Bluesman Ian Siegal has got his American band, and he has also got his European band. He also plays solo.
It’s a freedom he relishes – and one that keeps him going, says Ian, who plays this year’s Crawley’s Blues Festival at the Hawth on Saturday, October 26.
“It allows me to make a living from music. It is incredible how many class acts these days have day jobs because they can’t sustain themselves through the music.
“I think it has been difficult for a very long time. I guess really for most people, for a jobbing musician, the problem is that your fees have not gone up. Gigs are still paying what they were paying ten or 20 years ago. It is even worse in the States. Top-class professionals are having to get a day job.
“But I am not complaining. I have never had to have a job. My point is that I can go out solo, and that’s a blessing for me. It is good to have that option. I guess things are getting tighter. The stuff I do with the American band is the stuff that we recorded together, and I keep that stuff separately.
“With the European band, I have no idea what I am going to play. But they are incredible musicians. They have been together for ten years, and they are only 21 years old.
“But the solo work... well, it tends to be a lot more intimate. I always see communicating with an audience as paramount. It is important that you don’t go through the motions. You tell stories. You talk about the songs. The other thing is that you can play something that you might just have heard on the way to the gig. You wing it with the band as well, don’t get me wrong. I am lucky enough with the standard of musicians I have that I can pick up on that.”
But with a solo performance, inevitably you are closer to the audience.
“It’s something I appreciate if I am watching someone else. I like the talk between the songs... or it can all feel a little impersonal. I always see an audience and think that they are the most important thing in the room... as long as it is a good audience.”
And if it is a bad audience?
Well, there are certain things you can do to grab their attention, says Ian who admits he is intolerant of the people who pay £20 or whatever and then talk loudly.
“You can get them to shut up, and I don’t mean that for me. I mean it for the other 99 per cent of people in the room that have actually come to hear the music. I have been pretty aggressive in my time!”
Recent years have seen Ian on fire, with British Blues Awards raining down and consecutive nominations in 2012 and 2013 for Contemporary Album of The Year in the Blues Music Awards – in effect, the Grammys of the Blues.
Ian came of musical age via a love of rock ‘n’ rollers such as Little Richard and Elvis.
By the ’90s, he’d fallen into a blues obsession fuelled by titans like Muddy Waters.
By Phil Hewitt