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GIK Acoustics - Europe
GIK Acoustics - Europe
The Moshville Times

Interview: Joanne Shaw Taylor

DavidI wasn’t going to transcribe the opening section of this interview because it was just the, “Hellos”, however, when I heard it back, I thought it worth doing after all…

[Phone rings and voice answers…]

Joanne: Hello

David: Hi there. It’s David Muir here. I’m calling for Joanne Shaw Taylor.

Hi David. This is Joanne how are you doing?

Hello Joanne. Glad it’s you because I just had a moment of panic there. I dialled the wrong number and spoke to someone who hadn’t a clue who you are.

[Laughs] Like most people!

He should’ve known who you were but he asked what business you worked for.

The business of Joanne Shaw Taylor I’m afraid.

Thank you very much for taking the time to speak to me today.

No worries. By the way nice name, “Moshville Times”.

Thank you. Although, I must admit I didn’t think of the name, I only work for them. Well I say, “Work for them.”, it’s slave labour really. So, have you been answering questions all day? Are you getting kind of fed up with this?

I have been answering questions all day. This is a major press day for me but no, I’m not getting sick of it. Everyone’s been super-cool. At the end of the day there are worse jobs than talking about yourself. It’s a bizarre job but it’s not too bad.

I was feeling a bit sorry for you, but maybe I don’t have to any more.

[Laughs] I think I’ve got another five to go, so I am very much looking forward to a gin and tonic.

I’ll maybe give you a get out of jail free card then. Is there a question that everybody has been asking you, that you are seriously hoping I don’t ask?

[Sigh!] Not really. Everybody has been super-cool. I think the one question I always get is, “What’s it like to be a female guitar player?”, which no one has asked today. My answer to that is, “It’s kind of like being a male guitar player…”

Well, it wasn’t on my list, so I don’t even have to score it off. So, we haven’t broken the duck yet. Can I start by talking about some of your early influences? You cite your dad’s record collection quite often. He sounds like he has an unbelievably cool collection of records. Was that music you just heard around the house, or did you have to go and search it out somehow?

Photo of Joanne Shaw Taylor

Photo credit: Eleanor Jane

I got pretty lucky there. My dad was a huge music fan and he was also a guitar player and harmonica player. And my brother played guitar, so there was a lot of music in the house. Also, my mum, who I don’t reference as much, but credit where credit’s due, my mum was a professional dancer back in the day and a big lover of Northern Soul and Motown and that sort of stuff. I was just always surrounded by music, so it was pretty accessible to me from an early age. I got pretty lucky with that, being exposed to so many different genres of music.

I was just comparing it to my own parent’s collection… There must have been musical skeletons in your dad’s cupboard. Surely there was at least one record that was vaguely embarrassing.

I remember finding an ABBA vinyl once which was a little confusing because it was mashed in between the Groundhogs and Queen. I’m like, “ABBA?”, because he didn’t strike me as an ABBA man.

There’s worse things to be embarrassed about than that.

Also, some Flying Burrito Brothers.

At least there’s a certain cool factor there.

Exactly. Just a lot of weird stuff but I think that’s from him growing up in the Black Country, in Birmingham, which is a very musical town.

You seem to have started out very early. Your official biog says that you played the Marquee and Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club at fourteen and then it stops… You can’t just leave that hanging. There has to be a story behind how you ended up there.

I think it was my GCSEs [unclear word] to get back on the treadmill. I did start pretty young, I was about fourteen and I’m happy to admit that there’s a novelty factor there as well as it’s quite rare for a young female to be doing it. So, that kicked open a lot of doors for me early on. That said, advice to female guitar players out there it –  it was a lot harder to keep those doors open. I did quite a lot of gigging early on and then when I was sixteen, that’s when (and I’m sure this is referenced in the bios) I kind of got “discovered” by Dave Stewart.

It’s not a phrase you hear very often, “Blues artist discovered by Dave Stewart.”. Can I put my grumpy old man hat on for a minute and say that you are frighteningly young, still… did you even know who Dave Stewart was?

[Slightly embarrassed sounding…] I didn’t! I mean, I was born in ’85, so I kind of missed them I grew up in the… [Again, can’t quite make out what she said from my recording. “East 17 era” perhaps?] But obviously, I do now. The day he phoned the house and talked to my dad, my dad was super excited and I remember thinking, “I have no idea who you are talking about.”, but hey-ho!

They were known as a synth band but I saw them live in the early eighties and I was surprised at how good a guitarist he was because it didn’t really come through on the singles.

That’s the thing for me because I honestly didn’t know much about him, obviously, which he knew and forgave (I was only sixteen years old). But the first time I got on stage with him… because I’d looked into them: “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This” obviously; “Who’s That Girl?” and all that – as you say, “synth stuff” and he was always playing synth in the videos. I didn’t really know what he did the first time I got on stage with him, but he’s a very, very accomplished guitar player. As I got to know him better, as he grew up, his early influences were Blues: Robert Johnson; and Son House and all that good stuff. And he’s a great slide player too!

He obviously made a difference getting you in the door but you kept the door open and pushed much further, it has to be said on your own.

Thank you.

Other influences… Joe Bonamassa gets credited on the sleeve of your most recent album, The Dirty Truth. How has he influenced you?

He has. Not so much musically. I opened up for Joe about eight years ago, I think. He’s one of my best friends and he’s been hugely supportive. I think the biggest difference Joe has made for me is in terms of the industry. Particularly in the early days, when I was wearing a lot of hats: guitar player; singer; tour manager, driver… Obviously, he’s very in charge of his own business. He and Roy run that whole thing very independently. So being able to go to him and learn some sort of lessons. Any questions I have about whether or not I should go down this business route or accept this gig… he’s been very supportive and very, very helpful.

I do like the way he does things. I like his “Keeping The Blues Alive” thing… [At this point, we were interrupted by a loud hooting noise in the background. Imagine a pygmy elephant being sat on by giraffe… a noise like that!] …That was a rather bizarre noise in the background, was that at your end?

That will be my manager. That’s something I’m going to have to ask Joe for advice about… Whether I should continue to work with this nutter.

Maybe you should just gag her at appropriate times. [Not sure why I thought her manager was a woman… maybe it was the strange, high-pitched nature of the noise!]

You’re lucky. The last interview I did, he started singing Peter Andre’s “Most Beautiful Girl In The World” or whatever it is. Welcome to the madhouse!

So, he’ll be watching Strictly Come Dancing this year will he, since Peter Andre is on that?

I dread to think! I’m just hoping he stays confined to his office.

Before the strange noise, I’d started to ask about the “Keeping The Blues Alive” thing Joe does. I think that education side of things he does is just brilliant. Is that something you are interested in as well?

Yeah… Firstly, you’re right. Joe’s been very supportive of that from very early on and I think he was very involved in setting it up. For me, yes I am very supportive, I think it’s great and I’ve been there at Joe’s shows where they go in and do the seminars for under eighteens. You can see how much they enjoy it. It’s something I support but also I’m a little hesitant about getting too involved because Joe’s knowledge of the Blues: he’s very much an expert. He really knows the genre. I consider myself more of a fan. There’s always a bit of lack of confidence about whether I’m the best sort of person to consult. But, if there’s anything I can do to get young folk into Blues, I’d certainly support and try.

My real job, my day job, is as a teacher, so I am very much in favour of the education side. Just as you say, they way Joe works with young folk like that, I think is just brilliant.

He’s really good at it. I’be done a couple of things like that, particularly in the States, where you do private guitar talks to a crowd of twenty kids or something, and I do struggle with it a bit because I’m self-taught. I can’t read music and I don’t really know what I’m doing. I just hit it hard and hope for the best really. But they are really fun to do, the few I’ve done. I realise the kids just are so excited about it and like to chat and be involved. So it is fun for me to do but as I say, Joe is a lot more capable in that aspect than I am.

We’re running out of time. I was going to ask you some stuff about the album but maybe we’ll just skip to the tour. It kicks off on Tuesday the 22nd [of September] so not long to go now. is everything in place? Are you ready to go?

Joanne Shaw Taylor

Photo credit: Eleanor Jane

Pretty much, yeah. We’re in Sheffield now which is where our record company is based and we are in pre-production rehearsal mode. So, we’ve been rehearsing hard for it and we’ve had a little break of a couple of weeks. We head to Spain on Wednesday, so I’m really, really looking forward to getting back out.

This is a loaded question coming up, so I am giving you fair warning. You are playing Glasgow on the 29th. So the question I have to ask is, what are you looking forward to most on the tour?

Umm… I’d have to say Glasgow…

[Laughs] Good answer!

That actually is one of the shows we are looking forward to most. For me, there is never a crowd as rowdy and up for it as a Glasgow crowd. Having played The Arches, may it rest in peace, (sad to see that venue go) and The Ferry a few years ago, you guys are just nuts from the get go. Which is brilliant. To be on stage and from the second you walk out for you guys to go nuts, you know it’s going to be a good show. To have that audience behind you. So, that’s one show we are looking forward to .

We do our best…

There’s a chance we might film that one but we’ll wait and see. So Glasgow… there’s a few really, I’m just looking forward to all of it. We’re hitting a lot of cities I’ve actually never played before: Liverpool, I’ve never been to; we have a nice kick off down south in Cornwall which I love; and York, which is a beautiful city. I’m just looking forward to getting back on the road and traversing the UK.

Do you get much chance to look about when you’re there? To do a guitar safari to music shops?

Not too much. As musicians say, if you ask me about a city I’ve visited, I can tell you what the airport looks like and what hotels are like. That said, on this one, we’ve got quite a lot of gaps, we’re making it quite easy on ourselves. We’ve got quite a bit of time. I think we have a day off in York and a day off after Glasgow to go see a bit of Liverpool.

I would recommend the curries in Glasgow, we are famous for our curries.

I do believe I’ve been for a curry with Mr Allan [Sorry… Didn’t catch who!] in Glasgow and it was spot on. That said, one of my favourite tapas restaurants is in Glasgow, oddly enough. What’s the big high street that the shopping mall is off?

It could be Sauchiehall Street or Argyle Street. Could be either. […in retrospect, it might also be Buchanan Street but I didn’t think of that at the time.]

I think it was Argyle Street, up there on the right, there’s a fantastic tapas joint.

Maybe just one last question about the tour. It’s “Planet Rock Presents”. Now that’s quite interesting. They are claiming, it’s the first time they have supported a full tour. It looks like they have only done one or two things before. How did that connection come about because I think it is a brilliant connection.

It is! We just started working with Planet Rock on the previous album, then they really got behind me on this album. They have just been fantastic to be honest. They have play-listed and A-listed quite a few tracks from this album. I did Planet Rockstock last year and I’m booked again for this year. And they are just great guys there. I’ve just been really fortunate that they got behind me as an artist. All the guys I meet there that work there are fantastic and I’ve been really thankful to have them come on board as part of the team. They got behind this tour and for some reason they really like me… which is nice!

Well, the, “some reason”, is because you play darn good music, let’s be honest.

Ah, thank you very much. I think also they like to support new British acts coming out and I’m sure everyone likes to see that as well. It’s nice that we’ve got a major radio station like that who support young British homegrown stuff.

Yes, that’s good. I was told I had to finish by about five-to and that’s us just about there or there abouts. So, can I thank you again, it’s been just fantastic speaking to you. I hope you will enjoy the Glasgow show as much as you are looking forward to it now…

Oh, I don’t think you guys will let me down. [Laughs]

I hope the remaining five interviews don’t go to badly and that nobody asks you the, “girl playing guitar”, question.

Well… we’ll see.

Thank you very much for your time. It’s been great talking to you.

Thank you. Take care.

Joanne Shaw Taylor plays Glasgow Oran Mor on Tuesday September 29

Tickets are available from www.thegigcartel.com and the 24-hour Box Office: 08444 780 898

UK Tour Dates:

  • 22.09.2015 UK Exeter – Phoenix
  • 23.09.2015 UK St Ives – September Festival
  • 26.09.2015 UK Coventry – Copper Rooms
  • 28.09.2015 UK York – Fibbers
  • 29.09.2015 UK Glasgow – Oran-Mor
  • 01.10.2015 UK Liverpool – Epstein Theatre
  • 02.10.2015 UK Sale – Waterside ** Sold Out
  • 03.10.2015 UK Kendal – Brewery Arts
  • 04.10.2015 UK Clitheroe- Grand
  • 07.10.2015 UK Durham – Gala
  • 08.10.2015 UK Lincoln – Drill Hall
  • 10.10.2015 UK Shoreham – Ropetackle ** Sold Out
  • 12.10.2015 UK Bromsgrove – Artrix ** Sold Out
  • 13.10.2015 UK Bromsgrove – Artrix
  • 14.10.2015 UK Gloucester – Guildhall
  • 15.10.2015 UK Frome – Cheese & Grain
  • 19.10.2015 UK Milton Keynes- Stables
  • 20.10.2015 UK Norwich – Waterfront
  • 22.10.2015 UK Hertford – Corn Exchange
  • 23.10.2015 UK Newbury – Arlington Arts
  • 24.10.2015 UK Southampton – Talking Heads
  • 26.10.2015 UK London – Jazz Cafe ** Sold Out
  • 27.10.2015 UK London – Jazz Cafe

Joanne Shaw Taylor: official | facebook | twitter | youtube

About The Author


David discovered rock music as a young, skinny, hairy teenager. He is still listening to it umpteen years later even though he is now old fat and baldy. The first album he bought was by The Wombles but try not to hold that against him.

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[…] narrow range issues there; her solos range over the fretboard with dazzling speed and skill. When I interviewed Joanne a couple of weeks ago, she said she was often asked what it was like to be a “girl […]