Style: Rocks it out
Influences: Huge range of material covering all genres
Jim has connections with The State Bar and The Scotia Bar in Glasgow. The image here is taken on the banks of the Clyde very close to the St Enochs Centre in Glasgow and as a wean Jim always went his holidays leaving from St Enochs Train Station
K: So where was your first gig in Glesca Jim
J: Well, there’s a wee story around that. It was the bass player that organised it and it was in the YMCA in Bothwell street and we had no transport and we had brought everything into the town on the bus. We had to get a load of pals to help us. There was loads of us and we carried it all in…everything…and the YMCA was closed.
So eventually the bass player turns up and says “Well it’s not actually the YMCA, it’s the club next door”. The club next door was a pensioners club.
K: What kind of stuff were you playing?
J: Led Zeppelin! We were 16 years old, wi’ long hair and covered in denim.
K: So how did it go down?
J: Well actually, it went down really well. And the reason was that I’d learnt to play by entertaining the family and had covered all the tunes from the last century right up to the Beatles and everything else so it was fine.
K: So do you still remember those songs now?
J: Oh aye, I’ve got thousands of songs up here. That’s one of things, I seem to have a knack of remembering lyrics. It’s always been that way. That and busking. I love playing along with things I’ve never heard before. By the second verse I’ve got it and we’re away and I’m singing the harmonies in the chorus.
K: What you’re talking about is essential for every blues musician or every musician that throws themselves into the gigs that have that kind of proximity with the audience. You’re standing behind the mic and the punters are 3 feet away and the requests are flying in. You must’ve picked up a real solid grounding in your early days as a kid, backing all the singers and other players at the gatherings.
J: Absolutely. You need to be flexible and have put in the work over the years. Sometimes I think I’m not actually a blues man…I think I’m a song and dance man….without the dance (laughs)
K: I know what you mean. Some of the best memories of gigs I’ve played have been when I’ve met the guys on the day of the gig. You’re on your game and your eyes are wide open because you’ve no idea what’s coming next.
A busker starts playing the saxophone up the street and then Jim’s phone goes. It’s a ceilidh band looking for him to dep for their fiddle player. Jim knows their stuff and would have been able to stand in no problem but he’s got another gig tonight. This is a prime example of Jim’s breadth of knowledge and how he works as a professional musician.
K: So, I remember the first time I came into The State Bar. Anne, my girlfriend at the time (now my wife) had bought a flat in Bath Street and we wandered into The State one Tuesday and that was probably my first experience of a Blues Jam night in Glasgow and the standard was absolutely breath-taking!
J: How long ago was that?
K: That must’ve been about….18 years ago?
J: You see, at that time the likes of The Nimmo Brothers were still coming in. Alan Thompson, Al Brown, Jim Ward, Fraser Spiers, loads of top notch players were coming in every week.
Yes, that was about 20 years ago when I was in my early….eh …20s (laughs)
K: Have you seen a change in the way live music is managed in the city over this time by the pubs and clubs?
J: It’s much, much harder now to make money playing gigs in the city. There are so many young players out there willing to play for nothing and with me actually teaching so many players, I’m feeding my own demise. (laughs) We get round the money thing by working lean and keeping all the projects down to a 3 piece line up.
K: I’ve noticed in Edinburgh there’s the Edinburgh Blues Club that started up in The Voodoo Rooms. That’s a terrific club and there is a very strong support network for the Blues over there as well. I know a lot of guys over there that work tirelessly to keep that vibe alive and there’s a real appetite for it from an audience perspective. I know that it could work over here as well and I’ve heard noises about a Glasgow Blues Club. Do you know anything about that?
J: I saw a bit about it in Facebook. Your right…there is a very proactive approach over there and it would be great to get the same here.
K: What advice do you have for anyone looking to be a professional musician Jim?
J: I’ve always said – Wanting to play is not enough. You have to NEED to play. It needs to be an obsession. I love playing more now than I ever did, I absolutely love it and if you don’t have that obsession then things are going to knock you down. It can be a bit sad as well but the guitar has been THE thing for me.
K: So we’re heading towards the State Bar Jam 20th Anniversary. What’s happening with that?
J: We’ll be making a big event of that!
K: Will it be in The State? It has to be really doesn’t it?
J: Not sure, still need to work out the details but you would think it would need to be. We’ll see how it goes but we are definitely counting down the days.
K: We’ve got a great platform for young musicians to come up on stage for the first time in front of a well informed and supportive audience in the State Bar.
There will be fantastic players out there that have been working on their craft for years but have never played in front of a live audience…for whatever reason. I’ve heard a few phenomenal musicians but they don’t realise how good they are and they’ve never had a chance to get that reaction from a crowd when you absolutely nail it!
What would you say to anyone in that position?
J: Well, all I can say is, if they’re that good and they’re better than me, then they should stay in their bedroom! Don’t come doon to my pub and show me up! (Jim splutters with laughter but you know that any new players are welcomed with open arms by Al, Jim, Tim, Kenny & Matt, or whoever is playing on the night, and that’ll be another blues player on the journey)
K: On that note then Jim, thanks very much for your time, it’s been a pleasure and I’ll see you on a stage near here very soon.
J: Thanks Kirk, it’s been great fun, catch you later.
Under the South Portland Street Suspension Bridge. The wall in the picture has been used for street art for the last couple of years and has been recently changed to a huge tiger’s face.
The shot was taken in broad daylight but speedlights were used to overpower the ambient light and give the impression of night time. There were also a couple of gels added to the flash units to add some colour to the background. Thanks to Stewart Neil for all the help on the day.
Camera: Nikon D7000
Lens: Nikon 18-105 Kit
Focal length: 18mm
Exposure: 1/160 sec at f/13
Time of day: 13:35
Conditions: Even cloud cover
Lighting: Keylight at 45 degrees at about 10 feet elevation with no modifiers + 2 gelled(red & green) for background
Street Art by Artpistol
the artpistol tiger