Your Complete Guide to the Chicago Blues Scene

radio shows
record labels
Live Shows
Windy City Blues ad

FEATURE -- Interview with Joanne Shaw Taylor

"New face of the blues" Joanne Shaw Taylor coming to Chicago with Bart Walker as part of Ruf Records Blues Caravan tour

By Eric Schelkopf

Joanne Shaw Taylor

She has been called the "new face of the blues."

British blues musician Joanne Shaw Taylor, will perform June 13 at Hard Rock Cafe, 63 W. Ontario, Chicago, as part of the Ruf Records Blues Caravan 2013 featuring Taylor and Bart Walker. Jimmy Bowskill had to pull out of the tour because of family illness.

The show starts at 9 p.m., and tickets are available through 

I had the chance to talk to Taylor about her career and the current tour.

Q - Great to talk to you. You will be in Chicago as part of the Blues Caravan tour. What's it like being on a tour like this? Is it more fun to play with other musicians on a tour like this or to perform on your own?


It's a wonderful experience. I rarely get the opportunity to collaborate with other artists, so it's very refreshing for me. Bart is a wonderful talent and I think our styles work very well together.

Q - Last year, you played lead guitar for Annie Lennox at the Diamond Jubilee Concert for Queen Elizabeth II. How was that experience and do you view that as the highlight of your career to date?

It was an incredible experience and more than anything a wonderful highlight of my life more than career. How many people get to say they attended a historical event such as that let alone perform at it? Plus working with Annie was a dream come true.

Q - Considering that Lennox is best known for being a member of The Eurythmics and that her former bandmate, Dave Stewart, was the one who listened to your demo tape when you were 16, was playing with Lennox a case of life coming full circle? 


Yeah, I like to think so. It's funny in a way, because although my time working with Dave was an experience that certainly shaped my style, writing ability, etc., the label went bust before I could release an album. 

So 10 years later, once I'd established myself and had my career on track to have the opportunity to work with Annie and someone associated with Dave at a time in my career when it was hugely beneficial was a funny turn of events for sure.

Q - I understand that when Stewart first heard you, he said, "She made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end." How did you react when you heard that comment? Did you give you further proof that you were supposed to be a musician?

I think at the time I thought 'he's mad' :-) Personally speaking, I've always felt very blessed to have received such support from Dave and to have such a great deal of his respect, so at the time, I was probably shocked he thought of me so highly.

Q - Jim Gaines produced your first album, "White Sugar." Gaines has worked with a variety of musicians, including the late Stevie Ray Vaughan, who I understand is one of your inspirations. Did you feel an instant connection with him?


Yes, it was easy to work with Jim.  Dave Stewart had actually put me in touch with Jim when I was 17. We had a long phone conversation while I was at Dave's house about working together. 

Ten years later, I finally got the opportunity and we both remembered that chat 10 years earlier and thought it funny it took us so long to get around to making an album!

Q - You released your third album, "Almost Always Never," last year. What were your goals for the album and do you think you accomplished them?

I just wanted it to be a progression. I always want to do something a little different. It makes no sense to me to make the same album twice. 

I think the songs were a lot more diverse on this album and I was really pleased that I managed to achieve that and that it still sounded like a continuation of the previous two albums.

Q - You now live in Detroit, which like Chicago, has a strong musical history. What
made you want to move to Detroit and how has it impacted your music?


My first U.S. band was from Detroit, so it was an obvious base for me as we started touring over here more and it became apparent it would be beneficial to move to the U.S. 

I think it's widened my music tastes. Musically speaking, Detroit is a very diverse town. It obviously has got the Motown/rock history, but there's a strong country/rap/blues scene here too.

Q - What was the music scene like growing up in Birmingham, England? What made you want to pick up the guitar in the first place?

My dad and brother. I was surrounded by guitars from a young age. 

Much to my mother's dismay, the allure of my dad's Fender and Vox AC30 won me over more than the ballet shoes and Barbies.

Joanne Shaw Taylor

Q - Do you feel added pressure as a female guitarist to prove yourself in a field that is still dominated by men? Are there other female guitarists out there that you admire, blues or otherwise?


I think the main thing I'll never understand is people's need sometimes to compare me to other female players rather than male players who I'm more similar to just because we're the same sex and have completely different styles. 

Someone the other day was comparing me to Ani DiFranco. That's like comparing B.B. King to Steve Vai.

There are a few I know of, Laura Chavez (Candye Kane's guitarist) from the West Coast is a wonderful player and a good friend. Debbie Davies too.

Q - "Blues Matters" magazine called you the "new face of the blues." Do you consider yourself the new face of the blues? Do you see yourself helping the blues gain a bigger audience?


Ha, it was a lovely compliment but I'm not sure I'm in a position to confirm or deny myself the new face of the blues.

I think anyone out there playing blues or promoting their blues influences must be helping introduce new listeners and help maintain the genre. Hopefully, I'm doing that in some small way.

Eric Schelkopf has covered the arts and entertainment scene in Chicago for over 25 years. Visit his informative blog at:


Get the party started!
Grana Louise flip photo
Book a blues band & more with Cain's Music Connection
Liz Mandeville CD
Liz Mandeville's new CD Clarksdale features 11 originals with Willie 'Big Eyes' Smith, Eddie Shaw & Nick Moss. Buy now on cdbaby
Hambone Logo
Hambone's Blues Party on WDCB 90.9 FM
Momo Mama Blue Chicago
Blue Chicago
536 N. Clark
Chicago, IL


rambler.jpg lynnejordan.jpgLynne Jordan