BluesWax Article cont.
BluesWax Is Sittin' In With
An interview from the
Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise
By Adam Harris
Photo by Scott Allen/Jen Taylor
Last week we began our conversation with Zac Harmon (if you missed last week's Part One click HERE to read it now in our ARCHIVES). This week we pick up our conversation with...
Adam Harris for BluesWax: It's beautiful to watch these younger kids, guys like Slick Ballinger, for instance, who are observant. What's important is that without being a purist you have to know where it all comes from, right?
Zac Harmon: Let me tell you something, Slick is studying what the guys did. He is still finding himself, three or four years from now what you're going to hear from him is gonna be his expression of the Blues, respecting the roots. He's studying the roots. He's done lived with Othar Turner and all those guys. But his expression will not be what they did, it's gonna be what he does. It's gonna be an evolution and I hope that they give him an even break.
BW: So you've got two records out, is transitioning into the businessman, the solo artist, hard?
ZH: It's not all that difficult. I've been in the record business a long time; I've had experience being involved in other people's records. I guess the most difficult thing has been gaining acceptance. I've never had a problem with the people. I'm here today because of the people. My problems, if you can call them problems, have always been with the people who call themselves the "Blues Police." [laughter]
BW: I don't know. Some of those guys may have lesser qualifications than the people they're trying to chastise.
ZH: Mmhmm. Power is a corrupting thing. And if you have the power to limit exposure of one person over the next, it can be corrupting.
BW: It's true. What label are you recording with now?
ZH: Bluestone Records. It's a new label owned by Jeff Stone and Larry Davis. They pretty much believed in what I was doing. We pretty much clicked and they support me. And that's what it's all about. They're behind it, totally.
"As you get older, life has a way
of introducing yourself to yourself."
BW: There's no pressure for output?
ZH: No, I'm basically in control of that. The beauty of being on a smaller label like Bluestone is that I get the attention and my shelf life is much longer. So many of the corporate labels are concentrated on things like first-week sales and all these numbers, so if a record doesn't do well, there's no more support. I pretty much control the output on my own, even though I will be making another record this year.
BW: Are you going to do it on the road?
ZH: No, I'm relocating to Texas. I'm going to do it after I go to Texas. I'm currently working on a live DVD that I'm doing in conjunction with Harvelle's in Santa Monica. It's owned by a guy by the name of Seven, who is truly a visionary when it comes to the Blues. He's a torchbearer. He's doing a legends series and I'm going to be a part of that series. He's done one on Guitar Shorty and Café R&B, you'll be hearing about it. He's doing great work.
BW: He's calling you a legend now?
ZH: Well, he's one of the guys that believe in me and he believes that I'm going to be one of the next greats, and I'm doing everything I can do not to let him down.
BW: And that's really all you can do. First I want to ask you if that brings pressure to you, but there's really no pressure if you're doing it from the heart, right? This is what you're going to do.
ZH: This is what I'm going to do regardless. I love doing what I do. Just like everything else, I take it to the people. I take it to the people.
Zac Harmon's The Blues According To Zacariah
Click Cover For More Info
BW: It shows that you're having a good time up there and I appreciate that so much. I have to ask now, because you just told me you were on the road at 14. And then this year you're recognized as "Best Emerging Artist."
ZH: Well, of course, I haven't been touring continuously since I was 14. When I first moved to L.A. my first break was as a studio musician. So for 15 years all I did was write and produce records, I didn't do one tour. I didn't leave L.A. Which was good, you know. But I always say as you get older life has a way of introducing yourself to yourself. And the older you get the more difficult it is to do anything other than what you are truly blessed to do. I just got to a point in my life where it was time to return to the Blues. And I haven't regretted it; I'm having the time of my life.
BW: But to be recognized as a newcomer, does that make you feel like you've got another forty, fifty years ahead of you?
ZH: Well maybe. I mean, just to be recognized for anything by anybody is fine with me. I mean, we all want to be appreciated for what we do. I come on this cruise and I got people stopping me every 25 steps, someone that just wants to shake my hand, just say hello, or talk about a show that they attended. Man, that's invaluable. I couldn't buy that! You can't pick that up at Wal-Mart. [laughter] As long as the fans are giving me that kind of love back that fuels me to just roll.
BW: Well, 2005 has been very good to you it seems.
ZH: 2005 has been a good year for me. I was named XM Satellite Radio Listener's Poll best "New Blues Artist of the Year." That blew me away. I won by 74% and I thought that was just awesome. That was purely genuine. But a lot of it was due to this Blues Cruise because a lot of the XM listeners are Blues Cruisers, and they were weighin' in.
I've been nominated for a Blues Music Award, Best New Artist Debut of the Year. And that blows me away. Once again, it's always wonderful to be recognized by your peers and the people that are part of this whole network. I count it off as a good year.
BW: And for 2006?
ZH: We're lookin' to spend more time in Europe this year, which is an important market for us. I'm excited; we're going to be touring with Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne. We're going to be in an all-star band together.
BW: Fifteen years ago, could you have seen yourself here?
ZH: To be honest with you, no. Fifteen years ago I was so involved in producing records, I couldn't even think about making my own. And even when I did have time I didn't have time to make it. Thinkin' about it was all I got done.
BW: So you're going to move to Texas, cut a record and tour Europe this year?
ZH: I've always been one of those folks that have more on my plate than it seems like is humanly possible to accomplish. But I function like that. I'm a multi-tasker. I have to have all that going on to be happy, you know?
BW: I always like to ask people what they're listening to, and I understand you're a touring musician; you're not going to the record store all the time. But if you were going to put something on in the evening time, what would it be?
ZH: I listen to Kenny Neal and Billy Branch, the acoustic record; they're both friends of mine, but I listen to that record. I like Anthony Gomes, I listen to him, Tommy Castro, Tommy is so cool.
Right now my favorite contemporary Blues guy is Ronnie Baker Brooks. Ronnie blows me away. He truly blows me away. But there are so many good guys out there, but Ronnie is the one that blows me away right now.
Adam Harris is a contributing editor at BluesWax. You may contact Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org.