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Blues guitarist and singer Joanne Shaw Taylor has really made an impact in the world of blues since releasing her debut album White Sugar in 2009.

Despite working in a male dominated genre, Joanne has shown that she can hold her own and match the best of them by playing alongside the likes of Bernie Marsden and Joe Bonamassa. She has been voted Best British Female Vocalist at the British Blues Awards in 2010 and 2011 and has broken into the notoriously difficult to crack American market.

I caught up with Joanne on a rare day off before she heads out to the USA on tour.

joanne shaw taylor

PHOTOGROUPIE (PG) You're on tour in the UK later in the year, what preparations are you making?

JOANNE SHAW TAYLOR: (JST) I'm trying to get a little bit of down time in. I live in the States now and I haven't been home since March. So I'm going back to make sure my friends are still my friends and enjoy a bit of relaxation before the chaos ensues.

PG: What can we expect for the show? Any new material to be showcased?

JST: No, the set right now focusses on playing stuff from the latest album - and mixing it up with some of the older material from the previous three studio albums. So it's quite a mix of the back catalogue.

PG: You've worked with some of the biggest names in the blues genre, what was that like?

JST: I've been very lucky to work with lots of wonderful musicians and a lot of my idols. It's always a great experience when you get to work with other musicians that inspire you. It's a nice pat on the back but it can also be a little bit scary. Bernie (Marsden) is such a nice guy and as someone who is still learning the craft it's such a valuable experience to work with somebody like him who has so much experience and who is so talented.

PG: Do you notice any difference in style between how the blues is played in the UK and America?

joanne shaw taylor

JST: I think so. Of course it does differ from artist to artist, but I find the British guys tend to be on the classic rock edge, Bernie is again a good reference of that. In America they seem to be more traditionalist than we are. Maybe that's to do with the big British blues boom in the 60s, we like to mix out blues and our rock.

PG: We do enjoy trading those ideas with the Americans, they give it to us, we rework it and give it back to them.

JST: Yeah it's a giant game of pass the parcel!

PG: It is great though because every time there is a slightly different feel to it and the artists add their own stamp on it.

JST: I think it's nice to have things evolve, which they have to in order to attract new fans and keep things fresh.

PG: You were discovered by Dave Stewart, do you still keep in contact with him?

JST: Dave's been hugely supportive of me. He was the first person to encourage me to write songs and sing as well and saw there might be an artist in me. We still keep in touch, but we are both really busy. But I did get an email from him saying that he and his wife were watching a video of me on You Tube and were both proud. That was really nice!

PG: You've gone to achieved so much in a fairly short space of time, how did you achieve that?

JST: I've been doing it professionally since I left school at 16, and I always joke that I'm a 14 year overnight success.

PG: They do say overnight success takes 20 years!

JST: Yeah exactly. It's been a slow journey. There's been good and bad and highs and lows but it's really nice to be where I'm at right now. I get to play guitar for a living and do something I love to do, you can't ask for more than that.

PG: Who else would you like to collaborate with?

JST: It's a tough one really. I've always said that I want to work with Prince. What would be really fun is to work with somebody who was a totally different genre to me just to get some fresh inspiration.

PG: You've said that you started playing guitar at 13 to get away from mainstream pop. It's quite unusual to break away from that influence so young, what were you hoping to find musically?

JST: I knew I wanted to be a guitar player and growing up in the 90s in England there wasn't a great deal of guitar music on the radio, there was a lot of Take That and Peter Andre! I went in search of people who would inspire me and who I could learn to play guitar from. I guess that's how I ended up on classic rock and blues.

PG: What particularly drew you to the guitar?

JST: Well my dad and my older brother played and they were always in the house. For as long as I can remember someone was playing guitar. I think it was that child naivety, you just don't know any better, I just assumed it was something I could do so I gravitated towards it.

PG: You never planned on being a singer, how did you take that step forward - was it to enhance your music?

JST: I didn't think I could be a singer, nobody in my family sings. So I was hoping that I could develop that as an artist. I was inspired by those old blues guys, they all sung so they could front the band. It was something that I wanted to do, but it took a lot more encouragement and hard work.

PG: How do you approach your work in the studio? Do you pre-plan your solos or are you spontaneous?

JST: I do tend to be pretty spontaneous. I'll go in with a rough idea, but to be honest we do things quite spontaneously in terms of the song-writing as well. I like the environment of creating it in the studio.

PG: You've managed to incorporate rock and blues in your style successfully. How did that develop?

JST: I think it just involved from just listening to lots of different styles of music. Having studied a lot of classic rock guitar and blues and listening to it as a music fan subconsciously it all seeps in.

PG: You've managed to break into the American market too, how have they responded?

JST: Really well. There's a real strong fan base over there for blues/blues rock. I keep getting constantly asked if I'm related to Joss Stone!

PG: When I've listened to your work I'd say there's a bit of Tina Turner in there.

JST: Thank you! I'm actually a big fan of Tina Turner. I guess that's good proof that everything you listen to seeps in.

PG: You're one of the few girls playing rock/blues guitar at the moment. Why do you think there have been so few that are drawn to the genre?

JST: I've started to see more girls in the audience in the last couple of years which is good. When I first started playing guitar I was the only one I knew of, I'm sure there were others out there. We are staring to come through a bit more. I think guitar and drums have always been quite male dominated instruments, but I think that's starting to change a little bit because girls are starting to see that their peers and people like me are doing it and it's an instrument they can consider and maybe they hadn't before. It's a personal thing for me particularly as I have a niece. I'd like to think that when she grows up she thinks there's no reason why girls shouldn't be taking it up. It's nice to see more girls out there doing it, I love to see that.

joanne shaw taylor

PG: I've noticed that you play a lot of finger picking which is quite country influenced and a bit unusual to see.

JST: Well I'm a big country fan! I started playing classical guitar when I was 8 at school so I was always using finger picking then. It's going back to those influences and things coming through.

PG: Do you ever play and slide like Bonnie Raitt?

JST: Oh I love Bonnie! She's fantastic all-round singer song-writing and awesome chick! I don't play slide, but I'm just staring to learn. Which is difficult because it's such a different animal to standard electric guitar. I'm starting to get into it, but it might be a few years before I'm brave enough for you see me play it live.

PG: I've noticed that some of your music has a bit of a jazz feel in places. Is that something you persue? JST: Not too much, a little bit. I'm a big jazz fan particularly of female singers like Billie Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald. I wouldn't be brave enough to say I was a great jazz guitar player, but I may have stolen a lick or too. PG: Do you have any blues favourites?

JST: It varies. I tend to listen to one artist all week religiously so I mix it up. But I love Muddy Walters, Howling Wolf they are still up there for me. If you love the blues you can't go too wrong with them. I find that if I listen to guitar playing I end up not enjoying it because I study it so much. It's nice for me to put on a record by Howlin Wolf and just float away to that really cool sound he has. PG: Which of your guitars to you prefer using, your Telecaster or Les Paul?

JST: I love them both. They are very different, so I kind of need both. You can make a Tele sound like a Les Paul, but you can't make a Les Paul sound like a Tele.

PG: You are spending so much time on the road now touring. Have you had a chance to think about what comes next?

JST: We've got plans to go into the studio at the beginning of next year and get an album out at the end of the year. I think I have Christmas off and that's about it! But when you love what you do you can't go wrong. It's not like work, I can't complain. I'm not an office job kind of girl, that was never going to work out for me. I'm Bit too eccentric after years on the road to have 9-5 Job!

Catch Joanne on tour this autumn around the UK

2EXETER, PHOENIX Tuesday 22nd September 2015

ST IVES, GUILDHALL Wednesday 23rd September 2015

WARWICK, ARTS CENTRE Saturday 26th September 2015

YORK, FIBBERS Monday 28th September 2015

GLASGOW, ORAN-MOR Tuesday 29th September 2015

LIVERPOOL, EPSTEIN THEATRE Thursday 1st October 2015

SALE, WATERSIDE ARTS CENTRE Friday 2nd October 2015

KENDAL, BREWERY ARTS Saturday 3rd October 2015

CLITHEROE, GRAND Sunday 4th October 2015

DURHAM, GALA Wednesday 7th October 2015

LINCOLN, DRILL HALL Thursday 8th October 2015

SHORHAM, ROPETACKLE Saturday 10th October 2015

SOLD OUT BROMSGROVE, ARTRIX Monday 12th October 2015

BROMSGROVE, ARTRIX Tuesday 13th October 2015

GLOUCESTER, GUILDHALL Wednesday 14th October2015

FROME, CHEESE AND GRAIN Thursday 15th October 2015

MILTON KEYNES, STABLES Monday 19th October 2015

NORWICH, WATERFRONT Tuesday 20th October 2015

HERTFORD, CORN EXCHANGE Thursday 22nd October 2015

NEWBURY, ARLINGTON ARTS Friday 23rd October 2015

SOUTHAMPTON, TALKING HEADS Saturday 24th October 2015

SOLD OUTLONDON, JAZZ CAFÉ Monday 26th October 2015

LONDON, JAZZ CAFÉ Tuesday 27th October 2015

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