Billy Walton Interview

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I managed to catch up with Billy Walton after his gig at The 100 Club on Oxford Street for a quick chat. Here’s how it went.

AM How’s the tour been so far?

BW Fantastic. There’s been a lot of people coming out and supporting live music; it’s been fantastic.

AM How many times have you visited the UK so far?

BW I’ve been over here myself about 10 times but this is our 6th tour with the Billy Walton Band

AM And when will you be coming back again?

BW We’re coming back in May and we’ll try to come back as much as possible.

AM And is that doing the same kind of venues that you’re doing on this tour?

BW It’s a good mix; we’ve been working our way up the ladder.

AM Do you think that British crowds are pretty responsive to your material?

BW Very; they love their music. What’s cool about it is that they know what part of the country we’re from by the style of music we’re playing; it’s just amazing that they love the blues and rock that much, it’s a great thing.

AM For anyone who hasn’t seen or heard you, how would you describe the kind of stuff you play?

BW Well, it depends on the night, but basically we want to play and jam and do our solos but, more importantly, we want to have a good time. We want to make sure that everybody else has a smile on their face and they had a good time with rock ‘n’ roll because rock ‘n’ roll is fun.

AM Who would you say you’ve been influenced by musically?

BW That’s a good one. Musically, the list’s so long I don’t think we have enough memory on that thing.

AM How about some of the big influences?

BW OK, so we’ve got Johnny Winter, we’ve got Freddie King; I like Little Feat and of course my Jersey roots Southside (Johnny), Bruce and … there’s so many. That’s tough, that’s a good question.

AM It’s a bit like the impossible question “What’s your favourite song?” Do you mean, today, yesterday, 5 minutes ago?

BW The collection on my iPod is so wide that I can go from Louis Prima to Metallica; it’s not so much influence as what you like and it all influences you in the end, you know, if you hear it it’s always gonna be with you. Of course, Jimi Hendrix. How could I not say Jimi Hendrix; come on!

AM Great version of “Little Wing” tonight by the way.

BW Thank you.

AM How different is the discipline of working with your own band to playing with Southside Johnny?

BW That’s a good question too. With my own band, I have the responsibility of putting on a good show and making it happen, making sure everybody has a good time. With Southside it’s a little different; he’s legendary. He’s got these awesome songs, he’s got a fantastic band. He’s the best white soul singer I’ve heard in my life and on tour I got to hear him in my monitor right up close. He is by far the best soul singer I’ve ever worked with. You don’t know what you’re gonna get but it’s always a good time; guaranteed. And that’s a Jersey thing, I don’t think I’ve ever walked out of the Stone Pony without a smile on my face because it’s fun, everybody has fun there.

With Southside it was great, learning the parts and seeing how a master can work a crowd and change an audience the way he does. At the end of a show to see these people, their reactions, it’s a wonderful thing.

AM And finally, I heard a rumour that on New Year’s Eve at the Count Basie Theatre , the Billy Walton Band became the only support band ever to get a standing ovation there. What was that like?

BW That was fantastic. Everybody was there to have a good time, to bring in the New Year and we had a great time. It’s a wonderful organisation; the theatre’s fantastic, the people were there and it’s not just us. We were feeding off a crowd of people that were surrounding us and it was going to be a good night.

AM From the pictures I’ve seen on our website it looks like you had a little bit of help from some of The Jukes.

BW Yeah Joey (Stann, tenor sax) came out to jam with us. It was the same thing the other night, the gig before we left, at the Stone Pony with Jeff Kazee. Southside was backstage and we said “Wanna come up and jam with us?”, so he came and played harmonica with us.

AM It strikes me that they’re a very supportive group of people.

BW Yeah, it’s a great community and I’m lucky enough to be involved with it.

AM Thank s Billy.

BW Thank you.