skype them and spend some time talkin’. We talk to people on all different levels. You know I even taught a girl guitar that had never touched a guitar before in her life. And I thought I couldn’t do that, but it’s been great! And we got her playing songs.
PK: At the same time I’m teachin’ her piano. She does a half hour with me, she does a half hour with Sue. We are kind of mentoring her as an artist because she can really sing and can really write. She’s a young girl and we’re watching her sort of blossom. We’re watching her kind of stand up and put across everything that she’s got in her way. That’s been really, really great!
SF: It’ really fun and it’s something we want to do more of. We also do workshops in schools. That’s what we are doing next weekend in Louisiana. We’ll be going into schools and teaching some kids with different backgrounds, but a lot of underprivileged, some kids in detention centers. We’re teaching kids about songwriting and blues.
PK: The kids in the detention centers are the best songwriters.
SF: They’ve got stories.
PK: We grew up with certain kind of problems that was like the coal in the furnace for us to be songwriters to express ourselves. What we do is give them material or they give you material and turn it into songs and they are fantastic! They are much more interesting than the normal, suburban kids who have a normal home. The kids who have problems have torment, have drug problems, have violence problems. Once they learn the power of the word they really can turn out a great lyric. It’s really been interesting.
BW: Okay, let’s get back to the album since we got off track so quick. A couple of songs I wanted to hit on, “Analyze’n Blues.” You both wrote that one.
PK: Yeah, Sue started it. Sue really had the idea and got runnin’ with it and then I took it and added a bunch of lines to it and bridge.
SF: There’s no bridge.
PK: Well, you know the…
SF: Slide solo.
PK: Slide solo. And some of those lines. “Shut up and make love to me.” I just punched it up a bit. I think that song might of come a little bit from the letters. Not really from that record, but the fact that we spent a lot of time analyzing everything we are doing in order to survive together.
SF: I’m always thinking about myself, too. I’m over-analytical about everything. What I do, about everybody around me. So it kinda came out of that, too. And we were analyzing each other as well, so…
BW: Of all the songs on the album, that song sounded lyrically like it was written in the classic 1920s and ’30s era and you guys just took it and brought it forward. I don’t know what about that song just threw it back there.
SF: That’s nice.
PK: I think so. It’s got a riff that you play.
BW: It was just different which is what I’m going to grab off of here. “Chance of Rain” is a total Peter song.
PK: Yeah. Actually, when I wrote that I sent that to you as a video. Do you remember that?
PK: I wrote it down in New Jersey in this empty house. I wrote it pretty quick and didn’t think much of it really at the time, but I figured I’d send it to her and see what she said. She liked it so I stuck it in my back pocket and pulled it out for this record.
BW: And ended up usin’ it. I liked it. Like I said it’s definitely a “you” song, but it works beautifully on the album. Go ahead and talk about “Beyond the Crossroads.” Tell a little story behind that because it is such a focal point of the album.
PK: I think that was probably the song that was the catalyst of putting this record together, where we were at, getting beyond trials and tribulations of life, and the difficulties of life. I had recorded a demo of it and I wasn’t really happy with it. Then we recorded it and then did the overdubs with Sue, and Sue brought a lot of life to it. She came up with some guitar parts that were classic R&B Stax/Volt kinda things. It’s about a declaration about getting beyond all the tough spots and enjoying what we’re doing, enjoying life. Being grateful is something we always talk about. It sounds like an A.A. meeting or something.
SF: [Laughing] It’s very Oprah.
Kyle Palarino is a contributing editor at BluesWax.
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