The Sound Cafe
A Conversation With David Gogo
Photo Credit: Andrew Dodd
David Gogo is a veteran of the Canadian blues scene who resides outside Nanaimo, British Columbia. When a teenager, he met Stevie Ray Vaughan, who encouraged him to make the blues his career. He’s garnered a bushel full of awards, including six Juno nominations, and has been named Guitarist Of The Year three times at the Maple Blues Awards. He’s released his 16th full-length album "Silver Cup" which is an acoustic release, recorded at his home with Steve Marriner, producing and playing.
Ken Wallis interviewed David Gogo for the radio show, Blues Source Canada. The following are excerpts from that interview.
David Gogo has a new album out entitled Silver Cup and joining us to talk all about it is David Gogo.
I understand there's quite a story behind Silver Cup. Tell our readers all about it.
The title song; the actual cup is on the album cover in the photograph. When the pandemic first hit, I just started writing songs because I wanted to stay creative. It was a real kick in the gut to have all the live dates cancelled and everything, but what I do is play music, so I wanted to start writing, and then my 95-year-old grandma passed away last December, and my mom and her siblings decided that I should get this antique silver cup from the 1800s.
And when I held it, I just went wow. I’m from the west coast so I don't want to sound like I’m suffering from mystic fibrosis but there was an energy to this cup; like there was just something there. I started looking up the family history and I knew I've got Metis roots on my mother's side, so I looked up the cup. It came from a guy named James McKay spelt McCabe - the Scottish pronunciation. He was Scottish and Cree and French and he was a Metis builder in Western Canada, because he could speak English, French and several indigenous languages. He started as a fur trapper but then he ended up being an interpreter and he helped broker a lot of the original treaties that formed the province of Manitoba.
So, I found a bunch of information online about him and then even found a book written about his life, so he was so fascinating to me. I would have liked to write a song about him anyways despite the family connection, but there is a family connection, and then to have that cup was really inspiring. The song itself might be a little left turn for me stylistically but not enough in a way that it's like shocking or like what's he doing? Steve Mariner came out to produce the album; we wanted to make sure that we did our best job with it, and it goes over great live too. I've been actually getting to play some gigs, so yeah, it was fun and it's true.
What was it like working with Steve?
Him and I have been friends for a long time, and we've played together a little bit, and in fact before the pandemic we had planned to make a kind of a duo record like a Marriner-Gogo record, and he had booked a big tour for us. I think it was something like 23 shows in 28 days, and I was super excited. I thought I’m gonna have to start jazzercizing again just to get in shape for this tour. And then the pandemic hit and it all went up in smoke, but we managed to salvage the album.
The thing was Steve had his own solo record coming out, so he didn't want to make a duo record but the one thing he had done during the pandemic was he really worked on his skills as an engineer and learned how to record. He learned the recording techniques, which I don't know how to do at all. So not only do I have this guy who can play a lot of different instruments on my album, but he's also really getting his engineering chops happening, and I think the biggest thing was that we trust each other's opinions. If he wanted to kind of push me out of my comfort zone; I trust him and sometimes I’d say to him, I don't know about this one and he kind of trusts me too, so that was a big part of it. We had a great time; he flew out and we recorded the album at my house in two weeks. We worked really hard and I’m very pleased with the results.
How did you go about selecting which songs to put on the album?
Well, I had had some time because I was at home so I was writing and writing, and first I didn't know what I was writing for, even if it was for me, and then it took a little bit of time. I made demos of these recordings and I took a bit of time off; didn't listen to the songs came back, kind of chose the ones that I thought were good and then when we decided okay, we're going to make this record. We wanted it to be basically an acoustic album for a couple of reasons, as it was just kind of something new for me, not necessarily new, but I hadn't done one in a while, plus just practically the way things are going post-pandemic, and it's not post yet. We have to play to half capacity in some venues, some have closed, so you want to be able to tour where you don't have to take the whole band. It could just be me or me and one other person. In fact, Steve and I did 12 shows together in October, playing songs from his new album and my new album and it's always great to have new material to play for people. I had enough songs and I told him I think I need two more gooders, and I really want to do an instrumental as well and he said, well when I come out let's work on something like that. At the end of the day because he's always playing, whether it's a guitar, or harmonica, or a piano, and so we wrote the instrumental track 64 1/2 together out on my front porch.
Obviously Silver Cup has great meaning to you, and I know most musicians and composers love every song that they produce, but is there another song on the album that really speaks to you?
There's a few. I've gotten to the point in my life and career where the last few records have been what I call cringe-free, because when you said most artists like what they do, I sometimes go back and go, oh god I could have done a better job on that song, or what was I thinking? I kind of like the whole album, the song Top Shelf, which is another one that's a little bit of a left turn for me stylistically, was written about a guy I knew professionally known as Frank Kelly.
It was written under special circumstances too where he had had some serious heart trouble, and was in the hospital, and I got a message from his brother and a friend of his on Facebook who said Frank's in real tough shape. So, I sent him a little note saying I hope you get better buddy and then he passed away, like seriously, as I was sending the message. These guys got back to me and said Frank kept trying to say something and we finally got out of him. He said top shelf. Top shelf what does that mean? And he said when you have my party only drink from the top shelf, and when they told me that it was funny because Frank was a musician and I first met him out here on the West Coast when I was about 17 years old.
He eventually was living in Saskatoon and whenever I saw him, he'd come down to my show and we'd get together, and it'd be funny; he'd always have a really good bottle of scotch for me or for him, and even though I knew that he was driving a fruit truck or something at the time, it wasn't like he was rolling in dough. That really hit me - that top shelf, so I kind of came up with that sitting down by the river with an acoustic guitar.
It's a really great album and I think a lot of our listeners are going to hopefully go out and buy it. I got to ask you one question; is it true you live on a Christmas farm?
Well, I call it a Christmas tree farm; I don't have like a bunch of elves in Santa Claus outfits, but yeah I do. It's family property; we've been here since 1897. And in fact, I gotta get ready because people just show up. It’s a you-cut; we hand them a saw and they pick their own tree. I’ll be handing out saws and helping out on the farm just like Gordie Howe used to.
Where can our listeners get a hold of your album?
Well hopefully it's in stores, otherwise davidgogo.com is a great way to do it. The little record company I've been with forever at Cordova Bay, they're excellent at getting the orders and sending them out right away. We're also on all the all the streaming platforms; Spotify, Apple, you name it.
I always encourage our listeners to buy, don't stream. Give the musician some income.
So far so good with this album. A lot of people have been ordering it from my website, and I've been lucky enough to do a couple of shows, and I've been selling a lot of them. I always try to make myself available whether it's in between sets or after the show to come out and sign the cd or get a photo. I think that really helps; it's more of a souvenir that way.
I got nominated for three Maple Blues Awards, which is good, and I was a little surprised at first that the album wasn't up, but then I realized that the cut off date for submissions for Album Of The Year was September 30th, and this one came on October 8th, so hopefully we can still ride it into next year.
It's doing well right now; I just checked the Roots Music report and it's number one on the acoustic blues chart, and it shot from, I think, number 28 to number nine on the regular blues charts. So, as we say in the business, it's got legs.
David thank you so much for your time; it's been great chatting with you and again the album is Silver Cup.