Blues Chose Me

Blues Chose Me

Limited tickets remain for An Evening with Bob Margolin, the Grammy Award-winning bluesman, who performs at the Sunrise Stage in Fayetteville on Nov. 18. Beginning the evening with music from across his career, Margolin will wrap up the night with a blues jam alongside local players Earl Cate, Terry Cagle and Liz Lottmann. In advance of his visit to Northwest Arkansas, Margolin took the time to answer these questions for The Free Weekly.

Q. Avoiding the pressures of the music industry, and enjoying your artistic freedom and creativity in spite of those pressures, is a matter you’ve addressed throughout your career — including with the release of your latest album. How do you remain authentic to yourself and to your vision in an industry with pressures not only from the business side, but from fans as well?

A. Yes, there are increasing pressures on everyone today, not just musicians. But no matter how good or bad things get for me personally, my job is exactly the same: play the best music I can and be entertaining, live and recorded. Fans show me which songs move them the most, as does finding which songs on my albums get the most airplay, and reading album reviews. I also still just follow my heart, which is usually not a good business move, but I’ve gotten away with it for a long time.

Q. How has taking such a personal approach in “My Road” affected your connection or relationship with your audience?

A. I find that when I play songs from the album live, especially “I Shall Prevail,” “Young and Old Blues” and “Goodnight,” I get more audience response, and I usually meet my audiences after my shows or workshops and they tell me. Getting to know the people I play for and listening to what they tell me is a great perk of playing blues. Can you imagine rock stars selling CDs personally and hanging out with the people who just saw them play? But most blues musicians do exactly that. The friendliness reflects the honest soul in blues music.

Q. What is important to you now versus early in your career, and how has that evolved as you’ve progressed as a musician?

A. Last weekend I watched a YouTube video of an entire Muddy Waters 1978 concert, and I was playing guitar in his band. I noticed that musically, my priorities were formed back then and haven’t changed. Playing my best music is still my priority, even as my interests widen. The world since then has gotten more “high impedance” — a metaphor and an electrical term. To keep “steady rollin’,” I have to be on the phone or using some form of messaging more than is comfortable. The sound of a ringtone, email, text and Facebook message at the same time is an ugly sound! Back in the 1970s, it was just play well, be punctual and indulge my social life. It’s probably obvious, playing and listening to blues music really takes us away from our present challenges for a while.

Q. Why the blues? What about this music drew you in and what about it continues you to speak to you?

A. Many blues musicians would answer in these words: “I didn’t choose blues, blues chose me.” It’s true, most of my friends love blues music; we fall in love with it when we hear it and there’s no choice. For some people’s musical taste, blues can be a spice, an ingredient, the whole thing or the only thing. Blues music appeals to our hearts and other body parts, sometimes even our minds. It feels good, sensually. It still does for me.

Q. How has being involved with the Pinetop Perkins Foundation influenced your hopes for the future of blues music and/or your impression of young musicians coming up in the tradition?

A. As a guitar workshop leader and then as musical director — like the principal instead of a teacher — I meet young folks with tremendous talent, social grace and intelligence. I’m uncomfortable when people call me a mentor because I learn more than I teach. I often ask people who are younger than my socks to “Be my lifecoach!” Only half-kidding. Seriously, I think that evolution is speeding up because the new generation is thrilling and deep.

— Jocelyn Murphy



‘An Evening with Bob Margolin’

WHEN — 7 p.m. Nov. 18

WHERE — Sunrise Stage in Fayetteville

COST — $15-$30

INFO — 439-9267,, bobmargolin.comBlues Chose Me

Categories: Cover Story