Style: Eustace Swamp Blues (see editor note below)
Influences: B.B. King
Strong connections with Glasgow West End
K: So you’ve been playing the Blues for some time? Tell me a bit about your music background.
E: I’ve always played bass and guitar but bass was originally my profession. It was much easier to find jobs playing bass. But I’ve been playing Blues since I started playing guitar and I started playing guitar at the age of 10. I come from a family of really, really big Blues fans. Everything in my house was the Blues as I grew up. We never watched the telly it was always just music in the background.
K: Was that live music or recordings?
E: Both. First concert was Chuck Berry when I was 4 and then B.B. King, Keb Mo….you name them, I’ve seen them.
K: When you say first concert…you mean you actually went to a Chuck Berry concert…when you were 4!!??
E: Yeah, yeah…Royal Concert Hall, Chuck Berry.
K: Four? No way!!!
E: (Laughs) Yeah!
K: So your 4 years old and you’re sitting in The Royal Concert Hall….I’ve got 2 kids, 6 & 11 and there is no way they would sit for 10 minutes listening to Blues never mind a whole concert. So….eh (laughs)…can you remember what it was like?
E: Yeah, yeah, it was really exciting. Well at that stage, Chuck Berry could still do things like “The Duck Walk” and things like that and I remember that I had a tape of Chuck Berry’s Greatest Hits and it was just constantly playing all the time and we listed to every Chuck Berry song about a million times in the car and in the house and to me the concert was just a like a big sing-a-long. It was just me and my dad sitting there tapping our feet and singing away.
Then it was Buddy Guy in the Queen’s Halls in Edinburgh and I was blown away when he came off the stage and he was standing right in front of me. Brilliant.
K: So what did you learn form these guys?
E: I think my opinion has always been that it’s not all about you. You’re playing in a band and if the whole song sounds good then you are doing your job and YOU will sound good. I think the only way a band works if everyone gets on with each other and respects each other. Sometimes I think the best way to get a band together is to get some guys together that are best mates and teach them all to play an instrument. That works.
We have a jam every now and again down in Kirkie (Kirkintilloch) and we invite all the guys from the jam sessions in Glasgow down and you get about 100 people in this garage. Nobody is getting paid and they are all loving it and sometimes you get one guy who is there and you can tell right away he is just there for himself and it just doesn’t work. Everyone on stage needs to work together. Jam sessions are great for learning from other Blues musicians but at the end of the day it needs to be fun and you need to be able to take something away from it. There’s no real room for egos.
K: What is the Glasgow scene like at the moment for you?
E: Well, my Dad and my brother used to sneak me in to Studio 1. Obviously I never got to play, I was too young and didn’t want to make myself too well know because I was underage. But that’s when I started talking to people in the Glasgow Blues scene. Now, with the opening of Howlin’ Wolf and other places like that there is a real increase in popularity in the Blues in Glasgow. Three Card Trick’s residency in Box on a Thursday night is packed. They don’t start till midnight as well!
K: So what are you doing musically at the moment?
E: Well. I’m teaching a lot and I do a lot of work getting my students into the Blues. We play in a band together and we get together once a week and work on stuff. Sometimes it’s material for the band sometimes it’s not. And they just take it at their own pace and the next stage is now “Let me show you how recording works”.
I’m maybe 6 tracks into my own album at the moment as well. I use YouTube to gauge the popularity of my stuff. I just do a quick video recording and put it on YouTube and the ones with the most hits I’m assuming are the best ones and I take it from there.
To be honest, my aim is not to become some stadium playing Blues guitarist, my dream is to become a song-writer. If I can get a job where people pay me to write Blues songs for them, that would be the dream. It’s the one thing I know like the back of my hand, I’ve done it for years, listened to it, I know what folk like, I know how to do things a bit different. I’ve got a bunch of friends that have just got signed. Charlotte Marshall & The 45s. Charlie runs an open mic at the Arlington on a Wednesday night, so going to pop down there. I’d love to be able to speak to people like Charlie and let them have a listen to some of the stuff I’ve written and see if they like it or even if they could pass it on to somebody or do a cover. That would be a great way to get started.
Charlie really shook up the Glasgow Blues scene and added something new and the thing is it’s original material which is brilliant!
K: So what is it about The Blues that has kept you interested for so long?
E: I literally was born to listen to the music. I was “taught” to listen to it from the moment I was born and for my entire life. When I was younger we used to go the the States a lot on holiday. Places like the Florida Keys, every bar is full of Blues musicians. To me that’s my memories. It’s not just about listening to Blues it’s the fact that every really, really good memory that I have in my life is something to do with it. When I think of when I was growing up just about every bonding time with my dad was probably something to do with music. Same with my brothers. My oldest brother plays guitar…not very well…compared to some of us (laughs) …and you can keep that bit in (laughs)…but he used to sit me down and get me to play B, A and E on the bass string and we just used to play and play and jam and that for us was bonding. My other brother was right into it as well, so we were all mad on the blues.
I remember going to the British Virgin Islands when I was maybe 16 and we were in this bar and my dad went up and had a word with the guy on stage and got me up there and I played “Hey Joe” and the screaming was outrageous. Most of the good memories of growing up for me are based around those things.
K: You mentioned B.B. King as your main influence
E: Yeah, when B.B. King just died there my entire family were just devastated. I got in the car last week after being away from Facebook and the Internet for about a week and put on the radio and heard a guy saying “This is for the late great B.B. King….” and I just fell apart. I’ve seen him live maybe 5 times. Met him once, shook his hand. He had these really big MASSIVE hands. I remember being really shocked that he could play on gauge 7 strings (don’t know if that’s a myth or not). I mean when I say huge, think of the size of our hands and double it. These were like builder/mechanic hands. But there wasn’t a bad bone in the guys body.
Keb Mo was another huge influence. I love the Gospel feel.
K: What would you say your style was
E: Swampy? Is that even a style? Don’t know. There’s a brilliant song by Donovan called “Season of the Witch” that was covered by Dr John, I think it was in one of the Blues Brothers movies. It’s only 2 chords, A & E I think, but it’s got this cracking groove. this swampy, deep, dark groove. You can just imagine yourself in the depths of Louisiana. That’s what I would like to think my style is. There probably is a genre already called Swamp Blues. I’ll go home tonight and Google and I’ll think “That’s not it at all!!”
(Author note: Eustace Swamp Blues has just been recognised as a Blues sub-genre…on this website at least. The original Swamp Blues, as suspected is nothing like it at all!…
K: That’s fantastic Eustace, thanks very much for your time, it’s been a fantastic afternoon
E: Not at all, it’s been great. I don’t think I’ve ever had the chance to talk as much about the Blues without being interrupted before (laughs)
Botanic Gardens, Glasgow
Camera: Nikon D7000
Lens: Nikon 35mm
Focal length: 35mm
Exposure: 1/640 sec at f/5.6
Time of day: 14:31
Conditions: Even cloud cover
Lighting: Fill flash from speedlight triggered on Commander mode
andrew robert eustace