The future of the blues is in safe hands with Kenny Wayne Shepherd

Written by Bianca Davino on 15th June, 2018
The future of the blues is in safe hands with Kenny Wayne Shepherd

There’s something inherently raw, visceral and romantic about blues. Whether it’s the conjured up imagery of a well-worn and loved old red guitar it provokes or the bleeding heart emotion it stirs, there’s a clear reason it continues to hold a special place in the heart of music fans.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd is a modern blues icon, and according to the trailblazing riff maker, the future of the genre is in safe hands.

“Once every ten years or so, blues will have an upkick in interest. People will go back and rediscover what made them love it and new people will discover it, it’s an experience you can only have with such an enduring type of music like this.”

“Blues music has always had its core supporters all over the world. It’s had many surges in popularity over the last 100 years or so, but I think right now we’re experiencing another surge in the popularity of blues music. There’s a lot of interest in artists who are doing well in the genre. It’s an exciting time to be playing this type of music.”

“Once every ten years or so, blues will have an upkick in interest. People will go back and rediscover what made them love it and new people will discover it, it’s an experience you can only have with such an enduring type of music like this.”


Over his career spanning almost thirty years, Shepherd has shared the stage with legendary acts like Van Halen, Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Rolling Stones and released 8 albums, received 5 Grammy nods and set a new standard for emotive guitar playing. His resume reads like a whimsical dream had by every kid who spent hours a day practicing their six-string until their fingers bled.

“We’ve been doing this for 25 years. That 25 years of working and recording gives you a lot of opportunities for experience, to better yourself as a performer and musician.”

“Playing in my room as a child for hours and hours a day helped me get my start, but what really catapulted me towards developing my own style was playing in a live environment where you interact with people on a human level.”

It’s this human interaction that Shepherd believes drives the fascination with blues, saying that the genre’s current interest has been conjured as a result of the mundanities and mechanical nature of popular music. Shepherd’s latest album Lay It On Down, was released in 2017, receiving acclaim for its ability to hone in on the romantic nature of blues.

“It seems to be synonymous music reaching a point of being blurred where popular music reaches a point sounds the same and more manufactured. I think people get tired of that and seek something that’s real, and I think that people will inevitably find that in the blues.”


“I think it has a lot to do with the state of the world and what’s popular in music at the time, I mean I think it seems to be synonymous music reaching a point of being blurred where popular music reaches a point sounds the same and more manufactured. I think people get tired of that and seek something that’s real, and I think that people will inevitably find that in the blues.”

At the heart of that human element is the ability to engage with an audience – to feed off one another and transmit emotions through music. For Shepherd, the experience is so powerful, he cites it as the reason him and his band record albums.

“The live experience is where it’s at, we make records so we can go out and put on a good show and entertain. That’s why we’re so excited to come to Australia, it’s been several years since we’ve been there and we’re ready for people to experience this chapter of our live show.”

“Any time you’re on tour with someone like Van Halen or the Rolling Stones, it’s inspirational – it inspires you to do the very best you can.”


A Kenny Wayne Shepherd show isn’t your average high octane non-stop rock spectacle. Like the blues itself, his live show parallels the music’s emotional highs and lows – it sings and screams in bouts of triumph.

“It’s all about getting those ebbs and flows right – when to bring things way up, and when to slow things down dynamically, these are all different things you can pick up from artists when you’re watching them” says Shepherd about perfecting the art of a visceral live show.

“Any time you’re on tour with someone like Van Halen or the Rolling Stones, it’s inspirational – it inspires you to do the very best you can. The other thing is just watching them and the way they put on a show, to see what they do as great entertainers.”

Despite having mastered his instrument, Shepherd admits he is “always looking for ways to expand on my craft.” Shepherd cites the greats like BB King, Albert King, Albert Collins as his enduring inspirations, however, says there are a multitude of players currently who “trigger something in me to try something different”.

Although he’s never quite strayed from the blues, Shepherd understands how fickle audiences can be – but music itself will always be there as a security blanket.

“Everyone has their own thing they wanna do, music and art is subjective. You just never know what will resonate with people and what won’t.”


Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band Australian East Coast Tour 2018


With Special Guest Ash Grunwald

Thursday, October 4th

Enmore Theatre, Sydney, NSW

Friday, October 5th

Eatons Hill Hotel, Brisbane, QLD

Saturday, October 6th

Forum Theatre, Melbourne, VIC

Tickets on sale midday on Wednesday, May 23rd

For ticketing info, head to TEG LiveTicketek, or Ticketmaster

The article was originally published on Tone Deaf

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