Coming from some strong musical lineage as the grandson of Mississippi Blues legend RL Burnside, Cedric Burnside has been mixing the blues with funk and soul as long as he can remember. Not resting on his name, Cedric is carving out his own legacy as a part of a number of lineups including the recently Grammy nominated Cedric Burnside Project. He’s coming to our shores in early 2016 and I was lucky enough to chat to the songwriter, guitarist and singing drummer himself.
Drums, singing and you also play guitar? Any other instruments in your arsenal?
I fiddle around a little bit on the piano, but as of now it’s just mainly drums and guitar.
You’ve got a strong musical heritage. Is music something you just picked up?
I have to say it’s just in my blood man. I come from a very musical family, my big daddy was RL Burnside and I had a lot of family members that played.
You’ve played with a range of artists and in various lineups – how does your role as a drummer differ when playing in a 2 piece and bigger bands?
To me, it’s easy now. It was hard at the beginning, but now it’s second nature for me to sing and play. It don’t matter how big the band is or how small. Of course I have to work a little harder, but even with a big band you gotta make sure you’re following the changes and it’s a big job no matter what kinda band you playing with.
A lot of your songs can sound simple chord wise, but the forms can change a lot from what I’ve heard? There are often extra bars and beats.
Ha, that’s right. In our style of music, Hill Country Blues, you know I like to call it ‘feel’ music. Guys change when they ready! 8 bars, 10 bars, 12 bars it’s just feel music. They might hold the 1 for a minute or they might change on the 1! You just gotta listen for it and hope you change in the right spot and catch it. I’ve been playing this music all my life and its pretty much all I know, so it works fine with me.
Is recording something you enjoy?
I like the recording part ‘cos I like to come up with new creations in the studio. I always say that I’d like to dedicate my life to the studio actually, ‘cos I love writing music, but I really have a bigger love writing music for other people.
Blues/Roots is an interesting genre that encompasses a lot of artists from Gary Clark Jr to Robert Randolph to Robben Ford...
Gary Clark Jr is a really good friend of mine and I love his music, but I think out of him and all those cats we’re totally different. When I play with Gary, or see him play, I’m always mesmerized cos his guitar playing is like genius, but he’s different to our sound and I just think that there’s good music all around.
Does touring differ overseas from the USA?
When we tour the States it’s really good but then when we go overseas it’s even better, basically because we don’t get to do that as often. You know people might not get to see their favourite bands so that can be very special to them so we have a great time overseas as well as enjoying touring the States.
Live it sounds like there’s plenty of room to stretch tunes then? Do you have a setlist you stick to?
We do have a setlist, we’ve got about 30 or 40 songs on the setlist and it’s almost about 3 hours so sometimes we might play all the songs and sometimes not. And if we need to we just come up with things on the fly, ha!
Do you ever need to rehearse then?
Believe it or not, we’re in rehearsal right now. We’ve been rehearsing for the past two days as we just got nominated for a Grammy which is very exciting. There’s a possibility we might be playing at the Grammys so we thought we better sharpen our set. We want to be at our very best all the time.
I know music isn’t all about the awards but it must be nice to be recognised with a Grammy nomination along with the Blues Foundation awards and various things you’ve won of late?
It’s a beautiful thing man, it was suprising and kind of surreal but I thank god for everything and we gonna bust into it strong.
Cedric Burnside is down in Australia performing as part of Womadelaide on March 11. You can also catch him at Girrakool Blues Festival on March 5, Perth Blues Club on March 8 and the Port Fairy Folk Festival on March 12 and 13.