Interview by Peter Coates
19 year old Blues sensation from the UK, Aaron Keylock, has just released his first album, ‘Cut Against The Grain’ (Jan 17, 2017)… I had a chat with him about the record, his background, and his music. He’s toured extensively with some quality blues and southern rock bands over the past 3 or 4 years, and has also played the Bloodstock and Download festivals, and the Ramblin’ Man Fair.
I had seen some of the PR over the past 12 months and was much impressed with the CD when I got a copy to review – so I wanted to find out what has brought a 19 year old to the point where you are being hailed as the new blues-rock sensation around the UK, and the pressures that might bring?
I don’t really feel any pressure… I started playing guitar when I was 8, and just developed naturally from listening to the music played at home, which was mainly 1970’s classic rock, and began to seek out other bands of similar genres, absorbing bits and pieces of what I was hearing.
I went to see live bands from about 10 or 11 years old, and the live experience got me hooked, so I started finding people to play with, heading to jam nights and pubs and clubs, and started playing live as much as I could –which was not always that easy as a 12 year old. From there we started booking our own shows, and the whole thing became something of an obsession.
Your father was a musician when he was younger – did this make it easier to follow the obsession?
Yeah, he played guitar in bands before I was born, so I guess he always had music around him at home when I was growing up, and then when I started to play, he was a huge support in driving us to gigs, and helping out when we hit any obstacles! So although he wasn’t a direct musical influence, his background certainly had an impact, and he was happy to support me in what I wanted to try and do.
A few of the articles I’ve read mention a number of very unfashionable rock bands you were listening to as a teenager – not the typical sounds of the mid 2000’s – bands like The Quireboys, The Dogs D’Amour and The Georgia Satellites for example?
Well I just wanted to hunt out as much music of different styles, and was more interested in what I liked, rather than in any particular bands or classification – and my own style has developed with no limitations of the genre – just wanting to come up with an honest and natural sound, with as much variation of influences as comes out in my playing.
My listen to your new album (‘Cut Against The Grain’ – January 2017) certainly got me thinking about a wide range of sounds, from classic blues rock of Rory Gallagher and Johnny Winter, with elements of the Black Keys, early Kings of Leon, Gary Moore, and Eric Clapton, as well as some poppier sounds – such as in ‘Spin The Bottle’
Well I like to think a whole lot of different influences will crop up to different people – with ‘Spin The Bottle’ I was thinking back to the Rolling Stones and “Exile on Main Street’, but there are certainly some more up to date sounds in there too.
You play live with Jordan Maycock on bass and Sonny Miller Greaves on drums – Who were the players on the album itself?
Well for a first album, which we recorded in LA, we did not have the resources to take the band out with me, so even though we had been playing the songs for a while, it was a massive thrill for me to play them all with a bunch of different musicians. Producer Fabrizio Grossi is a superb bassist, and he brought in some great players on drums and keyboards to give the songs a new feel.
Can you give us an idea of the guitars you use and what set ups you prefer?
That’s an easy one. I only have one set up – playing through a Marshall head, flat out, and choose a Les Paul first, with an Explorer that comes on tour. Gibson and Marshall as simple and old school as it gets!
You’ve been said to have had some help from Joe Bonamassa in the early days… how much help has he really been with your career?
Well I met him 3 or 4 times when he came to the UK on tour, and got introduced to him, and he was happy to give advice, and even lent me a few guitars from time to time, but where he really had an impact was to guide me towards a more professional management arrangement, and make me think in a more business-like way.
There is a solid appetite in the UK for the likes of Black Stone Cherry, The Cadillac 3, Blackberry Smoke, Whiskey Myers, St Paul & the Broken Bones, Tyler Bryant and others, as well as the blues of Gary Clarke Jr, Marcus King, Jared James Nichols and Joanne Shaw Taylor…..is southern blues rock’n’roll alive and well in the UK right now?
It’s certainly an exciting time for southern rock and blues here, and there is a huge appetite for all of these bands which has developed more so than seems to be the case in the USA. We have toured with several of these bands through the UK and the crowds just keep growing. I personally love TC3, Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown, and a band from Nashville called Simo, and their guitarist JD Simo, so keep an eye out for them.
With the album about to come out, what will 2017 bring for AK?
I’ve never experienced releasing an album so next week will be a new thing for me and I have no idea what to expect. I just want to get back out there and play live, and we are looking for more tours and festivals to play, and then prepare to start on a second album.
When are we going to see you down in Australia at BLUESFEST?
Well that would be an amazing thing to do – I have heard what a special event that is, so if I get the opportunity I would certainly want to make that happen if possible.
Thanks for your time Aaron…..good luck with the album release….and I have fingers crossed that I might get to take photos of you in the UK in February, which will be much easier than doing the interview!