BluesWax Sittin’ In With
By Robert Putignano
Bob Putignano for BluesWax: Hi Anthony, nice job on your new disc, Up2Zero.
Anthony Gomes: Thank you so much.
BW: It’s been a while, where have you been?
AG: Everywhere pretty much, the last blues recording I did was in 2008, a live record for Thomas Ruf. After that I did a side project called New Soul Cowboys for a year and a half, which was sort of a Southern Rock thing, where the idea was to assemble a blues guy, a country guy, and a rock guy together. And what do you get? I guess its Southern Rock. But now I’m back to the blues and we couldn’t be happier.
BW: The Southern Rock is pretty close to blues, don’t you think?
AG: I think so, but some people get very particular about artists and if you depart from that they get upset.
BW: Especially the blues people.
AG: Yeah, because they feel there’s so few of them, but at the end of the day you got to keep it fresh. I don’t want to be like AC/DC who readily admit that they’ve been doing the same thing for about forty years. As an artist there’s times that you want to try different things. So, as long as I’m honest with my art the audiences will appreciate the changes, though they may not like everything that I do.
BW: You can’t expect that we’ll like everything you do?
AG: But I really feel that they’ll love me for being honest.
BW: Besides, these records are documents of your artistry and your life; it’s important for your fans to know what you are all about.
AG: Well said, exactly.
BW: How old are you Anthony?
AG: I’m forty-two.
BW: Well… you are still just a youngster; there are a lot of miles ahead of you. And it’s good to have you back in this direction. Your manager Peter Carson is quite the pro.
AG: Yeah, he started managing the Southern Rock thing, then we did a blues show with B.B. King and Buddy Guy, and it was Peter who said, “You need to be doing the blues, too.” Peter is a great guy to have in the camp, together we’ve been knocking them out of the park.
BW: Is Up2Zero your first for your own label?
AG: Early in my career I did a couple on my own, then moved onto other labels. Come to think of it, at the beginning of my career I did my own label because no one wanted me! But now we’re on my own label by choice, because we feel that the way the technology is going with the Internet and all. It used to be that you needed a big label to get promotion and airplay, that’s basically not necessary anymore.
BW: I agree it’s a different ballgame now right?
AG: It is. It used to be that you needed to sell a lot of records to break even. Now you need to sell several thousand.
BW: Where you sell a bulk of these discs at concerts and festivals.
AG: Yes. Plus this way you can be more true to your art, you don’t have a record label guy saying, “You know Latin music is kind of big, why don’t you incorporate some Latin sounds to your music?” But with my own label I can decide to give my fans what they want without having to compromise anything.
BW: You have to feel what’s best for you and your fan base and what comes out of your fingers and mouth. What’s your Web site?
BW: You have a lot of Youtube videos there.
AG: Oh yeah, we’ve got all the shaky phone camera videos. [laughs]
BW: Top quality – ha! I saw you at the Tremblant Blues Fest where you lit up one of the main stages, but I also enjoyed your educational sets playing acoustic, too.
AG: I really love the acoustic thing as well. I actually recorded an acoustic album about ten years ago, too. I like it because I can put all of the guitar pyrotechnics aside, so that I can rely on my voice and storytelling, and not have everyone yelling “guitar solo!” when I play acoustically. So it gives me the opportunity to play songs and covers that really impacted my life. It’s a very different vibe, but it’s just as cool as playing electric. I really like to change things up and not perform exactly the same versions of songs over and over again.
BW: That would be like a bad Twilight Zone espisode.
AG: Yes, it would be horrible.
BW: What are some of your favorite’s tracks from Up2Zero?
AG: I really like “Love Sweet Love” because it’s bluesy and melodic; it also has some wah-wah guitar too. I tried to play economically during the guitar solo so I guess it’s a sign of maturity? [Laughs]
AG: But I’m really proud of this song. You know when you’re coming up someone will tell you, “You know you’re playing too many notes, kid.” So here I am now.
BW: This “Love Sweet Love” has that southern vibe to it.
AG: Oh yeah, man, you know I felt that a little Derek & the Dominos snuck in there.
BW: What are you listening to these days?
AG: I try to listen to a wide variety of music as a blues artist. So if I listen to Stevie Wonder or Aretha, so I try to interpret their sounds. I am also really digging the new Walter Trout CD, Blues For the Modern Daze, it’s been in my van for two weeks, and it just stays there. I love Walter’s work, the new Bonnie Raitt Slipstream album is good too, what’s not like about Bonnie? I tend to get stuck on CDs and listen to them for a while, and then I get on an iPod and wildly surf, too.
BW: What did you grow up with, was your family musically oriented?
AG: My dad was into classical music and occasionally the Beatles. My mom was into Elvis.
BW: So you didn’t get much out of that? [Laughs]
AG: No. But I get a kick out of trying to mentor young kids whose parents want their kids to be guitar players. When I came up my mom said, “Oh man, Anthony’s in band” and the neighbors would say, “Oh, I am so sorry”… So they felt there was no hope for me, but today they are okay with what I do.
BW: Being from Canada I suspect they wanted you to play hockey?
AG: I love hockey, I wanted to be goalie! But the music bug hit me when I was around fourteen, so I became sidelined from hockey, but I have to say that I’m happy the way things turned out.
BW: Where are you living these days?
AG: My mail goes to the St. Louis area, but I pretty much live in the van touring around. Luckily we stay quite busy.
BW: You must be gearing up for the festival season?
AG: We are so gearing up for the festivals, especially since we have a new record out and pretty much a new band. It’s a kicking unit; we have a lot of camaraderie and we are all excited to go out and play. It’s not another day at the office; we’re ready to hit it hard.
BW: Is the band you are touring with the same that’s on the new CD?
AG: No, the guys on the new record were studio musicians. I would love to have Reese Wynans from [Stevie Ray Vaughan’s band] in my performing band, but that ain’t going to happen.
BW: Reese is a terrific keyboard player. Does he still keep very busy?
AG: Yes, he does a lot of studio recording in Nashville, and he does a lot of shows with a guy named Bart Walker, who’s up and coming and is also out of Nashville. Reese has a great sense about music in the studio and really knows how to embellish a tune.
BW: Without trying to be the leader. Some session-players really understand studio work; others don’t realize that this isn’t your album.
AG: Exactly. Being a co-star is equally as important as being a leader. It’s like hockey, you have to be a team player.
BW: No hanging at the blue line waiting for a breakaway! How did you come up with the title “Up2Zero?”
AG: In a lot of ways it was inspired by an Albert King line: “I’ve Been Down So Long, Down Don’t Bother Me.” And the idea was, if you been, sooner or later you got to get up, so if you’ve been down, zero is pretty cool. It’s the idea of a comeback, getting back to the blues, getting up to the blues, too. Counting down for a liftoff too.
BW: So now we know. Where did the name of “Room 414” come from?
AG: That’s the room Robert Johnson recorded all of those blues tunes. Some people think it’s about being nasty in a hotel room, but it’s not.
BW: I’m going to let you go, any last thoughts?
AG: I love it! I’d just like to thank everyone for their support, it’s very appreciated, and thank you for the ink Bob.
BW: Thanks, but I say this to everyone I do this with: if I didn’t like what you are doing, we wouldn’t be talking right now.
AG: Thanks Bob.
Bob Putignano is a senior contributing editor at BluesWax, a contributing writer at Blues Revue, and the heart and soul of Sounds of Blue.
About the Author: