THE DAUGHTER OF bluesman Chris Whitley and the great granddaughter of sculptor and artist Georges Minne, Trixie Whitley made her onstage debut with her father aged three. At 10, she was playing the drums, at 11 DJing festivals around Europe and at 20, she fronted producer Daniel Lanois’ Black Dub band. In 2013, she issued her first solo album, Fourth Corner. She has just completed Porta Bohemica, its terrific follow up.
Porta Bohemica is named after an old train line, isn’t it?
I had first encountered the name years ago. Given my own nomadic existence, it sparked something in my imagination. I thought that if I ever got lost in some desolate train station and saw that train, I would hop on it not knowing where it would take me. Making the record, that image resonated with me. Not geographically, but metaphorically, the process was just another journey where I had no idea where I would end up, the destination being the process.
Who produced the album?
I produced the majority of it, but four songs were produced by Gus Seyffert. I met Gus at the end of the process and he really helped me pull everything together. He is such a masterful musician and really understands song and engineering. He gave me a new perspective when I felt I’d lost it. I was excited that his drummer and good friend was Joey Waronker, who I’d worked with.
What turned you on to the blues?
I didn’t listen to a ton of blues growing up, but given that part of my family is from Houston, Texas, there was a lot of American roots and psychedelic music in our household, from Captain Beefheart and the Latin Playboys to Robert Pete Williams. I have always been fascinated with the sounds of north African desert blues as well, stuff like Ali Farka Touré, Tinariwen, Hassan Hakmoun etc.
You played with Daniel Lanois – fronting his band, Black Dub.
I was 20, wildly insecure and intimidated by the band. But Daniel, Daryl Johnson and Brian Blade were encouraging and helped me understand how much rhythm was in my DNA. They taught me the importance of studying and learning from the greats and staying true to your values in music.
You’ve also worked with Robert Plant and Marianne Faithfull.
Those were both wonderful and gratifying experiences. Extensions of things I’ve learnt from each musical encounter I’ve had.
Porta Bohemica is out now on Unday Records.