Blues How I Wanna Blues29-year-old guitarist Jamell Richardson has been playing the guitar for all but two years of his life. The Mississippi-born, Alabama-raised musician (and one-time actor in a major film) brings his blues to Proud Larry͛s in Oxford this month in support of his new debut album.
BY ANDY BELT
How long have you been playing guitar and how did you get into it?
JR: I’ve been playing guitar since I was two years old. I come from a church background, and my grandmother was a pastor at the time- she bought me one.
Who were some of your influences growing up?
JR: We didn’t have the Internet or social media going on then. Gospel music was pretty much my biggest influence. I think every guitar player goes through a Hendrix phase. I had mine when I was around 12 or 13.
What was it like putting “Blues How I Wanna Blues” together?
JR: That’s my first album. The first one I did ever was an EP called “Gulf Coast Blues Boy,” which came in 2014. I first started that year, too. I put that out to see what direction I wanted to go in at the time. I experienced different things after that- the shows, what the people wanted to hear. I said, ‘I’m going to do it how I want to do it,’ got all the ingredients I needed and put (the new album) together.
Where did you get the name for your new album?
JR: Around the world, people have their different takes on what the blues is supposed to sound like. I tell people all the time, ‘I’m 29 years old, I can’t relate to the blues that was performed in the ‘30s and ‘40s.’ I can play it, but in order for the music to truly live on, it has to evolve. It has to translate to a younger audience. That’s how I came about it. What everyone else thinks it’s supposed to sound like, this is how I’m going to do it.
You started touring in 2014. Have you been enjoying the touring life so far and have you ever come through Oxford before?
JR: I love it. The thing I love most about it is that I’m independent. I’m doing it on my own. Nobody has control over what I can say and do. This will be my first time in Oxford.
You were born in Meridian, Mississippi, but raised in Alabama. How do you think Alabama influenced you as a guitar player?
JR: I’m a proud Alabamian, it’s my home state. I grew up in a small town in Alabama, called Yantley. I’m really a country boy. I had those traditional gospel and soul music influences. (Yantley) is only about 25 to 30 miles from Meridian, so it’s really almost the same as Mississippi, to be honest about it.
How did you land a part in the James Brown biopic “Get On Up”?
JR: At that time, I was touring with a blues artist named Mel Weathers who recently passed about two years ago. His saxophone player and I rode together to San Antonio, Texas to do show and he had to be back in Natchez for a final callback for the movie. I wasn’t even auditioning for the movie. I was with him at the audition and the supervisor looked at me because I resembled one of James Brown’s musicians. They asked me, ‘what do you play?’ I told them the guitar and (the supervisor) looked at my friend who told him I could play. So they gave me an audition and that’s how I got the part. I had no acting experience before that. It was just the good Lord. Doors open up for you, just like that.
Did you like being on set and is it something you’d want to do again?
JR: Yes. Honestly, making that movie made me want to make the transition to being a solo artist. Sometimes you just need that little push. And sometimes you have to wait to know you need to make that move also. Being on the set and the treatment they give you- that whole experience is not something you can get by working for someone else.