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WALTER TROUT: ‘WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER’ INTERVIEW

WALTER TROUT: ‘WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER’ INTERVIEW

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The list of artists American blues guitarist Walter Trout has assembled to help him out on his new album We’re All In this Together is nothing short of stunning. It reads like a dream blues festival lineup: John Mayall, Joe Bonamassa, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Warren Haynes, Eric Gales, Sonny Landreth, Joe Louis Walker, Robben Ford, Edgar Winter, Randy Bachman, Charlie Musselwhite, Mike Zito, John Nemeth and Walter’s son Jon Trout.   It also shows the level of respect that Walter commands within the international blues community. After five decades of service to the blues, Trout truly came to the crossroads in 2014 when he was diagnosed with a disease which required the guitarist to undergo a life saving liver transplant. It took Trout a year to recover and in 2015 he returned to the studio to record a new album Battle Scars but during the recording Walter was tired, both emotionally and physically. Another year or so down the track and feeling as good as he’s ever felt, he wanted to celebrate the now and the future. Consequently he set about writing a bunch of new songs, each tune with a specific  musician friend in mind and on September 1st, he releases the collaborative effort, We’re All In this Together.

Australian Musician’s Greg Phillips caught up with Walter for a chat about the album while he was on the road, somewhere in middle America.

Walter, I believe you sat down and wrote a song for each guest on the album?
I did, I wrote a song for each guest except one, which was the track I did with Warren Haynes. The reason he and I did that cover, is that he invited me a couple of years ago to be a guest of his at the New Orleans Jazzfest. I went and played with Gov’t Mule. When i was there we were backstage and he said, you’re a blues guy, so let’s play a slow blues. How about we do The Sky Is Crying? We tore it up … it went over great. When I called him and asked if he wanted to be on this record, he said maybe we should record that song that we did and it seemed like a great idea. So that’s the one cover on the record and all the rest of them I wrote, a couple of them with other people. The song I did with my son, that was a collaboration between he and I. The song with Charlie Musselwhite was a collaboration between Charlie and me and a guy named Richard T Bear, a great keyboard player. My wife wrote the last verse of the title track with Bonamassa. And I can’t forget, Eric Corne, the co-producer was a collaborator on the instrumental that I did with Robben Ford.

_ARG2207_final credit Austin HargaveThe track that you wrote with your son is the most soulful track on the album. Was that  a particularly enjoyable track to record?
It was beautiful to go in the there with my son. We sat down at the kitchen table and wrote it together, worked on it with guitars in kitchen and worked out the lines that we play together, who would sing which verses. Then we went in and did it with a band. It’s a beautiful thing for me to get to experience playing music with my kids.

I imagine you had an idea in your head how this album might sound. Did any of the results surprise you?
One of the things with this album … most of the tracks were done by sending the track to somebody but they all sound like we are in the same room playing together.  If you put on the Warren Haynes cut or the Sonny Landreth cut on, it sounds like we are all playing together.  I think it came out great like that and I chalk that up to the level of musicianship of each of the players. They were able to take what I sent them and to fit right in and become part of it and get into the spirit of the song.

How many guitars did you use on the album?
I’m just a one guitar guy man. I just use my Strat. I played an acoustic on the Mike Zito track. Other than that, it is my Strat. When I play shows, it’s just my Strat. If I am going to play a song in an open tuning, I just tell the audience to give me a minute and I turn around and retune the guitar. That particular guitar I have had for ten years. It was made special for me. It weighs hardly anything. A guitar builder in Santiago named Scott Lance built the body for me, it’s very light. I just put a neck on it from one of my other Strats and then a good buddy of mine Seymour Duncan made the pickups for me.

After your liver transplant you obviously took a long time to recover but what about your playing. How was that affected?
Oh I had to re-learn. I had to start over. When I got out … I couldn’t play. I not only had to re-learn the guitar, I had to re-learn how to talk and re-learn how to walk because I had been in bed for 8 months and my legs didn’t work any more. When I got out I didn’t know how to play guitar. I had brain damage, so I had to get a lot of therapy for my speech. I basically started over with the guitar. I had to sit down and practice and practice. It took me about a year of really hard work to get it back. The first time I played in public was a year after the transplant. That was at Royal Albert Hall and I only did 2 songs, I didn’t try to do a whole set. That was in June and I did not do a full set until about a year and a half after the transplant. I literally had to sit down and start from scratch like a little kid.

Were there any particular artists or albums you were listening to during your recovery?
I took albums that I know are straight ahead blues, 3 chord albums and I would try to play along with them. The big ones were the first two albums by Taj Mahal. I loved those albums when I was a kid and the guitar player on those was Jesse Ed Davis who I had played with in his band in the 70s. It took me a while before I could try to play any kind of solo or lines. I had to start off learning chords and trying to learn barre chords.

You are doing a fairly extensive tour now. You must be feeling OK?
You know what man, I feel great. I feel so good. I am living proof and a testament to the miracle of organ donation. I feel like I am in the best years of my life right now. I feel like I am playing better than I ever have. I feel like I am enjoying life more than I ever have. I have lots of energy and feel young again. It’s unbelievable.

Why did you make We’re All In This Together the title track?
I think it is a message, particularly for the people in my country need to hear right now. Because this country is so divided and we are living in the midst of insanity with this tyrant who is running things. We’re all in it together. I think basically everybody wants the same thing but have different ways of trying to achieve it or something. The divide in this country I have never seen anything like it in my life. I find it really hard right now to believe that anybody in America could actually defend … I can’t even call him by his name …. that anyone could defend him let alone think he’s doing a wonderful job. The level of corruption right now in our government is unparalleled in the history of the United Sates. To just sit back and watch it happen, then have 35% of the population think this is wonderful … I’m trying not to judge those people. I want to reach out to them. I’m just babbling here but it is a message the people of my country need to hear and I think people all over the world need to hear. But the album is also  about gathering a group of friends because all of these players on here are my good friends. There’s not one person on there that I don’t know well and haven’t played with before. So it is also a gathering of friends and we were all in this together as far as making this album. It’s sort of a double entendre

You had to cancel your last Australian tour in 2015 because of your illness. Any chance we might see you back here in 2018?
I would love to come back there. When I was in Canned Heat and also in John Mayall’s band we played Australia all the time. I even tired to move there once with the drummer of Canned Heat back in the early 80s. He and I tried to move to Australia. but we were turned down. They didn’t want us because they figured that Canned Heat was a  criminal organisation. I don’t want to go into that. But the goal was that we would move there and hire some Australian musicians and we were going to base Canned Heat in Australia because we worked there so much and loved it. I’ve only been there once with my own band which was 22 years ago and man I would love to get back. I still have lots of friends there that I hear from. It was really difficult to cancel that tour but I had to cancel an entire year of work in one day because I knew I couldn’t do it but, yeah man I’d love to come back to Australia.

We’re All In This Together is out September 1st on Provogue. Pre order here

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