The covid-affected Allman Family Revival tour in the States began your escape from lockdown.
Yeah. It was a multiple-artist package. I was only on stage for two numbers and then everyone came back out for a big jam as the finale, so it was a nice way to ease back into touring. All I did was show up with my guitar. Until then we had tried to book tour after tour hoping the virus would go away, but of course it just didn’t.
When you returned to live performances, what was the first gig back in front of a live audience?
I went back out in February with some warm-ups in Florida and then on to the Blues Cruise. After so long of being locked up, being on a boat full with five thousand people felt completely surreal.
Joe Bonamassa once said you were a “superstar in waiting”. How did you come to sign to his label Keeping The Blues Alive Records for last year’s The Blues Album?
It was due to covid. Joe and I are good friends, we talk once a week, and when I said I was considering making a blues covers album I asked him to produce it. Fortunately he said yes. And then Roy [Weisman, JB’s manager and business partner] offered to release it on KTBA, which was a no-brainer.
Joe’s achievements speak for themselves, but he seems to be the guy that a particular type of fan enjoys knocking.
They do. And I get some of that too. With me it’s mostly misogyny, but Joe gets bitterness. People see his guitar collection and… Well, y’know, he’s earned it. Also, Joe does a lot for others, things like his Blues In Schools project. His charity Keeping The Blues Alive did a lot during lockdown to help starving musicians. It’s the old green-eyed monster.
Nobody’s Fool reunites you with your early mentor Dave Stewart on a remake of the Eurythmics song Missionary Man. He’s been there with you right from the start, hasn’t he?
Yeah. Dave’s known me since I was fifteen, and although he’s not said so directly, I suspect he’s proud of the way my career has gone. It’s been a really great relationship.
The press release/biog describes Nobody’s Fool as “retro pop with a modern flair, without sacrificing its blues roots”. That’s pretty accurate.
The ‘retro’ part is certainly what I was going for, because when I wrote it I was listening to a lot of Fleetwood Mac and Joni Mitchell. But the biog also says it’s my most personal set of songs so far, which I don’t think is true.
Won’t Be Fooled Again and Just No Getting Over You sound like break-up songs, but you still managed to make them sound summery.
Thanks. I don’t think of this as a break-up album, but now that I’m approaching forty I surprise myself by how often I go back to the things I wrote about for White Sugar [her debut from 2009] when I was in my twenties. It’s not a new relationship, it’s just how I look back on those days and realise I have softened with time.
With early reviews of Nobody’s Fool, the consensus is that it adds further distance to the blues-rock of your past.
I don’t think I ever really was a blues-rock artist; even White Sugar had some soul and pop songs. But I’ll always be a blues guitarist at heart. For me it’s about being able to do all of those things.