This isn’t my first time chatting with the great Walter Trout. So then why does it feel like it’s the first time?
Trout is an ever-changing artist, always evolving, always maturing. Need proof? Next Tuesday, April 24th, Trout is releasing his 21st album in just over two decades, Blues for the Modern Daze. You’re probably thinking, “How in the world could any artist released 21 albums without sounding stagnant?”
I don’t have the exact answer, but I don’t need it. I just sit back and point to Walter Trout. He is living proof. Album to album, he changes and he grows and he tries something new…Blues for the Modern Daze is his first 100% blues album. Twenty one albums into his career and he’s still coming up with firsts.
Listen, I could sit here all day and tell you why Trout is one of the greatest guitarists alive today. How about I save you some time, though, and just let you find out for yourself. Check out the short montage of some of my favorite tracks from Blues for the Modern Daze, and then enjoy my chat with the living legend, Mr. Walter Trout.
You’re gearing up for the release of your new album, Blues for the Modern Daze, set to hit store shelves on April 24th. You’re also gearing up for the country wide tour to support the album. What are you doing to prepare?
Right now, what I’m doing is I’m laying on my couch. That’s about it. I just did 30 cities in a row over in Europe and I’m taking a short break. I just had a double espresso and an order of pancakes. I’m just going to take it easy here for a little while. Soon, I’ll pack my suitcase again and pick up the band and here we go.
This is your 21st album…What’s it like to sit back and realize that you’ve created more music than nearly anyone else around you in the industry?
I can tell you, when I was just in Europe, after I play I come out to the merchandise stand and I sign stuff for people. Every once in a while a guy will walk up and he’ll have the 20 CD covers for me to sign. I’m signing them and I’m looking at them and I’m thinking, ‘My word, did I do all this?’ I think back to the day when I couldn’t get a record deal. I was struggling to get some record label interested in me, and now I’m signing 20 CD covers. I’m going, ‘Man, it’s actually happened pretty quick.’ It’s gone by fast. I tour so much, and when I’m done touring my wife says, ‘OK, it’s time to make another record.’ But I can’t complain. I wanted to be a musician. I’m a musician. I enjoy it.
Twenty one albums. You’ve been doing it for over two decades. But you’re still experiencing “firsts” in your careers. Blues for the Modern Daze is your first pure, 100% all blues album. I’ve listened to the album front to back and I love it. I can feel your soul in it. What can your fans expect from this new album since it’s a little different than what you’ve done before?
When it’s me saying it’s a blues album, my hardcore fans will understand that my take on the blues is a little different than “blues” players. This is my exploration of the genre. I refuse to do version number 85 of “Got My Mojo Working” and version number 163 of “Stormy Monday.” A lot of guys out there when they say they’re going to do a blues album they do the 15 blues songs that have been done to death. I wanted to write this album. Even though they’re in sort of a blues genre and format, I tried to write songs about the world we live in and what I see going on. It’s really my exploration of the genre. My take on it might be a little bit more rockin’ than some people. That’s just the way I approached it. It’s my version of what it is.
When you say your version might be a little more rockin’, that’s completely obvious when fans see you live. There’s no doubt the recording process is important to you, what with putting out 21 records. What role does touring play in your life and career?
When I first started playing in bands, back when I was like 16, the ultimate joy of all of this was getting up on stage with a band and play to people and look them in the eye as I play to them. When I see that the music is getting through to them and I’m up there on the stage, that is like air and water for me. That is something I need. That is something I feed off of in my life. The touring is incredibly important to me because it gives me the opportunity to play live to somebody. Stand up there with guitar in hand, play, and sing with everything I have. Hopefully, it’s going to mean something to the listener.
Last time I saw you in New York, you played BB King’s in Times Square. That was a great venue for your live show. This time around, you have a very special residency planned. Beginning May 18th, you play four nights in a row at the Iridium Jazz Club. Music lovers and guitarists know the importance of this club as it was the home of guitar legend Les Paul. He played there every Monday night up until his death in 2009. What’s it mean for you to play at the Iridium?
That’s almost a sacred place for a guitar player. Les Paul is the godfather of all of us who do this. I’m a Fender player, but Leo Fender didn’t play the guitar. Les Paul not only invented the Les Paul guitar and multitrack recording and so much other stuff, but he was an unbelievable guitar player. That was really his thing. The fact that he played there up through his 90s, that makes it a shrine of the guitar for guys like me. To get to go there and do four nights in a row is a pretty amazing experience. I’m very excited about it.
You take on pretty specific subjects at times with your songs. On the new record, “Lonely” calls out people who waste time sitting in front of Facebook. “Money Rules the World,” you say, well, just that…Money rules the world. Why do you decide to tackle modern and even political issues with your music?
I want to write about stuff I feel and stuff I believe. I’m affected by what goes on in the world. I’m not living in a bubble. I’m very in tune with what’s happening and I try to be an observer of the world and I try to put my observations into songs. About a year ago, a young Italian stockbroker on CNN talked about the problems in Italy and the government. The stockbroker finally said, ‘Don’t you understand governments don’t mean anything anymore? The world is ruled by corporations and banks.’ I watched that and I sat down and wrote that song in about five minutes. I would love to see the power in this country be in the hands of the people and not corporations. That’s what I’m trying to say in the song.
Another specific topic is in your song “Recovery.” You said that you hope this song inspires people who are going through the “same thing.” Does this song about recovery come from personal experiences?
Definitely. Years ago, I went through severe addictions and alcoholism and the whole thing. I joined AA and still have a lot of friends there. I wanted to tell not only my story but their stories. That’s what that song is. It’s really an attempt at telling the story of going through addictions, going through recovery to get out of it, but also knowing that when you have an addictive personality, it’s always there. It’s always underlying everything you do. That’s why the last verse says, “Sometimes I get the craving.” That’s always going to be there. As they say in AA, you go day by day. This July, it’ll be 25 years for me to be clean and sober. But I know all I need is one drink and I’m back on the merry-go-round.
Wow. Congratulations on the 25 years.
On your website, you have an interview where you say that you like to think that you haven’t hit your peak in life. What do you mean by that?
People will say to me, ‘This is your 21st album. Which is your best?’ I say, well, I think my 22nd album is going to be my best. I’m looking toward tomorrow and not getting caught up in yesterday. I’m 61 and I know a lot of people my age who walk around like their life is over and they think back on their glory days of their youth. I think the best is yet to come. You’ve got to keep working and keep improving and keep growing. It makes life exciting.
Imagine how the world would be if everyone lived like that.
I just know I have to live like that. It keeps me excited to live that way.
Walter, thank you so much for your time. It’s always a pleasure chatting with you. I’m looking forward to the shows at the Iridium.
You know, I’ve played there once before, last year. I fronted the Les Paul Trio. For three nights of the four night stay in May, I’ll be appearing with my own band. On the fourth night, I’ll be appearing with the Les Paul Trio.
Wow, that’s great. I can’t wait. Good luck with Blues for the Modern Daze. It drops on April 24th. I’ve listened to it and I love it. I think it is your best work and I can’t wait to hear your 22nd album!
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