Will Wilde is a 4 x British Blues Award nominated harmonica player and blues musician I recently had the pleasure to interview. Check out what he had to say right here.
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Why the harmonica? How did you get into it? Who or what got you into the blues?
When I was about seven years old my Dad played me Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Help Me”. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the moment I officially fell in love with blues harmonica. There was something about his harp sound that felt like home. It wasn’t until I was 16 that I actually picked up a harmonica and tried to play it. I’d found a cheap plastic Guinness version on the table at a house party and stole it. Of course then I had to figure out what to do with it. I heard a track called “Work with me Annie” by Snooky Pryor, on an Alligator compilation CD. It sounded to me like he was only playing a few simple notes, but with great effect. So I figured if I could find the right notes on the harp, all I had to do was work out how to make them sound good too. I found that came from how I felt just as much as hitting the right notes. And that was that, I was hungry for the genre, searching out more blues, feeling with every record I was another step closer to where I wanted to be. I spent hours playing along to Muddy Waters, particularly the “King Bee” album with Jerry Portnoy on harp and the “Hard Again” Album with James Cotton. I didn’t listen to any other music; I was a purist, going deeper and deeper into the music. For a year I lost myself completely, practising for ten hours a day until my lips were bleeding. Before long I started playing harp as a sideman in my sister, Dani’s, band and later started singing myself and formed my own band.
Which blues artists have influenced you most? And how?
I have so many influences it would be too difficult to narrow it down to just one. On the harp I am inspired by all the greats; Big Walter, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Carey Bell, Junior Wells, James Cotton, the list goes on. I think my style is much more aggressive than my peers, but it is still rooted in Chicago blues. I also take inspiration from guitar players such as Buddy Guy, Albert King and Peter Green. As a vocalist I am primarily influenced by soul singers like Sam Cooke and Bobby Womack. Sam Cooke is my favourite singer of all time: I love his tone and the melodies he used. Earl Thomas has been a big influence on me too. I covered his song “Get Me Some” on my most recent album.
Your last album Raw Blues contains some great songs and individual playing both from yourself and your band. Tell me about the album and the musicians you had playing on it.
As the title suggests “Raw Blues” pays homage to the stripped down Chicago blues that first inspired me to play. It features Richard Newman on drums (Rory Gallagher, Steve Marriot), Stuart Dixon on guitar (Geno Washington, Marcus Malone) and Victoria Smith on Bass (Girls with Guitars, The Ramonas). The album has a bite to it; rushes of adrenalin and an intensity that other records in the genre don’t often have.
You have quite a few tour dates booked for this year, especially in October where you’ll be touring Europe. Excited? And what is it about Europe and the blues right now? They seem to love it!
The blues scene in Europe is incredibly vibrant and my band is always well received there. I’m excited about going back to Germany in particular as it has an enthusiastic blues crowd and some fantastic venues to play. I will be touring in Russia for the first time in August, which I’m looking forward to. I’m not sure why the blues scene seems to be bigger in Europe at the moment; I think a lot of UK venues were hit by the recession which is a real shame because I love playing in my home country.
With all the tour dates this year will you be returning to the studio to record another album once you’ve finished?
Yes. I am writing new material all the time.
What are your fondest musical memories?
On the last Blues Cruise I went on, I met one of my idols Earl Thomas. I told him that I had covered one of his songs and so he invited me on stage to sing it with him. I have a lot of great memories from that cruise including late night jams with Tasha Taylor and JP Soars. I was also lucky enough to share the stage with Michael Burks before his untimely death.