Selwyn Birchwood is the headliner for the 3rd Annual Suncoast Blues Festival on January 27 & 28. Here is Vicky Sullivan’s interview with Selwyn!
How was the European tour and playing the Montreau Jazz Festival?
SB: It was incredible, really a great experience. They set up several European tours for us in the past two years and we went to like 20 countries. It was a great experience over at Montreau, one of those “pinch me” moments like “am I really here right now?” We had a really good set, I was a little nervous about how we would go over because we aren’t exactly a traditional blues band but they were really blown away by it and we were blown away by the response we got over there so it was a really good thing over there.
We just finished recording, I just got back from Chicago. We were up there for 8 days working on the new album that will be coming out in May, it will be called “Pick Your Poison”. That will be our second record on Alligator Records. We tour non-stop so we don’t really have too many breaks!haha We will be having a really heavy tour, we will be in Belgium, Switzerland and France coming back in May and then hitting it hard in the U.S. and Canada.
The Europeans are really into the blues aren’t they?
SB: They really dig it, it’s a cool thing. It took me awhile to get used to it because the crowds are more subdued, they are extremely respectful about what you are doing which is a cool thing.
Who are artists that you like personally listen to?
SB: I like the guys who have been around like Buddy Guy, we have done quite a few festivals and the Blues Cruise with him and we were just on the ship with Keb Mo and I talked to him for a while. Taj Mahal, I really dig these guys that have been around and keep going.
Have you played with any other guitar players like Gary Clark, Jr. or Derek Trucks?
SB: No, I haven’t crossed paths with any of them yet, I have listened to them and I think Derek Trucks is a phenomenal guitar player.
Hendrix was a big influence on your getting into the blues right?
I really dig Hendrix music and I feel like people a lot of times get stuck and Hendrix and want to play like him and emulate him. What drew me to Hendrix was his true originality and songwriting, it wasn’t just the flashy guitar. There is still no way to classify his music and that’s what caught my ear. I wanted to know where he got his ideas it was like nothing I had ever heard. He truly has his own unique voice and sound. That is what I take from him and what I hope to do, find my own sound as well.
Did life change for you winning the International Blues Challenge?
People always say it must have opened some doors for you, it is one of those things where it more like unlocks some doors and then we have to really work hard and to try to hit the ground running to try to get through those doors the best we could and that’s exactly what we did. We are still trying to keep the train rolling and that was a really good launching point to start with. All the sudden we had a title now and people might take another look at us or have a reason to say, “I have heard of them”
If you could only have 3 albums on a desert island what would they be:
SB: Muddy Waters – Anthology, something from Chris Cain to mix it up and probably a Bob Marley record because reggae is my second love
You are playing the Suncoast Blues Festival this weekend, are you ready?
SB: We are looking forward to it. We are always happy to play down in Sarasota. It’s a good spot down there, people really dig the music.
photos by Vicky Sullivan / Rock The Lens Photography