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A Conversation With Victor Wainwright


By Ken Wallis.


Stick a pin in the post-millennium roots scene and you’ll find Victor Wainwright at the heart of the action, breaking the rules. Since perking up ears with his 2005 release, Piana’ From Savannah, the now Memphis based Georgia native has been a vital force in the American roots scene, lost count of his industry awards, and elbowed aside the pop pretenders to scale the dizzying heights of the Billboard Top 10. He’s an ageless, genre-defying presence, busting at the seams with original music that darts between Americana, Jam, Soul, Funk, Blues, Jazz and even Psychedelia.


Ken Wallis caught up with the Grammy nominated artist to chat about his latest release

'Memphis Loud'


Ken Wallis


Thanks for chatting with us Victor

Victor Wainwright


Thank you so very much for having me, and I appreciate it.

Ken Wallis


Well, it's a great album and your previous album was nominated for a Grammy Award. Is this album Memphis Loud a natural progression from your previous album?

Victor Wainwright


It really is, man. You know, I have a record deal with Ruf Records. And it's a three part record deal. And I really wanted to approach this from the very beginning as a sort of trilogy. I know it was a lot to undertake. But these albums are really meant to be one chapter into the next with a slight alteration in our approach, a slight different angle, a different perspective musically, always sort of getting a little more curious with the next album. It's a fun album for me

Ken Wallis


it's a great wall of sound, but at times, it almost sounds like it's a live performance because I've seen you on stage several times, and you're having so much fun, and you can tell you feed off the audience. Was this record intended to be that way? Or did it just naturally evolve?

Victor Wainwright


Oh, yeah, well, no, no. When I go to produce these records, along with my friend Dave, like, we really want to capture our live energy because to us, that's when we're having the most fun. And as you can capture that sound where we're communicating as musicians and our band are communicating back and forth and having that fun playing together, that really interprets a lot better on an album. You can really hear the misery on a record that isn't done that way when you could capture it live and that's the way roots music is meant to be performed and recorded in my opinion. That's really the cat's meow, My dad would say,

Ken Wallis

How did you go about creating the songs?

Victor Wainwright

I started writing them on, just like, memos, on voice memos, on my phone, I've always written like that. So I'll come up with a melody first and I'll hum it into my phone oftentimes just sort of making up weird vowels. And it doesn't even have to be words. But just melodies and then I sit at the piano and I start. Words will start to come to me. And then once I get it to a certain place, I'll share that with my band, my guys. And they start coming up with arrangements for their own parts and getting excited about it. And sharing would be their ideas, and we just go from there.



Ken Wallis


I've been very fortunate to see you live four times. The first time I saw you was in Mont Tremblant, Quebec, a couple of years ago, then I saw you in Thorold, Ontario, and one winter down in Panama City Beach where we've been able to see you twice at the Mardi Gras down there. You seem to have so much fun on stage. How do you get your energy to do what you do?

Victor Wainwright


Well, man, I really want to get that from the crowd that I play for. So it's a back and forth. You know, I feel like you get out of this job, what you put into it. So if I come on stage and I'm feeling and I'm giving all of that and finding that to give, then that's what I will get back, and that's the end. And then I need to get to the next show and to keep doing what I'm doing.

Ken Wallis

And you've won what I would call a boatload of music awards. You're up for another one. And it's the contemporary blues Album of the Year with blues blast magazine. How can our listeners go about voting for you?

Victor Wainwright


Well, with blues blast, I don't think there's any costs. And I'm pretty sure it's the same way with living blues. I'm up for some living blues awards this year. And I think all you do is go register your email and then you're able to vote so it's voting from our fans and our friends and loved ones and our peers. A real easy system. So you know, I really appreciate everyone's consideration when they're going out there that want to click my name, then great man, really makes me happy and I really appreciate it

Ken Wallis


The way you're going you're gonna have to put another extension on your house just to keep all these awards.

Victor Wainwright


Well, you know, the awards themselves, that's really cool, man, just the fans letting us know that they appreciate what we're doing. That's kind of the directions that we're heading. You know, I really rely on that feedback and the awards are one way for me to know like, hey, our fans are really enjoying the direction that we're heading and we should continue doing that.

Ken Wallis


And obviously, Memphis has a big meaning for you. How did that come about?

Victor Wainwright


So I came to Memphis as an air traffic controller. I moved here to be an air traffic controller. I got a degree in Daytona Beach, Florida. I was born and raised in Savannah, Georgia, but I went to school in Daytona Beach because that was an aeronautical college and there was only a few places you can go to get an an air traffic management degree, and I was interested in air traffic. My family being a family of musicians, they actually knew how hard it was to make a living playing music. So they wanted me to have something else to fall back on or do something else to give me an opportunity, for example. So I definitely took them up on that and went to school in Daytona Beach and after I went to school for six years to get my four year degree. They sent me to Oklahoma City where I got some more training and some more schooling, I went off to Memphis when it was either Memphis or Minnesota. I decided Memphis was it for me.

Ken Wallis

Your band consists of so many great musicians. Where did the term the train come from?

Victor Wainwright


So on the first album that I had a hand in producing was our last album. And it was also one of the first albums that I actually wrote the majority of the material, I have been working with my partner and writing partner producer Steven Dees, up to that point with the band called The Wild Roots. When I took the turn and wanted to do my own thing and take it in a slightly different direction, we thought it was best to give it its own name, so that we could differentiate between the two projects and the Train for me came from the sound and the energy that I feel being backed by that band. I feel like I am being ushered along. Very assuredly and very solidly and sometimes with flying sparks and flames and screeching tracks. I mean, it's all holding on to your wig as hard as you can and, and screeching in, you know, ( laughing ) and it's a roller coaster. Man, but you know, the train is how I feel. And that's the band that I'm fortunate enough to front.



Ken Wallis


And the first time I ever saw you perform live, you knocked me on my butt when you played Thank You Lucille, Patrick Harrington just nailed it on guitar. Was BB King a big influence on your life.?

Victor Wainwright


Yeah, he was. You know, like so many, BB King really ushered me into a really warm invite into the world of blues. I wasn't raised, you know, listening to Jimmy Reed or Muddy Waters. I was raised listening to the music that my dad and grandfather were raised and listened to. Hank Williams and Ray Price an' all the old country Honky Tonk guys, and a little bit, gradually, they were picking up stuff, obviously playing some honkey tonk. They picked up some blues stuff and they had some of their favourites, but it wasn't until my dad took me to a BB King concert that a light switch really clicked for me, and I saw something in the way that blues musicians entertained and particularly BB King. He was one of a kind, of course. But the way that he particularly entertained, I became immensely interested in, and the concept of entertainment sort of got turned on for me, which is further than diving into, let's say my instrument on the piano or just singing something else, something bigger and something I wanted to learn more about, BB King was my introduction to that, and the way that he is so warm on stage and so inviting and his heart is always out there. Those are features and things that I wanted to carry forward that I saw that I could relate to, and that I wanted to learn a lesson from. So I studied and followed BB King for quite some time. It became immensely important for my career.

Ken Wallis


I actually got to meet him once and I still have his guitar pick.

Victor Wainwright


Alright, on man. What a great man

Ken Wallis


Again, the album is Memphis Loud and where can folks get a hold of the release.?

Victor Wainwright


Well if they want one signed, right now's a great time to order it off our website, just www.victorwainwright.com I'll be happy to sign it personally, and send it out to you, but you can also get it at all the major retailers or online stores like Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart and also on available for streaming on Spotify, Napster, iTunes, Amazon, all the popular places.

Ken Wallis


Victor I thank you so much for your time. Just a fantastic CD. And I hope to catch you again soon. I don't know with this virus thing, getting across the border from Canada and the US isn't easy, but well, hopefully we'll see.

Victor Wainwright


It's gonna let up man. I have no doubt that if BB were here, he would say to keep our chins up and to stay positive and, and to trust that we'll find a way to share music again. I know that's what's gonna happen Ken, and I'll be up there with you in Canada again soon brother.



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