With his dynamic amalgamation of swampy blues, country and rock, flame haired fusionist 8 Ball Aitken has garnered a swag of devotees both here and abroad over the past decade. One of the hardest working musicians out there, by his own estimation 8 Ball averages a staggering 200 plus shows a year. In the words of the man himself;
“Playing live is what it’s all about. I’ve basically been on the road for 14 years across 18 countries without a break and when I came back to Australia this time, instead of having a break I’ve toured non stop again for six months!”
8 Ball has spent plenty of time honing his craft and building a fan base in the USA, recording two of his most recent albums, The New Normal and Southern Hemisphere, in the country music mecca of Nashville, Tennessee. I ask 8 Ball what it was like being in such an environment on a creative level.
“I lived in Nashville for about five years and it basically just pushes you every single day to challenge yourself and do things musically that you didn’t know you could do. The level of studio musicians there is just off the scale. You end up living and breathing music.”
I query 8 Ball on where he enjoys touring the most when he’s overseas.
“I love Canada and I love playing the American South. Texas is the place for the best blues music. The people there are completely welcoming of me, it’s like they see me as a Texan musician who just happens to be born someplace else. When you really boil down the music I love its swampy blues with a bit of rock and a bit of country. And there’s such a history and a culture of that style of music there.”
Renowned for his killer slide guitar prowess, 8 Ball is not afraid to dabble in a range of different instruments, including banjo, various percussion and harmonica.
“Slide guitar is my number one. But it’s always a fun challenge to learn different tunings and different instruments. It’s a life mission for me… well I think it’s more than one lifetime worth. I actually play on the road, if I’ve got a driver. Because your time is just so at a premium these days. With computers and social media and that sort of stuff, people really want content and they want to know what you’re up to constantly. So if you can get someone to drive while you’re on tour then you can sit in the van and play guitar and you’re actually getting that quality song writing time.”
Having been an active artist since 2004 and achieving success within his musical niche both here and abroad, I ask 8 Ball what he’s still aiming to achieve from his craft.
“I’m just trying to refine my songwriting and write a better song tomorrow than I wrote yesterday or today. That’s my number one thing. Songs are platforms for guitar players, so you just have to write incredible songs if you want to be an original artist, and that’s what I aspire to push myself towards every single day. It doesn’t have to be complicated either. It just has to be good.”
Renowned for his infectious, high energy live performances, 8 Ball will be hitting the Advancetown Hotel on 11 June, something he’s very much looking forward to.
“I love playing on the Gold Coast, although I don’t get there often enough. And I’ve heard great things about the Advancetwon Hotel.”
Once his current Australian tour commitments are complete, unsurprisingly 8 Ball won’t be resting on his laurels anytime soon.
“I’ll be heading back over to The States, I’m planning on recording my next album in Texas. I’ve got a heap of new songs, I’m just refining which ones I’m gonna use.”
He’s also appreciative of his dual roving lifestyle and the opportunities it affords him.
“I’ve got two lives, here in Australia and in the USA. The lifestyle here in Australia is unmatched, and the music scene in the States, and particularly down south, the home of the blues, is amazing. The musicians over there have a real camaraderie. The way they constantly write and hang out and play together, is a remarkable thing. I think it’s a big part of what makes them so great.”
8 Ball Aitken will be playing at the Advancetown Hotel on 11 June.