February 21, 2018 Interview – Eddy Clearwater
The Blues is one of America’s more important inventions ever. A style of music that has well over 100 years, thankful for artists such as Eddy Clearwater, it is still alive and well in 2018! Clearwater, often referred to as “The Chief,” has been playing guitar since 15 years of age and, since moving with his family to Chicago in the 1950s, has been rocking stages with his own form of Electric Blues. With 60-plus years in the business, Clearwater has rightfully earned a place in the Blues Hall of Fame Recently celebrating his 83rd birthday, he shows no signs of slowing down. A Blues great, and masterful guitarist, Clearwater took the time to sit down and talk his journey as a musician, lessons he has learned along the way, plans for new music, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in music for over 6 decades now. In that time, you have established yourself as one of the most iconic Blues guitarists. Briefly tell us, how would you describe your musical journey?
Eddy Clearwater – I would describe it as pretty upbeat. Sometimes I get in a little mood and I get down into the deep Blues. Most of all it is pretty upbeat. I use a lot of energy in my stuff. I go with the feelings.
CrypticRock.com – It certainly shows in your playing. Your style is uniquely your own. You have a fire and intense stage presence. Through your many years of performing, what are you feeling when you are on stage?
Eddy Clearwater – On stage is the happiest time of my life. I don’t have any worries when I’m on stage. It is like being transformed into heaven, it is total joy. I just feel surrounded by joy.
CrypticRock.com – That shows in the emotion you put into the live performances. The Blues is an intricate part of American music history. It is thanks to The Blues we have Rock-n-Roll.
Eddy Clearwater – Exactly! I am glad you said it. I have been saying it for a lot of years. I am glad to hear that.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, there is no question how important it is. That in mind, do you think there is still a passion for classic Blues Rock among the younger generation?
Eddy Clearwater – Oh yea, a lot of young people, and all over the world. I go to Europe quite a bit, I have been to Hong Kong, and Japan twice. They are very enthusiastic about the Blues. Also in South America, places like Venezuela. The young people are really into it. It’s very gratifying to see that.
CrypticRock.com – That is great that you see young audiences around the world! Back in 2016, you were rightful inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. How redeeming is it for you to receive such an honor?
Eddy Clearwater – I felt so honored, I felt like it was a dream. I really felt like I was dreaming it was happening. It felt wonderful and that is one of the reasons I want to give back to the art as possible. I said to my wife a couple days ago, “If I don’t go any further in life with music, I feel like I’ve beat the odds already.” Becoming my age, and still doing what I like to do, while people are enjoying it, I feel very fulfilled. It is a great feeling.
CrypticRock.com – It really is special. You recently celebrated your 83rd birthday back in January. Happy belated birthday! Here is a life question for you, what would you say has been your key to longevity and a happy life?
Eddy Clearwater – I think being around people has been one of my biggest joys. Being around people who seem to like what I am doing, intermingling with people, and the music itself, gives me a lot of energy. I am really thankful for the opportunities. It has been a good journey for me. I have more to be thankful for than I have to be regretful for. I count my blessings everyday I wake up. I count my blessings and say, “Thank God I’m here another day, maybe I can play more Blues today!”
CrypticRock.com – It is great that you are able to still do what you love to do and at a high level. You also play live a lot. In 2014, you released the enthusiastic live album Soul Funky. Can we expect some new music from you in the future?
Eddy Clearwater – I am working on a new project now for another studio album for Alligator Records. Hopefully September or October it should be ready for release. It is all new, original songs.
CrypticRock.com – That is exciting news. Seeing you have played as long as you have, what inspires you as a player?
Eddy Clearwater – What inspires me is getting through the job, that is the hardest part of the job. Once I get through the job my inspiration is being on stage with my band and putting out the best I can put out. I get my inspiration from working with musicians, we kind of feed off one another.
CrypticRock.com – That sort of inspiration feeds into when you write music too right?
Eddy Clearwater – It is very true. For the new album, I wrote a song about Chuck Berry, it’s called “You’re Never Too Old To Rock and Roll.”
CrypticRock.com – That is pretty cool. Chuck Berry is a Rock-n-Roll icon!
Eddy Clearwater – Absolutely. He was really the true kind of Rock-n-Roll. He created that stuff.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, he did. Speaking of Chuck Berry, you shared the stage with many other fantastic players through the years. What would you say are some of the most important things you have learned from other musicians?
Eddy Clearwater – From other musicians, I learned a lot of things. I learned to be punctual. When I was much younger I had a habit of showing up late. I learned early on that’s not a good idea. (Laughs) You have to be punctual, you have to be on time. When people hire you, they expect you to be punctual and they want you to do a good job. If you sign a contract, you have to live up to the conditions of the contract. Whatever you do, be on time. Even if you don’t do a good job, the owner can say, well at least he was on time. (Laughs)
I also learned stage appearance from a lot of people like James Brown, Cab Calloway, Muddy Waters, he dressed really spectacular, also Howlin’ Wolf.
CrypticRock.com – Very interesting. It is very important to be punctual. It really makes a difference.
Eddy Clearwater – Absolutely, people are counting on you. You have to be true to yourself to say, “I respect what I am doing by being on time and giving it your best effort.”
CrypticRock.com – That is a good outlook to have. Being you have toured the world, you have experienced many cultures. What have you learned from it all?
Eddy Clearwater – There are a lot of different cultures. I pay close attention to what they pay attention to. When you go on stage in Europe, let’s say in France or The Netherlands, when they come to see your concert, they pay attention to what you do. Every minute that you are stage they pay attention to all your emotions. They listen to the lyrics, they know each song, and they can tell me what the lyrics are. There are times when I say, “Oh, I forgot about that lyric.” (Laughs) They play close attention and that is one of the things I have learned about different cultures. They are really into American music and it is highly appreciated.
CrypticRock.com – That is true. You look at bands like The Beatles, they took American Blues and translated it into their own music.
Eddy Clearwater – Exactly, that is right. They got the inspiration from listening to American Blues, they really paid attention to it. They took Blues and Rock-n-Roll and really introduced it to America. (Laughs) They said, come on, listen to your music you guys created, listen to it. The Stones, The Beatles, Eric Clapton, and on and on, took it. A lot of Americans were sadly thinking of it as just music. They took it as more than that, no, it’s a real art.
CrypticRock.com – Agreed completely. You have been playing since you are a teenager. As a player, some may think you reach a plateau, but you are probably learning something new daily about your instrument, right?
Eddy Clearwater – Everyday, absolutely. Everyday I hear something, I discover something just by picking up the guitar and making some riffs. I hear something maybe I didn’t hear before. That is what I’m trying to put into my new album, some ideas that have been laying around in my head but never put them on record. I will see what I can do with them. You are never too old to learn.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and learning never stops. That being said, the Blues is about feeling. It seems like a lot of modern music in general has lost that feeling. What are your thoughts?
Eddy Clearwater – It has to come from their heart and soul, it is very spiritual. Blues music is very spiritual it has to come from their soul.
CrypticRock.com – That is the truth. Are there any modern Blues Rock artists you dig?
Eddy Clearwater – I like quite a bit of the stuff Gary Clark Jr. is doing. I like Ronnie Baker Brooks a lot. He was my co-producer for my last album for Alligator, he is going to be on this new album also. Some young people are coming out with some good stuff.