Louisiana bluesman, KENNY WAYNE SHEPHERD credits his father for the musical influences in his life in a recent interview with Offbeat.com. Ken Shepherd was a disc jockey and promoter whose collection of blues records fascinated his son but Kenny attributes his obsession with playing the guitar when his father took him to see Stevie Ray Vaughan live. After seeing Vaughan, the 7-year-Shepherd decided there and then that he wanted to play guitar for a living. The article takes a more in depth look at Kenny’s career and influences, as well as finding out a bit more about his relationship with the legendary B.B. King. See below for some extracts from that interview below:
How does your songwriting process work?
I sat around for the past several years with my little iPhone. Any time I had an idea, I would record it. I accumulated over 300 different guitar riffs and rhythm parts. When it came time to start writing songs, I started working on lyrics, then went into my library of digital guitar parts and started choosing the ones that I thought would be appropriate for the songs. For the most part, it starts with the guitar, and that dictates the mood of the song. Then we start fashioning the melody. I pay a lot of attention to the production side of the record because I wrote the songs and I know what I want them to sound like.
There’s a whole lot of music on this record, 17 songs.
I figure the fans have had to wait a while for this record, so I wanted to give them a lot to listen to. I write 25 to 35 songs for every album, so we have some great songs that we still haven’t cut from this record. I try to mix up the tempos and textures; it’s like a book or a movie. I look at the album as a whole body of work. I think the listener should hear it from the first song to the last song, and there should be certain peaks and valleys. It should take you on certain emotional journeys, paint different pictures in your mind.
You also have had a number of exchanges with B.B. King. Any advice from him you can share?
He’s like a father to me. I’ve been playing blues since I was 15 years old and he’s taken me in, calls me son. He’s one of the finest examples of a human being. If there ever was a role model, I’d want to be like him when I grow up. He said a lot of inspirational things to me, gave me a lot of encouragement about my playing.
There’s a legendary story about you being discovered by Bryan Lee.
At the Old Absinthe House back when it was a real bar and not a daiquiri stand, I was down there with my dad and some of his friends. Me and my dad would drive down to New Orleans, sometimes on a weekly basis, to watch Bryan and his band play. On this particular evening, one of my dad’s friends went up and asked Bryan if he’d let me sit in. He agreed. He didn’t know who I was, but he said, “He can do two songs, then he’s got to get down because it’s my show and I’ve got to close the show.”
I did my two songs, and when it was time to get down he said, “You’re not going anywhere!” I ended up playing until two o’clock in the morning with him. I got my very first standing ovations. It was incredible. I’d never been on a stage before. It was a really good opportunity for me to see if I was cut out for doing this or not. It gave me the confidence to move forward. It was not very long after that that I found myself in the studio in Metairie with Art Neville doing my first demo, which we used to shop for a record deal. Then I put together my own band, and a year after that I signed that record deal.”
So you feel New Orleans influenced you musically.
Absolutely. Some of the biggest turning points in my career happened down there. Playing with Bryan Lee, coming down there regularly to play, playing Jazz Fest and watching all those people down there—I was absorbing everything whenever I was down there. When I was doing my first record, we came down there and stayed in an apartment on Jackson Square. I wrote a bunch of songs for my first album down there in Jackson Square. I’d just sit out there on the balcony and write songs.
Read the full article on Offbeat.com, HERE.
The KENNY WAYNE SHEPHERD Band will be doing a one-off show in London on the 7th of November and you can find out more details about that HERE. You can also pick up a copy of How I Go at THIS LOCATION.