Interview: Jimi Beavis
Alex Carrette | On 22, Nov 2013
Old fashioned blues is well and truly alive in the form of Brisbane singer/songwriter Jimi Beavis.
Jimi has recently finished recording his first full-length album entitledÂ Gentleman Giant.
The launch of that album will be at Black Bear Lodge on December 1.
After leaving his previous band in 2010, Jimi found another group of blues musicians to record with.
During his career, Jimi has played numerous prominent shows including the Queensland Festival of Blues, Brisbane Festival and Blues on Broadbeach.
Enjoying a morning coffee at his favourite West End cafe, I spoke to Jimi to ask him about the album and his life as a musician.
CD: When listening to some of your songs, I got a very strong 1950s vibe from them. Is this deliberate?
Jimi:Â It is actually.
It’s pretty much the music that most inspires the kind music that I play.
I listen to a lot of music from different eras but I guess roots music is something that inspires me most.
When I first got into blues, it was electric blues rather than acoustic, and people like Muddy Waters and Little Walter who were the pioneers of the blues in the 1950s inspired me to play I guess.
CD: When it comes to instrumentation and the actual songÂ writingÂ process, how do you create that vibe of the era?
Jimi:Â A lot of it is listening and finding out how they put together their songs and a lot of it is pretty basic 12-bar blues, and I’ve been trying to expand on that a little.
I think at least half the songs on the album are based on that 12-bar.
But I’ve also been trying to take those basic elements, the blues scale, the chords that are usually used, and try to find new or different forms to the people who inspired me, just to find something new out of it.
CD: Where do you get inspiration for writing your music?
Jimi:Â People often ask me if it’s based on personal stories, and some of them are.
But a lot of them are more or less based on observing.
I used to be a journalist myself a while ago and I got used to listening and watching other people, reading a lot, and then often it will start with something that is from my life but then I sort of take it and expand upon the idea and go in a different direction.
So it might have started as a song about something to do with my life and perhaps, in a way, I’m trying to explore different ways that I could deal with that, then I’ve gone in a completely different direction.
CD: Where did you record the new album?
Jimi: I recorded it in the downstairs of my old drummer’s place.
He’s always wanted to have a studio and he’s a carpenter so he built a studio himself with the help of our friend who’s my producer.
Steve Robin, my producer, he’s been around the fringes of the blues scene in Brisbane for a long time.
He’s also been very interested in the production from different eras.
He recorded my first EP a couple of years ago and at the time I said I wanted it to sound like Little Walter recordings.
The kind of recordings that [Little Walter] had were the same kind of line-up as I have.
So I said “that’s what I want it to sound like.”
He’s experimented with different ways of getting the old sound with new technology.
We recorded on ProTools and when we did the final mix he’s gone through tape, so it means we’ve got a little more control over the way we do it.
CD: These musicians who helped you in the studio and play live with you, where did you find them?
Jimi:Â It started off in the blues scene in Brisbane but most of the really good musicians are taken up with other bands.
I think gradually, when one person has left or when I’ve replaced someone, I’ve gone looking and often it’s been through the jazz scene.
Those guys then suggested people to replace when someone left the band.
I think at the moment my lineup is pretty much jazz trained musicians, but they can often play a variety of different styles.
CD: What sort of qualities does a musician possess in order to play blues well?
Jimi:Â I think that blues is a lot about feel.
Unfortunately a lot of Australian blues is blues rock which often seems to be about how many notes you can play.
The guitarists that Â I’ve used, they can play lots of notes but they also don’t need to.
They know how to play with feel.
In some way, playing less notes gives you more space.
Yet, the main thing I think, once you’ve rehearsed, once you’ve got a song, once you’ve got an act, is being able to improvise on stage.
We’ve done things that we haven’t rehearsed, on stage that worked just because we’ve played together and are able to improvise.
It’s almost something you have to have, otherwise Â it gets a bit boring.
CD: After this album’s been launched, what are your plans for the future?
Jimi:Â Next year I’m sort of taking it easy in terms of planning because the album’s taken up so much of my time.
But the band and I are opening for some touring acts, Igor Prado and Lynwood Slim.
That’s going to be amazing in February.
Depending on money, I’m planning on a vinyl release, a double A side of one of the songs from the album and a cover that we’ve done.
And then I’ve kind of left it a bit open for next year, partly because I wanted to have a bit of a break and see what happens.
What:Â Jimi Beavis, Gentleman Giant album launch.
Where:Â Black Bear Lodge, 322 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley.
When: Sunday, December 1. 7pm.
How much:Â $10 online + BF. $15 at the door.