|FEATURE: Interview with Bex Marshall
It’s a Man’s, Man’s Man’s World. And then there’s Bex
British Blues Woman Bex Marshall headed to Home of the Blues
By Eric Schelkopf
Photos: Jennifer Noble
British female blues guitarist Bex Marshall continues to break down
barriers in a male-dominated guitar world.
An acclaimed blues and roots guitar phenom and compelling
singer/songwriter -- who has been favorably compared to Bonnie Raitt,
Derek Trucks, and Mark Knopfler
-- Marshall began playing guitar at age 11. Since then she has toured
all over the world, both as a solo artist and with a seven-piece band.
Chicago Blues Guide’s European reporting team, Glenn and Jennifer Noble
caught her last London gig before she comes across the pond for a tour
of the U.S. and Canada. Here’s what Glenn had to say about her show at
the intimate 12 Bar Club, a roots music venue where Marshall began her
professional career over a decade ago:
“Musically, she's a rootsy, front-porch finger picker and slide player
with a Janis Joplin-like edge to her voice. Her songwriting reflects a
deep love of blues, gospel and bluegrass which she spins up with her own
lyrically distinctive touches. The most recent album,
has been getting great reviews and will no doubt feature heavily in her
www.bexmarshall.co.uk, has earned
the distinction of being the first and only woman to be invited to
perform at the Cork's International Guitar Festival. She is about to
embark on a tour of North America, with a stop at SxSW in Austin, TX.
On the way, she will bring her acoustic steel-top resonator guitar for a
solo show on March 6 to
Uncommon Ground, 1401 W. Devon Ave., Chicago. The show starts at 8 p.m.,
and more information is at
CBG’s Eric Schelkopf had the pleasure of talking to Marshall about her
Great to talk to you. You're latest album, "The House of Mercy," has
received some good reviews. What were your goals for the album and do
you think you achieved them? What made you want to self produce the
My goal was first to make a great album in its entirety...showcasing
what I do of course, but while not being too precious about anything in
I wanted to make the songs the best they could be, Bex Marshall style,
and I think I achieved that. When I play the record it flows in my mind
and the music production police in my head are quiet.
I wanted to be able to send across the feel, the vibe, and have the
right sounds behind specific words or meanings. I wanted to play, create
and manipulate a musical body of work to MY imaginative specifications
and to be in control of the end result.
Many artists don't have that luxury (or wouldn't want it anyway), but I
fancied a crack at it and was lucky enough to have the chance and get it
right, for me.
Your last album, "Kitchen Table," hit the Top 20 on U.S. Americana
charts. Was that a surprise to you and did you feel any pressure in
following up the album?
Yeah I guess it was a surprise, but the record was a slow burner and
being an independent artist with my own record label, the timing around
the release was slightly ajar.
But it still ended up doing well anyway, so yes I was pleasantly
surprised. It was my first dip into releasing a record in America and
was just going with the flow.
I always believe if something is good enough it will find its own value
or place anyway, even if it takes 20 years. It's a bit like Ebay (ha
ha). Whatever it is, in the end, it will find its real value.
There is always a certain amount of pressure when recording a record,
even if you do it in a couple of hours live, you can never really
guarantee the outcome.
I do however, believe in going with your gut reactions and I did a lot
of that on this record. Luckily, I had the pleasure of professionals
working and contributing to the musical performance, engineering and
mixing and that makes a big difference, but I oversaw every note.
The background stress of keeping your eye on the clock and pulling
together the sounds and feeling that moment of 'YES,' now that's what
I'm talking about feeling!!!
With the new technology, it's easy to get carried away and forget what
you are trying to do sometimes, but on the other hand, you have a mighty
weapon that can indulge your imagination to the max. You just gotta know
when to reign it in sometimes!
I understand you started playing guitar when you were 11 and you were
first attracted to classical guitar, but eventually started playing
country and the blues. What attracted you to country music and the
Yes, when I look back at my early influences and what I naturally
gravitated towards, it always had a bluesy vein running through it. I
was lucky I had my Uncle Alex's record collection at my disposal and on
the agreement that I always wiped the record with the black velvet cloth
before and after and carefully lowered the arm on to the vinyl every
time; I had carte blanche to listen to it all.
He had all the classic blues/rock/Americana artists I still love today:
there was Eric Clapton, Eagles, Leonard Skynyrd, Howlin' Wolf, early
Tina Turner, Elkie Brooks, to The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and The
Who, it just went on.
What was it like busking on the streets? Did that experience help you
grow as a musician and a performer?
Busking is a great thing to do, it reminds you that it's a big bad world
out there, but you're here, believing in yourself and loving what you're
doing. And it gives you a huge sense of, "I'M DOING MY TRUE
MUSICAL CALLING AND ALL THESE COMMUTERS ARE NOT LIVING IN THE REAL
It's a great way to get your music heard though, and the great thing is
you hear so many feel good stories about buskers getting deals or gigs
from busking. In London, you have to have a license to play on the
streets or you get moved along, so you have to audition to get a
license, which is a great way to expose your sound.
When I was in Australia about 15 years ago and really broke, I bought a
balsa wood guitar, took it back to the youth hostel, drew aboriginal art
all around it, cut the sound hole a bit bigger, and went on the streets
alongside these masters of street entertainment, guys who could play
outstanding guitar picking while playing the didgeridoo at the same
I sat down and watched and thought to myself, "I gotta raise my game."
Busking is like paid rehearsal too, it's a great thing to do. Only a few
weeks ago, I saw a picture of Huey from the Fun Loving Criminals sitting
on Carnaby Street busking with a beanie hat on and wearing an old
As a female slide guitarist, you probably get your fair share of
comparisons to Bonnie Raitt. Are those comparisons flattering? Who are
your biggest musical inspirations?
Well yes, I do get compared to Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin quite a
bit, but other artists too. As long as they get what I'm trying to do
and get the songs and dig my record, I don't mind at all!!!
I always feel flattered, who wouldn't? But as the reviews keep coming,
they are gradually hearing me in there too!!
You have earned the distinction of being the first and only woman to be
invited to perform at the Cork's International Guitar Festival. Do you
consider that an honor and do you think you have broken down some
barriers in doing so?
Yes for sure. I'm doing it again this year; that festival is probably
the most fun you can have with your clothes on!
I love that part of Ireland, it's where my grandfather was born and when
I took my mother there a few years ago, we found one of our really old
relatives buried in the graveyard in Kinsale, not so far from there.
To me it’s so important to be in touch with your family tree and knowing
my family came from there, it's just the coolest thing I could think of;
the music that erupts from that part of the world on a daily basis is
like hot musical roots lava.
Do you feel that the guitar world is still dominated by men? If so, how
do you turn that around?
This is a man's world....This IS a MAN'S WORLD.....but it don't mean
nothin.....NOTHIN without a woman or a girl!!!
Eric Schelkopf has covered the arts and entertainment scene in Chicago
for over 25 years. Visit his informative blog at:
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