Interview: ‘Ride With Me Thru Bluesville 4221′ With Groove Doctor Bob

Words/Interview by Terresa Marie Allen {Words & Music – Terresa Marie Allen}

Last week Gold Coast Blues artist Groove Doctor Bob took a little time out of his busy schedule to talk to Good Call Live’s Terresa Marie Allen about all things blues; origins, influences, lyrical inspirations and his recently released single Can’t Keep a Good Man Down–  off his upcoming second album ‘Ride With Me Thru Bluesville 4221’ due out September 7th.

First up thanks for taking the time to chat with us and congratulations on the release this month of your new single, Can’t Keep A Good Man Down. I believe it’s getting some great community radio play?  

“Thanks! Thank you very much and yes it was released on the 17th of August and has been doing well, I got a lovely text from CJ (CJ Nash – PR & Management – Bignote Productions) yesterday and its apparently number six on the regional chart with AMRAP (Australian Music Radio Airplay Project)  – a platform where you can put your songs up and radio stations can play them. So that was pretty nice, it doesn’t equate to me giving up my day job, but it’s not about that, it’s really about having some way of expressing yourself and having fun.”  

Number six, on the regional AMRAP chart that’s awesome, seems there’s a lot of blues lovers out there.

“Yes, I’m getting played out there in the regional areas, out in the boondocks, lol – they haven’t let me loose in the urban areas yet, but then the regional areas are probably the most fun part to be involved in, that’s were the real people are.

And yes, I think there probably always will be blues fans out there, because even if you a portray your songs in a different genre there’s so much blues already there – it’s the well spring of all our music. If it’s not the rhythm of some of the music its certainly the notes and a lot of the lyrics. Blues lyrics are pretty cool, some may think a little old fashion, but they are still pretty cool.”

Now Can’t Keep A Good Man Down is in fact the lead single from your upcoming second album ‘Ride With Me Thru Bluesville 4221′ due out September 7. Was it written, recorded and produced here on the Gold Coast?

“Yes, that right, it’s a little confusing at the minute because I’m mid-way through recording my fourth album and I have finished the third and the second is just being released, so there’s a little bit of a lag time getting the photoshoot sorted, and the art work done, getting it manufactured as a CD – not that many cars have CD players these days but still.

This one has about seven or eight originals, I’ve played all the guitars, a bit of key board, harmonica, male vocals. I didn’t quite do the female vocals, Jennifer Matthews of Bignote Productions did that and she sounds like a bloody soul, gospel church choir and Paul ‘Smudge’ Harris, sound engineer at Bignote Productions, he plays the bass and the drums, so I did the rest as it were – I wrote them.”

So there mostly originals written in a traditional blues fashion?

“Yes, that song, Can’t Keep A Good Man Down is. A lot of people don’t understand what the blues is about, the blues is actually not about being blue, it’s about life might try to make me feel blue, but I’m going to get up off the floor – cause we all have our bad patches in life, everybody has got some scar tissue, everybody’s got things they have to get through. So, the blues is actually about being resilient, about going out and having a good time.

I think people who don’t know the blues at all, they just don’t get it – they think oh why would you want to listen to the blues – it’s sad, but it’s not, it’s actually about making things happy. I think in that song I’ve got things like…. Miss Blues will pick me up and never allow me to give up the fight, pick me up again this morning, pick me up all day and all night….and goes on about…. My baby doesn’t want to see me but I’ve still got my guitar… you know that’s old blues lyrics, that my guitar will look after me, that my blues music will look after me.”

Well I can agree, nothing makes me feel as good as listening to the blues, that’s one of my favorite sayings. It’s exactly as you say, they are an expression hope, that you might be in a pinch, in a place or situation of lack or heartache, but there’ll be better times to come.     

“Yes, I’ve been a number of times over to Memphis, down the Mississippi and to Clarksdale and I’m very interested in the whole scene, not just the music but the civil right movement. I’ve always been really, really interested in the history of that and what I can get my head around most of the time and then at others just can’t get my head around it at all is just how they manufactured or spontaneously had happiness in the midst all of the misery they could have been feeling. It’s exactly as you just said, especially the history down there, it’s been so bad, so corrosive, yet their spirit is so resilient. They party – it’s somewhere between the church on Sunday and the devil’s music on Saturday night and they just kind of got it right. The blues has got a rhythm, the rhythm of life, well the rhythm of reproductive life anyway, it’s the old rhythm and the blues … I think it was Keith Richards who said “I like Rock’n’Roll, but I like the roll more than the rock.” And I think he meant the rhythm of the blues rather than just the straight eight of Rock’n’Roll.”

So those areas and interests have strongly influenced your music?

“Yes, it’s all there in my music those influences. Actually I watched Happy Days as a kid and they played Rock’n’Roll  – I heard Little Richard, Chuck Berry, then I joined a record club  – more Chuck Berry and then they sent out a pamphlet in the mail  – via snail mail and I saw all these Rock’n’Roll songs by a guy called Johnny and his brother Edgar Winter, so I bought that and it was bloody awesome. I tried to work out Johnny Winter rifts on cassette and on records, it was hard – you can’t hear the notes, you just can’t slow them down – lol. Then I saw that he was involved in a Muddy Waters record which was called Hard Again, so I bought that, so I’ve been steeped in the blues from when I was about twelve of thirteen and I’ve loved it ever since. I love the Memphis Soul stuff, Otis Redding, Janis Joplin, Dylan all that, plus if you throw in the fact, you’re an Aussie and you love Aussie Pub Rock, and garage bands that’s all there too- it’s a mixture of influences in there.”  

Can’t Keep A Good Man Down, when I first listened to it, I thought it may have been a little autobiographical, but I believe you had another inspiration for the song? 

“Yes, a mate of mine – Paul Tornambe, he was actually the President of the American Society of Retinal Surgeons and their conferences are awesome, they have the most amazing bands play the opening night. Over the years a few of us have got up and played (Groove Doctor Bob is an Ophthalmologist by day) and Paul saw that and sent around an email saying that he thought there was probably enough musical fire power among the society members to do the opening night ourselves – so a few of us did that in San Diego in 2014.

I was with him again in San Francisco in 2016 and he had a lung transplant only a couple of months after that – even as a doctor myself, I wouldn’t have predicted that he’d need that. It’s a bloody major thing, any way I wrote to him when I heard and it was about 6 weeks post the transplant and he replies and says “Yeah, I’m getting over it pretty well, I’ve just had my first game of golf.” I was amazed and just wrote back to him this one little thing “You can’t keep a good man down!” and he sent back a reply “Sounds like the next blues song you are going to write.” And I thought man I will write it, so it’s not really about Paul, but I probably wouldn’t have written it if not for that comment.

He’s was an awesome guy, he got maybe another 3 years out of his lung transplant and he died earlier this year. So, it’s not about his life, but he’s the reason the song is written. It could be a little about his personal life as he definitely spoke about having had his detractors when he brought up novel ideas but if you are doing things and coming up with something new, trying to shake the tree then there’s always going to be people that try to bring you down. But then it could apply to anyone really, we all have our travails, our problems, but you try not to let it get you down, and if you’re fortunate sometimes it works if pick yourself up by your bootstraps and sometimes you might need a bit or a lot of help to get there.”   

Very true, speaking of getting past the detractors have you had many as far as your music and day job go?

“No, not me, it must be harder for young kids now in this era, with the detractors there all the time in their face on social media and mobiles phones sometimes, but not me, not so far anyway. I don’t care anymore; I’m only doing it for myself, that’s one thing, I’m actually only doing it for my own enjoyment. I have enough knowledge of music and I know it’s very personal what you like and don’t like and what phases we go through, so someone may think something is uncool and that’s ok, but I don’t have any critics really. I’m not noteworthy enough for anyone to knock me down – lol. I just do it for fun.

We have a lot of fun in the studio, I record at Bignote Studios run by Jen Mathews and Paul Harris and we have a hell of a lot of fun there. Sometimes the funniest times are when I’m doing really serious lyrics and then even funnier times when I’m doing the frightfully serious lyrics. We enjoy it, I come out of there and we’ve had fun, so if someone else says something, it doesn’t really matter – I just love writing songs and turning up there and recording. You’re never going to be perceived as you want to be perceived. I think Tom Petty said something like “…one thing the world doesn’t need is one more song; there’s enough songs in the world, I just write them because I love writing songs.’ and that’s pretty true for me too.

Tell us a little about the film clip you’ve got to accompany the single.

“Well, there’s the significance of the 4221 in the album name, because that’s the postcode of where I live and where I’ve written all the songs – it’s my kind of music haven, or man cave maybe, but the video is shot out the front of where I live, on the beach there. Zak Esam of Temenos Production House did the video over two days, one afternoon and then he wanted to do another shoot the next morning and I was thinking nah, that won’t work looking straight into the sunrise, but he’s actually used the sun to our advantage, for lighting, silhouetting and a bit of dazzle, so he knew what he was doing and it fits with the story of the song.

There’s an electric guitar that features in the video too, decorated in Indigenous art work – that’s a Brisbane guitar made by Chris Kinman. He first lent it to me for a gig down at The Piggery  – Byron Bay, years ago and it was a beautiful guitar so I’d used it but couldn’t afford it at the time, then I made sure when I had some money that I went back and got it, so that’s in there too.”

Things are a little crazy at the moment but have you got any local gigs lined up or an album launch slotted in anywhere?  

“No, I haven’t got any actual gigs lined up as yet, we are still really working behind the scenes, you know like the old analogy about the duck and the little legs paddling away underneath. CJ and a few mates are getting ourselves together and starting to rehearse, so we can do some gigs with the originals, I’ve got about 30 – 40 together now and the old covers that everybody loves, so that’s what we are working away on. Although if you know of any great harmonica players that we could get into the studio, let me know – I’d love to have someone really good play on the record and then get ourselves out there and play.”

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With thanks to Bignote Productions

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