Interviews von Robert Pally

«I was in some kind of blues trance»

Sleepy Eddie James (http://www.sleepyeddie.com) is definitely not sleepy when it comes to Blues. In the Interview he tells how he got his name, why he still likes playing live, why he likes to play many styles and why many of his songs are about women and booze.

Robert Pally: You have played over 900 gigs in various blues bars across southern California. Don't you get tired of playing live? Or is it like they say: When you have the blues you can't get ride of it?

Sleepy Eddie:
Oh man, I've got tons of reasons why I'll never get
tired of playing live. First, to me playing live is what music is all
about; it's what makes music so great. I love performing in front of people
who are into it, tapping their feet, moving around dancing. What a rush!!! Secondly, music, especially blues music , is all about expressing your feelings and feelings can be quite unpredictable. I rarely play a song
exactly the same way live twice. Why? Well, my moods are always different. Some days I'm happy, other sad, or pissed-off, or silly, etc, etc... it goes on and on. So depending on how I'm feeling that day, then that's how I'll play it and sing it. This is what's great about blues music, it's all based on emotion and at the same time it gives the musicians
the freedom to express themselves. Very cool!! That makes being on stage awesome. Finally, playing live is very addictive. Once you've don’t it once and had a blast, you want to try it again. It's a little like sex; once you've done it once, and discover you like it, you want to do it over and over again.


RP: When did you «convert» to the blues? Was there a special incident?

Sleepy Eddie:
I don't know if I ever converted to the blues. All the
music I ever enjoyed was very blues based and full of soul and emotion.
While all my friends were into alternative rock and dance music, I was listening to cool old
stuff from Motown or Stax records. I remember once hearing the Allman Brothers Band do a cover version of T-Bone Walker's famous song
«Stormy Monday» and I thought man very cool stuff!! Shortly thereafter, I
got to see Stevie Ray Vaughn live in concert one summer. I couldn't
believe the shit he played and how he played it and the showmanship on stage. So much intensity!! What
a show!! The best I've ever seen!! After that, the music just grabbed me
and has never let go.


RP: On your CD Frisky from the whisky you offer many
styles. Is the blues corset to tight for you?


Sleepy Eddie: The best thing about blues music is that there are so
many different styles. All of them have their own unique flavour. I made it a point to try to learn the ones that moved me the most, and write songs in that style. For example,
I love the guitar work from the 30's like Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt. On my CD I have a song called «You've got to Learn» in
this style. I also enjoy Texas blues from Stevie Ray, the Fabulous
Thunderbirds or Freddie and Albert King, so on my CD I have «Mind of a woman» and «Walk with me»
in this style. I dig West Coast blues from Little Charlie and the Nightcats,
so I wrote «Everything» in this style; The guitar work of Steve Cropper
from Memphis is great so I have «Flash the Cash». Lately, I've been into music from Ronnie Earl, Kid Ramos and Duke Robillard.
I could go on and on and on. Almost everyday I hear something that just
knocks me out!!


RP:
How did you get your name and who gave it to you?

Sleepy Eddie: Ha ha!! Good Question!! Well, when I'm playing on
stage I often close my eyes. I found this helps me to really get into the
music and I can really feel the music in my soul. Anyway, one day I was
playing at a bar in downtown
San Diego and I was totally into the music; before I knew it we
had played an entire killer set. My future brother-in law, Bruno, came up
to me in between sets and said I looked surreal because I had hardly opened my eyes once, but
played kick-ass blues guitar for over a hour; like I was in some kind of
blues trance or sleep. Ever since then, that has been my nickname.


RP:
Many songs on Frisky from the whisky are about women and booze. Are you just fulfilling clichés?

Sleepy Eddie: A famous author, who was giving a lecture to a group would be writers once said, «If you want to write a great book, write about what you know.» So that's what I tried to do. I wrote about my experiences living in California.  Every night I'd come home and write ideas or little
stories about what happened that day in a notebook. As I look for
material for lyrics, I always
look back through my notebook for help. Am I just fulfilling clichés? I don't know. A lot of music like rock,
country and rap are full of clichés. Why? I think because people write about what they know and people are more similar than they are different. Maybe as I get older I'll write more about taxes, grey hair and Viagra. hahaha!! As a songwriter you never know when or where inspiration will find you. A funny thing about my CD is that a few of the songs I wrote with the help from a stray grey cat I adopted while living at the beach in San Diego. Songs like «Catnip», «She Growls Me» and «Frisky from
the Whisky» were all written with feline inspiration. Funny huh??!!! Other songs were inspired
by the relationship with my lovely wife Sabrina, «I tell my Heart». Others lines, verses, words from friends. As I said, you never know when inspiration will strike. Just write your ideas down about what you
know.

RP:
«All my foolishness» is a bit different. Is this song autobiographical? If yes, what made you write it?

Sleepy Eddie: This is a interesting story. One day I was practicing
with a fantastic harmonica
player named Riche «Blue» Evans. Anyway, he had the sheet music for a song by Stevie Wonder called «Isn't She Lovely». This song had some real cool guitar chords in it, ones I wasn't used to playing, so I used a few of them in a funk/jazz style and this became the beginning to
«All my foolishness». Yes, the song is autobiographical. I was contemplating about my life in
California and life in general; partying, playing music, getting older,
getting married. I wondered and worried where I would be in 20 years, so I wrote a song about it. In the middle of the song I used references to a favourite poem by Robert Frost called «Nothing Gold can Stay». It talks about how your never young forever, so enjoy life while you can. So, I decided not to worry about where I'd be in the future, but
more about enjoying life while I can.


RP:
Did you try to avoid any problems with the beer
brewer of Bitburger when
you called your song «Bitte ein bitt» and not «Bitte ein bit»?

Sleepy Eddie: Yes, ha ha!! No one in America ever caught that one!
This song is actually a play on words in both English and German. I was
visiting Switzerland one summer and went to buy some beer. I saw an
advertisement from Bitburger
that caught my attention, so wrote «Bitte ein Bit» in my notebook. Anyway, I was recording this very short 5/4 jazz song, but had
no name for it. In English, we say if something is really short it's just
a «little bit»" of something. So what I had was just a «little bit» of a
song. One day I was looking through my notebook and found this Bitburger thing. So to avoid
any legal problems I decided I'd change the spelling. The beer was good too.


RP:
What does the Frisky from the whisky mean and why did you chose as album title?

Sleepy Eddie: The word «Frisky» is what you call a cat who suddenly
likes to play a lot and runs around crazy. In English it's also slang for
being horny. In 1999, I went out on a cruise ship on San Diego harbour with my wife and two good friends for the millennium New Years Eve party. Everything was great!! My
wife looked beautiful, the food was delicious, people were all having fun
and the drinks were free. Now, I'm used to paying for my drinks one by one with no problems , however for some reason I just couldn't decide what to order. So my good friend Joe suggested I drink Bushmills Irish whisky. So these events and others turned into the inspiration
for the song. Why did I choose it as an CD title? Because it think it sounds cool!!! Don't you?



RP:
How was the album recorded? Pretty much live or with a lot overdubs?

Sleepy Eddie: This CD was recorded almost entirely live, with the
exception of a solo here and there. I don't like to do a lot of overdubs.
I feel it takes away from the emotions and soulfulness of the song. When I
play live, I use only two guitar effects pedals; an Ibanez Tube Screamer and a Vox Wah-Wah. These are exactly what I used in the studio. I used
several guitars, a '57 Gibson ES-125, a 70's Gibson ES-335, and my favourite powder blue 61 Strat.
I used two amps a '64 Fender Super Reverb and a '57 Reissue Bassman with a reverb tank. The recording process was great fun. I can't wait to get back in the studio once again.


RP:
Tell me the story of Sleep Eddie James (only musically).


Sleepy Eddie: I was born across the river from New York City and
lived in working class
neighbourhood until I was 21, when I moved to pursue the California dream. The CD explains everything else. haha!!

Link: style.webreview2.com/index.htm

 

By Robert Pally

    

02.09.2002