That time I interviewed JJ Grey…

September 16th. harvest jazz & blues 2015. I had an interview that afternoon  at 95.7FM The Wolf. I knew they had JJ Grey booked for the next day. I chatted with Conrad, the station manager, after my  interview about what he would talk to JJ about. In my mind I secretly/selfishly thought that they should let ME interview JJ. That night while watching JJ Grey and Mofro at the Blues Tent i was inspired to send Carter from Vagrant Web Designs, producer of the Wolf Harvest Series, an email suggesting they let me interview JJ. In a world class display of humbleness, Conrad agreed.

The next day I arrived at the station to find JJ warming up with some solo tunes.  After confessing  my nervousness about not having done anything like that before we had a little conversation, beer and laughs. Once we went live I kind of blacked out so it was great to listen back to the interview. To me, I sort of sound like Chris Farley in all those SNL sketches. Pretty funny. All in all it was a real thrill and to chat with JJ not to mention the two tunes he played. Fantastic.

Every year at harvest something crazy happens and this really takes the cake for me. Merci to harvest for bringing JJ back to Fredericton and to Conrad and Carter for allowing me the opportunity to conduct the interview. Enjoy.
here’s the YouTube:

and here’s a straight up ears…non visual …  The JJ Grey interview

My Musical Autobiography Part 1

I’ve seen the movie High Fidelity a bajillion times. I love it. I can relate to it in every way. I am each of the characters in that movie. A lifetime of music obsession has made me into those characters. So when my friend, Tim Rayne, asked me to come co-host his morning show “Instant Breakfast” on CHSR FM, I jumped at the chance. Every Monday he does something called Vinyl Mondays where he invites a guest in to spin their autobiography via vinyl. It was very difficult to whittle my selections down for one hour. Tim and I could easily have talked for three hours. I just simply couldn’t play it all. I decided to skip that standards of my musical DNA…Led Zeppelin, SRV, Guns N Roses, The grateful Dead, Neil Young, Pink Floyd…I opted not to go with them and instead go with some other pivotal moments that helped shape my life.  Music that simply went deeper than…”The first time I heard Zeppelin, man”. Hell, I didn’t even like Zeppelin the first time I heard it. Hendrix too! Of course I grew to LOVE these artists but still, there were albums in my collection that tell the story of who I actually am, and I wanted to give listeners a little more depth. So, here it is, if you’re interested, my musical autobiography part one.

http://chsrfm.ca/blog/current-shows/music/instant-breakfasts-vinyl-monday-w-ross-neilson

Spare Some Change?

As the great Taj Mahal once sang:

“Change in the ocean, change in deep blue sea
Well there’s a change in my baby, but there aint never no change in me
Yeah, everybody they ought to change sometime”

It’s been quite a start to 2015 for me. Stuffed. Full. Of. Change. At the end of 2014 I found myself burnt out and spinning. I had a fun tour with my band across Canada but noticed that I wasn’t getting the same joy from playing live that I need. The past three years have been tough on my business. Constant revolving bass players had stunted my band growth and although I put out an album I’m proud of, at the end of 2014, I looked back and felt like I hadn’t made any real progress in the past three years and that I had been spinning my tires. Same clubs. Same pay. Not that I don’t enjoy the clubs we play. I certainly do but I want to move forward  and that just hasn’t happened.

In December 2014 I had began a house gig in Rothesay. It started out as kind of a weird gig for me.  It’s sort of background music. Typically I would find that sort of gig excruciating and not want to do it. During the run of Thursdays I had a bit of an epiphany with this gig. I could do whatever I wanted. I didn’t have to be the “blues” guy or worry about anyone saying “that’s not blues” or even worry about selling CDs or “entertaining”. It was refreshing. I started doing tunes I hadn’t played in years. Decades even. Before I knew it I found myself looking forward to these gigs the most. I found them relaxing. Playing music only for myself.

I knew 2015 was going to be a huge year of change. I could feel it. In December I decided, that due to the fact I wasn’t enjoying playing music live anymore, I would take the year off music after my solo tour. I thought I’d take a job and just write and record for my own pleasure without the pressure to tour it and sell. Try and find the joy in it again.  As 2015 arrived I found myself STILL in that dark place. Beyond my house gig in Rothesay, I still wasn’t enjoying performing and the idea of a 3 month solo tour wasn’t exciting to me.  I set out anyway, not knowing what else to do.

Then something great happened.  On the second night of my tour at a show in Ottawa I found my mojo again. I realized that I could treat each gig like my Rothesay gigs and do/play whatever I wanted. I didn’t feel the need to entertain and my sole focus became all about playing the music to the best of my ability. After nearly 10 years in the music industry I finally learned something. Probably something I knew all along but hadn’t looked in the face yet.  It was a freeing moment. I suddenly found myself enjoying the shows more than ever and I ended up having a killer tour packed with shows and fun. While I had a good tour I was still uncertain about the year and my permanent place in music. I decided I would put the band on the back burner after our summer dates in Alberta. We’ll still do occasional regional shows and Harvest Festival of course but it won’t be my focus in 2015.  I also decided I will make a new record late this year and that it will be a solo effort.  I decided I wouldn’t book myself silly and would relax a bit. Find a part time job. Play some shows but not book giant tours and drive myself insane.

Now I find myself living back in Fredericton after yet another major change. This one in my personal life. The adjustment has been surreal and a bit of a mind twister but I’m settling in. I forgot how much I love Fredericton. A beautiful city full of friends and family that have always been and continue to be my support group. My community. Last week I took a part time job and trained up. It was surreal to be back behind a bar. I haven’t slung dranks for eight years or so. It was immediately familiar and I realized I had been storing some muscle memory about the job deep in my psyche. I find it to be an excellent distraction from the things that cause me to stress out and get down. Not an avoidance. A distraction. More importantly I think I even had fun.

So tonight I start my first shift back at the Snooty Fox. I’ll be here part time and you’ll find me behind the bar most Sundays and Mondays. I’m really thankful to have  a place that I could just “come home” to. I hope to see your familiar faces on the other side of the bar from time to time. I’m trying to find a way to be happy every day. I’m realizing that music isn’t the most important thing in my life anymore. Maybe it never was. I’m still creating and performing but now I’m doing it at my own leisure. I’m hoping this way I’ll enjoy it more and that as a result people who support what I do will enjoy it more as well.

I know there’s more changes coming down the tube for me but I’m just trying to stay present and find some peace in my life. It’s a lot of work but hopefully it will be worth it. Stay good friends. See ya around town.

Ross

PS. Enjoy this Taj tune.

Ten Years After

Ten years. That’s a long time. When i was a kid time crawled by. I remember my Dad saying that when I got older i’ll wish time didn’t go by so quickly. He was right. Ten years ago seems like yesterday. Ten years ago, so much was different. I was 30. My Dad was alive. One of my best friend’s, Randy Cable, was still alive; although our band, Naked Days, had gone on hiatus due to his battle with cancer. As a result of the hiatus, I had started doing solo blues shows. My attempt at emulating my hero, the great Morgan Davis.

2005 post show, with Alvin Hart

At some point early in 2005 I got wind that Alvin Youngblood Hart would be performing at the James Joyce Pub (was that it’s name back then?) for the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival mid winter show. I was very excited. I had discovered Alvin’s music in the late 90’s when I worked at a CD store in Kelowna. I loved that he played the delta/trad blues so well but also rocked right out whenever he felt like it. I still love that about him. I’m not sure how it happened but after I got wind of the gig, I made an effort to secure the opening slot. Somehow, I tricked Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival agreeing. I recall the show well. I Even recall many of the tunes i played. I was awful back then. So green. I could barely sing! After my set and before Alvin came on, i met a woman named Mary-Anne Pollack. Mary-Anne told me about something called the Galaxie Rising star contest that Harvest held each year. She encouraged me to enter. So I did just that. I also entered the Galaxie contest at the Saint John blues festival (i don’t recall the name of the festival then).