Girls With Guitars Interview

bc1Thomas Ruf was kind enough to arrange a few minutes before the recent Blues Caravan show for me to interview this years ‘Girls With Guitars’ stars.

So imagine if you will getting a few minutes alone with three pretty, young and talented ladies.  Yep, sometimes life isn’t so hard.   Join me now at the table with Heather Crosse, Sadie Johnson and Eliana Cargnelutti in a spotlessly clean dressing room for a coffee and a chat.

This isn’t the first ‘Girls with guitars’ Blues Caravan of course. Did any of you catch any of the previous shows under that name?

Sadie: No, I missed it just by a couple of months.

Eliana: I saw Dani Wilde in December but that was all.

So we will really be getting a fresh version of the show then, without any influences from whats gone before? Sadie, It certainly doesn’t get any fresher than you. You’re 18 and already there’s a video of you on YouTube being inducted into something mysteriously titled ‘The Brotherhood of the guitar’.

Sadie: (Laughs) That’s a group of young guitarists, usually guys, but some girls. It was Robert Knight who’s a top photographer as well as a friend of Slash, Clapton and all those guys. He asked me to be in this group and you get deals with guys like Fender and that so it’s kind of cool.

(note: The ‘Brotherhood’ is a brainchild of Robert M. Knight and supported by Fender in a search for what Knight describes as gifted guitarists with the ‘it’ factor.  Knight should know, in his long career he ‘hung out’ with a new group called Led Zeppelin and hosted a young Jimi Hendrix at his home in Hawaii)


A 'Lemon Face' moment for Sadie Johnson

A ‘Lemon Face’ moment for Sadie Johnson

There are a number of comments after the video regarding your facial expressions whilst playing, but I love this myself. It’s something Sam Fish does too and you know Sam I gather?

Sadie: Yes, we’re pretty good friends and she’s helped me out a lot. This is actually how I first heard of her – the first couple of videos I saw were I think from Blues Caravan shows. Then I saw we would be at the same blues festival – she playing and I watching – so we wrote the guy who put the festival on and he said like, wow, you play guitar too? How about you come and play? So I did along with Sam.

Is that how you came to be with RUF Records?

Sadie: I think so. You’d have to ask Tom about that, certainly they found me but I think Sam had something to do with it, yeah.

There’s usually a solo record out or in the pipeline for the acts on Blues Caravan. Do you have a record coming out?

Sadie:  Actually no, I’m only on board this Girls with Guitars thing for a year and then I’m going to college for four years. I won’t be able to tour for a while – at least the first two years. I’m going to start a music therapy programme at the college I’m going to so I’ll have quite a lot on my plate (sighs)

Music Therapy? Sounds like the topic for an entire interview in itself. I have to move on though as show time is getting nearer and I want to find out a bit about your colleagues.

Plainly the girls enjoy time with their guitars

Plainly the girls enjoy time with their guitars

Heather, you’re from Clarkesdale I believe? An interesting place…

Heather: Yes it is. Have you ever been there?

I’ve never been there, but it’s one of those places that turns up in many a Blues song.  So you started playing music there, surrounded by all the blues sub-culture?

Heather:  Not exactly. I’m originally from Louisiana and actually I moved to Clarkesdale to play blues. I visited there when I was 18 years old and just fell in love with the music. I’ve explored all kinds of music and that was the place that spoke the loudest to me. I started playing bass in Arkansas, sang in my childhood in Louisiana and played with an old Bluesman in Arkansas until he passed away.   I kept going over to Clarkesdale every year, met some of the people and I ended up moving there – which is where I’ve been since 2008 and met some fantastic people and musicians there.

I guess you also have your own band there…

Heather: I have my own band there yes. (Heavy Suga & The Sweet Tones)

And it’s all girl?

Heather: No, I’m the only girl! The Blues Caravan is one of my few ‘girl’ things!

Sadie, by comparison yours (The Sad Sam Blues Jam) is an all-girl band I believe?

Sadie: Not completely. I’m with my sister and a girl best friend. We do have a guy drummer though.

Heather: For me it’s been hard being female, and white, and the new girl in town and a Blues bass player. I feel I have to work extra hard to prove myself.

There are quite a few girls out there now though who have maybe made the path a little easier with regards to getting respect from the predominantly male fan base of Blues music. Ana Popovic for example, and I know Eliana that she is an inspiration of yours…

Eliana: I’m a huge fan of Ana. But I started out by playing piano at the age of 7. Then it was classic guitar at the age of 9 before moving on to acoustic guitar and by 12 maybe 13 I bought my first electric guitar and from then on I was a rocker – always playing hard rock and metal. Then I played a DVD one day of Stevie Ray Vaughan. So it’s Stevie Ray’s fault that I’m here tonight playing the Blues! (laughs). I also play Rock and funky stuff, but Blues is my first love – Ana, and Joe Bonamassa…

I have to break in here while you are on the subject of having undergone a Heavy Rock phase. There’s an interesting video accompanying one of your songs that involves a biker gang driving under bridges in a convoy and finishes with you pulling into the driveway on a bike yourself to meet them. I saw Phil Lynott do a similar thing many years ago on a video for the song ’19’.

(everyone laughs)

Eliana: That was a fun thing to do.

Sadie Johnson Jumping for joy

Sadie Johnson Jumping for joy

And after playing the CD to accompany the Blues Caravan tour I have to say it is leaning very heavily into hard rock territory with it’s heavy riffing and no shortage of powerchords. There’s a ZZTop cover in there – and some Joe Cocker and Joan Jett.

Eliana: It’s definitely Rock Blues. Sorry for that (smiles) it’s probably my fault.

I guess it’s where, to quote the RUF Records slogan “The Blues Crosses Over”?  But what do you all see as the purpose of this tour for yourselves? A learning ground?

Heather: For me certainly, I was only Blues before and I’m a soul blues artist and that’s what I played. Now I’ve learned to play Rock through Eliana’s songs so it’s a growth period. For me it’s also my first time in Europe so I hope to gain fans here in Europe hopefully for the rest of my life.

Eliana: The same for me.

Sadie: As Eliane says, it’s the same for her. She’s had to learn my songs.

Eliane: …and I’ve had to learn to speak and work with strangers.

Spotlight Kid - Eliana Cargnelutti

Spotlight Kid – Eliana Cargnelutti

You are surely the experienced one on the tour though Eliane? You have more recording experience than the others and you’ve worked with some great Italian Blues musicians. There is usually someone on the BC Tour that has that base for the others to go back to. Do you feel like that on the tour?

Eliane: (Laughs) No, no, no. I feel like the Italian one – with a lot of work to do. To learn to play Blues and not be the same Blues player as others. I want to not just play blues but also take my rock licks and just show who I am rather than try to be other things.

It’s something we all have in common. We all need to learn about playing on stages, different stages and different crowds…

Are you finding that different Countries have different crowds and expectations?

Heather: I love the German audiences. They appreciate live music.

Sadie: Yes, it’s very different. I think American audiences go out to shows as a social event, a gathering. A form of entertainment. They’re talking and laughing a lot and having a good time. Then you come over here and they’re much more focused on listening to the music. It sounds strange but it’s hard to get used to because you get used to thinking ‘well, there’s some people in the corner over there just doing their own thing’ and not all the pressures on the band whereas over here they’re watching you all the time very closely…!

What about the UK? You were over there recently and even did an early show in Skegness I believe?

Eliane: That was only our second show together ever. That was scary!

Sadie: It was certainly very strange. We flew out from Berlin to London that Morning to play this big Fsetival. There were well over a thousand people there easily. The front rows were really into it but, like, the rest were just watching.

Heather: We were amazed at the end though at just how many actually came up and bought CD’s and then wanted them autographed.



Heather Crosse – All smil

A good time to ask you if you’ve got any cd’s out with your band Heather?

Heather: Up until now I’ve only played bass on other peoples cd’s but I’m making my first solo album as soon as I get home in March so I will have my first ever Heather Crosse Band Cd out through RUF Records in a few months’ time.

Have you started recording yet? Will Jim Gaines be producing?

Heather: Not yet, but yes, Mr Jim will be the producer so I’m very excited, and honoured because Mr Jim is trying to retire and I love everything he’s done – he was so sweet to do ours. Nobody will let him retire. He’s booked though!

Sadie, you’ve already said you will have your time devoted to studying for a while. How about you Eliana? You already have a CD out with Thomas. Is another one planned soon?

Eliana: I don’t know. I have two cd’s out and I’m working on new songs but we didn’t set a date for any new recordings yet.

Finally ladies, what can we expect this evening – Girls, guitars and…

Eliana: A lot of fun, yes!

Sadie: We have fun playing together. There should be something for everyone – we are three individual artists but we work well together. So expect an awesome show. We’re gonna make everyone dance and scream!


And then the Tour continues here in Germany?

Heather: We end with a Valentines gig. I think that’s what we really need!

So a few love songs in the set?

Heather: A lot of our songs are about love – we’re three women!

And I’m sure the audience will love the songs and love the band too. Thank you for your time ladies and have a great time in Germany.

All: Thank you!

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