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  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

A Conversation With South African Travelling Blues Musician Kenny Hughes

Photo Credit: Roxanne van Oudtshoorn

South African travelling blues musician, Kenny Hughes, has released his single She Knows with a premiere on Blues & Roots Radio Worldwide.

She Knows is about the Earth and its grandiose four elements. Kenny shares that “Growing up, I was a big fan of the animated series ‘Avatar - The Last Airbender’ that addresses the power of the elements Water, Earth, Fire, and Air. The deeper meaning behind She Knows is that Mankind thinks we are superior to nature, but we are doomed to fail if we do not heed the warnings (secrets) of the Earth. The secret that …She knows!”

Producer and contributing artist Evert Snyman adds that “The unusual 3-phrase-verse makes She Knows great, because you keep thinking it's going to go into the chorus sooner, and when you think there's going to be a fourth phrase … the chorus hits! One of my favourite parts of the song is how the drums in the verses are like a constant drum roll, yet simplifies when it comes to the chorus, that in my opinion makes Kenny's voice stand out more in the chorus. Kenny and I also shared Bass duties that made the song sound even tighter.

We recorded She knows the day after Run Along. My drummer Tim came in after we recorded Run Along and ripped me off for the way that he can always tell it’s me on drums, so I guess I took that to heart and concentrated on making the drums different from how I usually play. All in all, the song came out great. As I've said before, Kenny has a great voice, and that boy knows how to make a guitar an extension of his body and always brings something new to the table with every song he brings into the studio.”

Check out the new single HERE

We asked Kenny about his path so far and his aspirations ...

What is your “backstory”?

I grew up in a house with parents that have great taste in music and was surrounded by the likes of Dire Straits, Eric Clapton, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Later I discovered the one and only Jimi Hendrix. So, my influences are some of the greatest guitarists in the world. I remember when I was 8, my dad and uncle were watching a live DVD of Dire Straits, and I was so moved by the music that I ran to my bedroom and got my little, yellow, toy guitar and started jamming along. Thinking back now, it must have sounded amazing … wink wink!

A year or so passed when I started on the drums and although I played for a few years, developing my rhythmic base, it was guitar that I really wanted to play. So, when I was around 12, I finally picked up an actual guitar for the first time. I had a band for a while, but it didn't really feel right. It was only once I went solo that I really started to fall in love with the idea of a full-time music career. And here we are. Does that mean I won't have a band again? Absolutely not. I'm currently hunting for my new band mates!

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your music career?

There's an amazing music festival in Mozambique called STRAB, that stands for Subterranean Rhythm and Blues. I was fortunate enough to be on the lineup and had the best nine days of my life. Everywhere I went, someone shouted my name. Pickup trucks (in South Africa we call them "Bakkies") of people would drive past me screaming "Kenny Hughes!" … it was just an unbelievable feeling. I couldn't even go to the restroom without someone wanting to shake my hand!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I am in the process of teaching myself how to record. As much as I enjoy recording my music with the epic Evert Snyman, we live around 12 hours from each other, making it a bit of a logistic nightmare when I have a spur of the moment idea for a song, or a lyric, or what have you. So, in teaching myself how to record (properly), I can get the raw product done on a whim and send it through to Evert for his mastering magic. Then you'll see the songs flow, I assure you!

What is your music scene like in your part of South Africa? Do you have to travel far in able to perform?

I live in a small town now, called Riversdale, situated in the Western Cape. As beautiful as it is here, which I'm grateful for, there are no venues for me to perform at. So, yes, travel is a big part of my life, with the closest venue being around an hour away from my house. However, the venues here are awesome (mostly). From Cape Town, to Mossel Bay, to Wilderness up to Plettenberg, I've met some of the most amazing people and played some of my most memorable shows to date.

Which people in history inspire you the most and why?

Christ first, seeing as how I try to be the best man I can and follow His example. Although, we all falter. Mark Knopfler, because he managed to stay humble, even after achieving incredible fame and fortune. Jimi Hendrix, for his otherworldly creativity. Pretty sure he was an alien LOL! Leonardo DaVinci, Jack of all trades, master of each one! I know, a bit all over the place, please forgive me.

What instruments do you play?

Well, of course I'm a guitarist and a vocalist, but I have a rudimentary understanding of the drums, piano and bass guitar. I would by no means, however, call myself a drummer, pianist, or bassist.

How have you used music to bring goodness to the world?

I could mention the charity gigs I've done, but one could always do more, and I haven't done nearly enough. I aspire to be a philanthropist and God willing, once I achieve a certain amount of success, I'll be able to help a lot of people. Up to this point though, I'd have to say I've inspired a handful of people at my shows. People who have come up to me after my show, saying I moved something within them and thanked me for it. I can express my gratitude to those individuals as that is an incredible driving force within me to keep going, especially when it gets difficult, or I've had a bad show. That one person thanking me for sharing my talents with them makes up for all the bad shows and small crowds.

We have been blessed with the opportunity to interview and be in touch with some great people in the music business. Is there a person in the world, you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

Guys like Philip Sayce, John Mayer, Mark Knopfler and Eric Clapton. As much as I'd love having a private conversation with any of these masters, what I'd really love is a breakfast with their managers! I believe they could open a few more doors for me!

Tobias Johan Coetsee Towerjas Design

Check out the new single HERE


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