Voted top European blues artist, and Best Young Blues Guitarist in the British Blues Awards, Laurence Jones has a mission to bring his favourite music to a younger audience.
Terry Caster caught up with the Midlands-based bluesman for a chat as he heads towards the end of a three month tour encompassing Sweden, Germany, France and Holland, as well as the UK. Following a high-flying Planet Rockstock gig in South Wales, he was looking forward to returning to Leeds, where he is playing on election night.
How’s the tour been going Laurence, how do you find the difference between the continent and the UK gigs?
“It’s been good. It’s been a long tour, the longest I have done. We’re more popular and more mainstream out there – we’re on the radio a lot more on equivalent stations to Radio 2 being played. So we get big crowds out there, more than the UK. But that doesn’t mean it is better! Coming back to play where I started there are really enthusiastic audiences – in the ten years I have been a professional musician I have seen a change and there’s more younger people getting into this kind of music.
“That’s great, because one of my aims when I started out was to get more people – more young people in particular – into the blues.”
Last year when you played in Leeds you were supporting Glenn Hughes, who may be best known from his Deep Purple days, and you have shared stages with some impressive names. Does anyone stand out?
“Probably Buddy Guy. I was supporting him at a festival in Holland, and that was one hell of an experience. He was hanging around backstage – he said, ‘Oh, I’ve heard there’s this really good young musician,’ and then asked ‘Do you want to have a jam?’ How could you refuse that – the chance to jam with a blues great? And then Van Morrison at the Royal Albert Hall. What a legend he is. Touring with Status Quo was incredible too – that really sticks out.”
You’re touring with a bigger band now, how’s that going?
“It’s going great, but it isn’t what I’m used to, I have to be honest! It takes some getting used to having backing singer, bass, drums, keyboards and me on guitar. But I have backing vocals on the new album - an incredible singer called Di Reed who is one of Rod Stewart’s main backing vocalists - so touring the album we really thought it was important to add that extra element in, which really complements the music.
“I’m always changing around direction, trying to develop my music, and I think this album has a more pop feel than straight blues rock which I hope people enjoy.
“We recorded the latest album in Miami, working with Gregory Elias, the man who brought The Rolling Stones to Cuba, so there’s a massive Stones influence on the album. We went to Miami as it is the home of the record label – but we’re the only British rock act on the label!”
You’ve got Crohn’s disease, how do find it impacts with you on tour? [Crohn’s disease is a lifelong condition in which parts of the digestive system become inflamed and can be extremely painful and debilitating.] “It’s been a real journey for me since I was diagnosed at about 18 years old. When I was told no late nights or fast food that was a challenge! I have to be very careful what I eat and drink, particularly on tour. But I’ve found out what works for me, and I keep to a very plain diet and clean foods. I have to have medication, a drip once a month which I need to factor into my touring schedule. It’s Crohn’s and Colitis awareness week, so it is very relevant right now!”
I’ve seen your musical themes described as empowerment, loss and grief. Do you think that is about right?
“Well maybe with some of my earlier albums, where I had tracks like Down and Blue, when I was looking at how I felt with the Crohn’s disease, and some songs about relationships, but I think the new albums are actually a lot more positive and stuff the average person can relate to being a bit less stereotypically bluesy!”
The Laurence Jones Band play at Leeds Lending Room on Woodhouse Lane on Thursday December 12.