Summer 2013 sees Vancouver Island’s blues troubadour, David Gogo, on a back-and-forth journey: to Ontario, back to B.C.; to Quebec, and back to B.C.; and to Ontario again, and finally back to B.C. It’s not just the frequent flyer miles Gogo is accumulating — he has a new CD in tow, inviting blues fans hither and yon to Come on Down, to be released on July 2, 2013.
A consummate student of the blues, Gogo has worked tirelessly throughout his career to absorb every nuance of the music and culture. In this Q&A, Gogo discusses a pilgrimage to the home of the blues, his Canadian influences and the role of humour in his craft.
What sort of revelations did you have on your pilgrimage through Mississippi, the birthplace of blues?
Despite reading books, seeing photos and studying the area all of my life, there is just something about actually being there. Breathing the air, eating the food, talking to people. To stand on the same sidewalk in front of Hirsberg's in Friar's Point, where Robert Johnson played, to actually go down to Rosedale with my rider by my side, eating hot tamales outside of the Po' Monkey Lounge at midnight, appearing on the King Biscuit Radio Hour in Helena, Ark. Visiting Fame and Royal studios and seeing the gear and rooms that so much great music was captured with. Watching Al Green preach and sing in his church was pretty good, too!
What makes Canadian blues different from American?
I don't know that there is a difference. Music is the universal language. There sure is a lot of good stuff coming out of Canada considering the population! Great fans up in this country are a bonus!
You have a brand new disc out, but you are continuously on tour. What has more appeal for you, the studio or the road?
When I was younger, the road was the most important. Albums were something you did to get a project to tour behind. Now, after putting out so many albums, I really enjoy both. The last couple of albums have been a real joy to create and it makes me want to get out and play the new material live and hopefully get some airplay. The challenge is to keep making your latest the greatest!
If you had to name one artist that personifies (or personified) blues in Canada, who would it be?
On a personal level, Ken Hamm was a guy who turned me on to so much good blues and was the first person that I ever saw play a National guitar. He told me about people like Big Dave McLean, who is certainly a Canadian blues treasure. I also was really turned on by hearing blues on commercial radio when I was growing up and hearing Powder Blues and Downchild. They actually had hits on AM radio as blues bands! I wish things weren't so categorized now. Good music is good music!
How valuable is humour in blues?
I used to only try using humour in my between-song anecdotes, but I have tried to inject that into my lyrics here and there on the last few albums. Blues can be very serious, very emotional, but there is also some really out there, funny stuff! Some of the Mississippi guys are outrageous! Bo Diddley had some crazy funny songs. Maybe my next project will be a comedy/blues album!
Keep an eye on David Gogo’s website for dates near you, as he travels the Canadian roads in support of Come on Down.
Notes from the Road: David Gogo hits the blues highway
Musical Nooners: David Gogo