An interview with Jack Broadbent
Jack Broadbent, the one and only person who managed to make me love his version of a Canned Heat song more than the original (Canned Heat being my all time favourite band on this planet…) is without a doubt one of the big young blues musicians of our time. “Raw, genuine, and straight from the heart”: These words describe both his music as well as Jack as a person – as I’ve come to know when I met the English bluesman two weeks ago. Well, what can I say? I’m an even bigger fan of the former busker now.
Find out what Jack told me about his career, busking, and, of course, blues below:
How’s the tour going?
The tour’s going wonderfully. I’ve been to about 5 countries: The US, Canada, the Netherlands, France, Spain, and Switzerland. As always, some of the gigs have been better than others and the travel has been pretty intense, but overall I’ve absolutely loved it so far.
How did you make that jump from busking onto the big stages?
Well, I’ve been playing on stages since I was about 13 anyway. So, it’s not quite the departure that everybody seems to think it is. But obviously a lot of people saw videos of me from when I was doing a lot of busking. I’m just so happy that finally I’m out playing proper gigs all the time.
And really, I absolutely love busking. I love making people happy and playing in the streets is great for that. But for me, actually, when I was at my intermediate point before being able to do this kind of tour with a booking agency and stuff, it was the best way I found to make money from my music. Like, rather than getting paid a hundred pounds to play in a pub for the whole night, I could double that on the street, which is really good.
There’s just something about that groove that just grabbed me.
How did you find your way to the blues? Did your dad, who’s a musician himself, have an influence on that?
My dad had been touring all over the States playing bass in Rock’n’Roll bands and stuff before I was born. It’s funny though, because by the time I was born he was living back where I’m from in Lincolnshire. A lot of the local bands there – as is the case in a lot of places – play blues. It almost seems to be a pub or bar tradition to have blues bands. So I was going to blues gigs from being a little boy and, you know, was idolising some of the guys playing guitar or drums (I used to love playing the drums before playing the guitar).
There’s just something about that groove that just grabbed me. And I used to watch the Blues Brothers every day. So I got to hear John Lee Hooker, got to hear Cab Calloway and all that stuff. And then my first few years of writing songs was actually mainly folk music. I was quite into folk and really liked the sort of Jazz meets Rock thingy as well.
Coming back to the busking though, when I started playing in the streets, there was just something about when I used to play blues stuff: it just used to pull people in. I think it’s the simplicity of it, I think it’s the heart of it. And I used to play blues out busking before I even started playing the slide guitar. I used to just play normal blues gigs; and then one day, I stumbled across the ability of slide guitar, and then I went “boooh (laughs), this is nice”.
Now that you’ve been touring through the United States, would you say that the US is still the land of the blues?
Obviously yeah, historically it is. But I think there’s some people all over the world now doing some really interesting stuff and I think with the industry being so different now with the internet and with not needing a record label etc. etc., there are certainly loads of festivals that I’ve been to all over the world that have got international acts all the time coming through and I really like that and I think a lot of American blues fans or blues musicians themselves really dig it too. I think it’s certainly spread.
Do you have any specific goals or plans for the future?
Yeah, I’m going to release a comedy album (laughs). I’ve got a few things in mind for that. Just to sort of offset the blues stuff, really… No, on a serious note, I don’t know. Any particular goals? I just want to keep making people happy. And I want to keep satisfying my urge to hear something back that I know I’ve made and go “fucking hell, that’s good”. And as long as I’m doing that then that’s a career I think. I think that’s what you’re supposed to do. The minute I start trying to make music that other people want to hear, that’s when you accidentally fall down these rabbit holes…
I suppose my personal goals are trying to just get further and further up this mad ladder without signing a record deal, trying to do it all independent, a bit underground.
I’ve been working on a lot of folk stuff too at the minute and I’m just trying to kind of bring the whole thing together so that I don’t just get pinned as a blues artist, but you know… I like bands like Buffalo Springfield, and I like Neil Young a lot too. I like these bands that sort of pull everything into one influence.
And, I mean, blues and folk are kind of intertwined.
Absolutely. And where it meets Rock’n’Roll it gets really fun.
What would you say was your career highlight so far?
I’ve got a couple. Playing at Montreux Jazz Festival was possibly the best moment of my life. There’s just something about the professionalism of it and the prestige of that venue and that event. It just felt really special. And I took my father as well, so he played with me and that was just, you know, to be able to do that is just nuts. And then last year touring with Lynyrd Skynyrd in the States was again great.
Any advice for fellow blues artists, or buskers, that you can give them from your experience?
Just do it because you want to do it. If you want to play blues though, don’t sing about trains. You know what I’m saying, don’t do it. It’s been done. Sing about your stuff, about your life. In terms of busking, I’d say, just don’t be scared and go right into the middle of the largest group of people you can find and do exactly what you do and you’ll definitely make some money, if that’s what you want to do.
For more about Jack check www.jackbroadbent.co.uk
Nadine Schwizer: Channel7A