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For Boz Scaggs, it all began with the blues back in Texas and Oklahoma when he was a young musician starting out. However, what most remember about the acclaimed singer, songwriter is his ‘Hollywood’ breakthrough period which produced global hits such as Lido Shuffle, Lowdown, What Can I Say and Breakdown Dead Ahead. Lately, Boz has been revisiting his roots with a trilogy of blues-referenced albums. First there was Memphis in 2013, A Fool To Care in 2015 and now, the recently released Out Of The Blues, completing the trio of albums.

Australian Musician’s Greg Phillips had the pleasure of speaking to Boz about the new album, Out Of The Blues.

Boz, let’s get straight to the heart of this album. Why did you title the record Out of the Blues?
It seemed to work for me in several ways. It is something of a cliche phrase, out of the blue. I don’t know why but I like things that are associated with blue. Blue is the colour of my music I think. Calling it Out Of The Blues, we are talking about a very specific kind of music here. I guess you would say that all or most of the music on this current record comes out of a basic blues form and to some extent was a big factor in my early music playing experience. I have revisited music that I grew up with and music that influenced me on this record and the two previous records; one called Memphis, which I made in Memphis and one A Fool To Care, which I made in Nashville. This one was made in LA and I wanted it to be the third and final instalment of this going back exploration. The blues I guess is where most of it began and I wanted to emphasise that. This particular kind of blues for the most part comes out of Texas and Oklahoma where I grew up. So the name just seemed to fit in various ways.

It was just to do what I wanted and go back and try to find the elements that went into me forming a style of my own. In the beginning it was all about radio for me. I grew up in an era where rock n roll was just coming into itself. I was of the generation we call the baby boomers, we were the post World War 2 children. When we came of age, we brought our own style into the world. Rock n roll was our expression. That gets rooted in me in the form of music. I didn’t plan it t the time and I didn’t have any idea that I would have music as a career but I followed that music and it led me to a great many places all over the world. It became the basic building blocks of what was to become a long career. That’s what it is all about with this record and the previous two, wrapping it all up, exploring my beginnings.

Jim Cox (keyboards) and Jim Keltner (drums) have worked with you on many projects. To musicians these guys are gods, they have played on more recordings than just bout anyone else but to general public they wouldn’t really know who they were. What is it about playing with those guys that’s so special? Whats unique to them?
Let me say this, Jim Keltner has been a fixture in my musical experience for a long time. I didn’t know when I first connected him with the things I came to recognise were his but he played on a lot of records. He’s from Oklahoma too but I didn’t know him back there. He struck a note in Los Angeles when I finally came to know more about him. I’d actually called him up to play on a record with me and he wasn’t available, so he recommended this young drummer named Jeff Porcaro and that led to me making the Silk Degrees album. It led to the rhythm section that I made that record with. Jim has just been a star in my book of heroes for a long time. I guess anybody that does know about him, you talk about his biography, you start with a lot of hits songs that were popular on the radio and you would go to The Beatles, and then you’d go to all of the individual Beatles, he worked with John and George and Ringo. Jim has played with the greatest of all. He’s got a style, he’s got a spirit that really has been an integral part of the way music has developed over time.

I called Jim Keltner up in the late 90s about making a record and it was going to be a similar record to what this current one is about. I did some rhythm and blues and a variety of stuff from a particular era and Jim came up to work with me in San Francisco on that. We were talking about players we might want to work with to fill out the rhythm section and he suggested Jim Cox and that was my first working experience with him. To meet someone who can play anything is quite a wondrous thing for any musician. He really covers the whole range… he’s such a prodigious player and it is authentic in every genre that he plays in be it blues, classical, ragtime, jazz. He’s there with an authentic take on everything. And he’s a wonderful soul, funny and just great to be around. He’s been involved in just about everything I have done since I met him.

You have covered Neil Young’s song On The Beach for this record. Why did that appeal to you?
It was suggested that I do that song. About a year and a half ago I was asked to be part of a production that featured Neil Young’s work. There were a couple of shows that were produced in Texas and featured a heap of musicians who were sort of in the contemporary Americana realm, a lot of younger musicians. Anyway we were doing Neil’s music and one of the producers brought me On The Beach as a song that I might want to do. I was immediately attracted to it because it is essentially a minor blues tune and I love that form, the slow minor blues is my element. So I performed the song for a couple of nights and it just felt so natural and easy to get into. It connected in a very special way. I had in mind that at some point I would record it for myself on my own record. This one seemed to fit in well with the rest of the material, not exactly in the same style but each of the songs on this record represent a different approach, my approach to the blues. This is a unique style of blues to me.

I love the track Radiator 110. Was it always going to have that gritty guitar and harmonica sound or do you play around with different feels with your songs before you arrive at final version?
I work with the songs myself. I have my own demos of the songs and it evolves and moves this way and that. I will settle on a particular way to do it. I’ll make a demo and then take it into the studio with me and play it for the musicians before we record it. They of course will give it their own interpretation to some degree. We’ll stick to the basic feel. They won’t take literally anything that is on my demo but they will give me back what they feel on it. I may have something to add to push it one way or the other but the musicians I work with, I already have a strong history with them and I let them take it and give it back to me as they feel it. That’s why I want to work with them. It’s pretty much in form by the time I bring it to the studio.

Radiator 110 was a Jack Walroth song I believe?
That’s right, I recorded that and about 6 other songs of his in the sessions making this record. He’s an old friend who I had known back in our younger years around the Chicago area. We had mutual musician friends. It so happened that we moved out to the west coast of San Francisco about the same time a few years ago and stayed in touch and played together a lot in blues clubs and benefits and just around town. I had the notion for years to produce a record on Jack. He’s a prolific songwriter and I love his music. We come from a very similar place in our musical backgrounds and musical soul. I feel that the songs that he writes are very close to my own sensibilities. It is very easy to for me to take his songs and work with him and within or common realm. I chose his songs because, again they are different facets of the blues to me. This song Radiator 110, I just started to perform it live and it’s kind of an instant connection with the audience, even though most have not heard it, unless they have the new album. It connects!

You have a couple of great guitarists on the album Doyle Bramhall and Charlie Sexton but what about your own guitar parts … which guitars did you use?
Essentially I played a GIbson 335 style guitar, a semi hollow body and I played a Fender Stratocaster on this record.

You’ve played a variety of different guitars throughout your career but when did you first get into semi hollow bodied guitars that feature a lot in your music?
It was really early on. I first played acoustic guitar on folky blues music and used to pick out basic Jimmy Reed and Chuck Berry songs. Then when I started playing electric, it was a borrowed guitar and it was an Epiphone, almost the exact same as a Gibson 335. It was an Epiphone Casino and that was my initial start. A lot of music that came out of Texas, where I grew up was played on that type of guitar… T Bone Walker and Freddie King and BB King. That was the sound. It definitely had an overdrive, electric sound but it had that depth and acoustic resonance to go with it.

This album is self-produced. Hows your cut-off valve? How do you know when an album is done?
It’s completely instinctive at this point. I spend a lot of time before I send the music to the rhythm section. I work hard to find out what it is I’m going to ask of them. I know what I am looking for. I know what I can’t do on the demos and I have these wonderful players to give it back to me. It’s just a matter of filling in the blanks. I go in with a blank slate. I have all the songs and all the elements, then I start to fill it in with the various instruments. They give me what I want and those are what I call my rhythm tracks and then I take those back to my own studio and it comes pretty quickly. This one… we’ll try some horns, this one … I might want to fill out the guitar parts a little more. In the case of say this current record and the two previous to that … I know how much there is to do, I know what not to do. I have worked in this genre for a long time so … I’ll stop when I have got what I want. I’ll stop when I have the vocal just where I want it and I have a mix where it’s all there … with plenty of space in it in all of the elements that I want are in there. It’s very easy to stop if you know where it was going in the first place.

You’ve got an extensive tour happening at the moment … any side projects or collaborations happening amongst that ?
I always have an ongoing work with the … I call it the American Standards, the American classics, songs that were written in the 20s and 30s and 40s in America… show tunes, movie tunes, the standards the stuff of a lot of American jazz music. I am not a jazz musician or jazz vocalist but I work with jazz musicians on these songs. It is the most challenging and a really wonderful expression to me as a vocalist. I went in yesterday with a rhythm section to begin another one of those records and that’s just an ongoing thing with me. I also have another album in the works that is more self-written with all my own songs. I am not a prolific writer but I accumulate things over time and it’s time I feel to dig into that front.

When will we see you in Australia again?
Oh any chance I get. You know my schedule is pretty full with what I have got going here but I welcome any and all offers from Australia. It is a place I love to visit and always a new and wonderful experience, I love touring there. It all comes together in a package and if time allows, I’m there. I hope to be there within the year and thank you for asking.

Out Of The Blues Track list:
• Rock and Stick (J Walroth)
• I’ve Just Got to Forget You (Don Deadric Robey)
• I’ve Just Got to Know (Jimmy McCracklin)
• Radiator 110 (J Walroth)
• Little Miss Night and Day (Boz Scaggs-J Walroth)
• On the Beach (Neil Young)
• Down in Virginia (Jimmy Reed-Manny Reed)
• Those Lies (J Walroth)
• The Feeling Is Gone (Don Deadric Robey)

Boz Scaggs on the web:
Official site:

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