Ringing in 2014with NOLA's Newest Artist-in-Residence: An Interview with Guitarist Eddie Roberts
New Orleans has long had a magnetic attraction to artists around the world and many, after enough tour stops in the city, eventually give in to the allure, decide to put down roots and give NOLA a proper shot as a local.
While Eddie Roberts (The New Mastersounds / Eddie Roberts' West Coast Sounds) is a brand new resident, the guitarist is certainly no stranger to the city, and the Welsh-born expat's decision to make the recent move from San Francisco shouldn't come as a huge surprise, considering New Orleans music's massive influence on his career as an artist, as well as his band's popularity on the Jazz Fest late-night circuit (first performing in 2007 and every year since).
Roberts was kind enough to grant NolaVie an interview over the holidays, amidst an exhausting travel schedule bringing him from the UK to NYC and, finally, to NOLA, where The New Mastersounds will ring in 2014 Tuesday night at The Joy Theater after sets by Gravity A and Roberts' West Coast Sounds. Read on to learn Eddie's reasons for moving to NOLA, his plans for 2014 (including playing Jam Cruise in early January), his favorite albums from this year and more.
Fans can pick up tickets and get details on the New Year's Eve festivities at the Joy Theater here.
NolaVie: You recently moved to New Orleans from San Francisco and it seems like you’re already getting into the swing of things at places like the Maple Leaf, where you held down a residency earlier this month. Tell me about what ultimately made the decision for you to come here and how the first few months have been, after putting down some roots in NOLA.
Eddie Roberts: I first visited and played [in] NOLA in 2007. A stand-out memory was when Donald Harrison said to me after our first set at Blue Nile, "Welcome Home." That's where it started, and [it] finally has become reality. There are many reasons why NOLA is such an amazing city to live in and why it's such a great fit for me -- all pretty obvious, really, I'm happy to say! Playing the Maple Leaf immediately after I arrived was a great welcome into the scene and a chance to play with a lot of new players. It's also really nice to see NOLA out of party season -- having only really been in town during Jazz Fest, Mardi Gras, Voodoo, etc.; it's nice to see how the city functions on a daily basis, and I love it.
NolaVie: New Orleans and your former digs (SF) have a lot of similarities as cultural, culinary and musical hotbeds; do you think there’s a definable connection between the two places? Spots like the Boom Boom Room would fit in down here on Frenchmen Street and places like Blue Nile seem like they would fit right into a neighborhood like The Mission.
Eddie Roberts: I think the phrase goes, "There's SF, NOLA and NYC. The rest is Cleveland"; I may have altered that slightly, but there's the definable connection. I like Denver and Chicago (sometimes), too. I've noticed, in the years I've been going to NOLA, that so many people from SF and NYC have strong connections with the city and such a love for the culture. I also see the investment and exodus from both cities -- something I hope will continue to have a positive effect rather than an over-gentrifying effect. I feel excited by the musicians that are talking about moving to New Orleans; it feels like there could be a new music movement happening.
NolaVie: What’s in store for fans making it out to ring in 2014 with New Mastersounds at the Joy Theater? Can we anticipate any special guests dropping in?
ER: I love New Year's Eve. Out of all the annual celebrations, it's my favorite, and there's nothing I enjoy more than MC'ing the New Year in. AND we have a Balloon Drop!
I'm very excited to be doing this in my new home town. It's the first time we've played NOLA on New Year's Eve, and I'm also very excited to have my fellow new resident, Nigel Hall, joining us. I've slightly shot myself in the foot and will be kicking off the night with my U.S. line up, West Coast Sounds, and, therefore, I will probably be playing for around 4 1/2 hours! The West Coast Sounds is comprised of Jermal Watson on drums and Joe Ashlar on B3, both from NOLA, along with Joe Cohen and Mike Olmos on horns, both of whom I'm flying in from San Francisco. Call me selfish, but I basically have ALL the musicians that I want to play with, in one place, for a really special NYE!
NolaVie: Have you had much of a chance to check out the Jam Cruise schedule? If so, any special jams you’ll be taking part in, or just watching as a fan that you’re looking forward to?
ER: I tend to take one thing at a time and haven't really looked at the JC schedule. However, I am aware that Thievery is on the boat, and I'm excited for their sets. All 4 NMS are playing in Jamaica for the Positive Legacy Everyone Orchestra, which is going to be a blast. I'm very excited about what Positive Legacy is achieving and I'm trying to get more and more involved. I'm also going to be the auctioneer for the PL auction, which includes a magnum of superb Napa wine (C.S Cellars), complete with NMS logo engraved on the bottle.
NolaVie: What young, lesser known guitarists are you excited about these days?
ER: Funnily enough, I'm not much of guitar fan. I rarely listen to guitar-led music, and generally, I favor tenor sax-led jazz. Coltrane, Clifford Jordan, Joe Henderson -- that's my thing.
NolaVie: List three albums from 2013 that have been in heavy rotation for you.
ER: I recently heard a DJ playing a track in a club in SF and ran up confused, wondering why I didn't know this track. It turned out to be a new track by Gregory Porter called "1960 What?". I treated myself to his new album (his first for Blue Note Records) for Christmas. I'm really loving this truly amazing artist. I also bought Ahmad Jamal's new album Saturday Morning, after hearing it regularly on both SF's and NOLA's jazz stations. I kept hearing different tracks from the album and saying to myself, "This MUST be Ahmad Jamal!", and sure enough, every time it was ... and all from the same new album. Over the last four months I discovered Minnie Riperton, and before you say 'just?!?!"' I mean, I really "discovered" her. I've always known her music and incredible sound, but I really delved deep into her music these last few months and read up on her life story, which is both sad and incredible. I really love her debut solo album, Come to My Garden.
NolaVie: Who’s in your New Orleans musician supergroup?
ER: You're going to find out my New Orleans supergroup in the next few months. Part of the reason to be there and play regular shows is to find the players I want to work with. It's not about name, it's about finding the right people who gel with you, share a vision with you and inspire each other. Watch this space!
NolaVie: Tell me about the agenda for New Mastersounds and Eddie Roberts’ West Coast Sounds in 2014. Any new recordings on the horizon? On that note, any other planned studio collaborations you can share with our readers next year?
ER: NMS recorded a new album in September in Denver and it's due for release late Feb (maybe a little later in U.S.). My plan is to develop a NOLA band and make a record toward the middle/end of the year. I just finished an album with the great Ike Stubblefield and am going to be going out on the road early next year with him. He's a great and inspiring man. And if Borahm Lee of Break Science/Pretty Lights ever slows down, we are definitely planning on making some music.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Check out the this associated playlist of artists mentioned in this interview below. Also, Mr. Roberts: Welcome to New Orleans!