Full-force acoustic blues maestro Lloyd Spiegel is certainly an artist with ample musical pedigree and longevity. Named by Australian Guitar Magazine as one of the top 50 Aussie guitarists of all time, Lloyd has been a worldly traveller on the music scene since the tender age of 13, when he first started performing. He’s also racked up a jaw dropping list of support slots, including Bob Dylan, Etta James and Ray Charles! And he continues to be an invaluable mentor to a bunch of young up and coming musicians on the Australian music scene.
Eight studio albums and two decades later sees the release of his newest long player, ‘Backroads’, which marks somewhat of an artistic departure into the realms of amped up, electrified blues rock. Said Spiegel of the experience; “I hadn’t really let loose on an electric guitar on record since I was a teenager – it felt good.”
Fresh from wowing crowds as part of this year’s Blues On Broadbeach Festival, Spiegel will be out on the road again supporting the release of ‘Backroads’ over the coming months, including a performance at The Currumbin Soundlounge on 29 June.
In the lead up, we had an enlightening chat with the man himself.
Your latest album, ‘Backroads’, marks a bit of a departure from your typical sound into a more raw, electrified realm. Are you pleased with how the record has turned out?
I guess it’s a matter of letting the songs dictate the path the album takes. These songs just screamed out for punch and drums and I had been itching for that change too. I love playing solo, but there’s a limit to what anyone can do as a solo act. This group of songs gave me a free pass to think bigger and I’m really happy with it.
You’ve been involved in the music biz from a very young age, playing shows and fronting your own band well before you turned 18. What was it like, being so young, and playing in rowdy drinking establishments?
I was going to see bands with my dad in bars long before I was playing in them. I grew up amongst it so I never thought it was strange. If I’m honest, at 11 or 12 when I started gigging, I was so engrossed in my guitar I wouldn’t have noticed any of the things I was too young to see. It was a fantastic experience. How many musicians get to not worry about paying the rent or bills? I am thankful for the head start. It can be tough in a way though. Not feeling like the rest of the kids your age but not quite fitting in with the muso crowd leaves you pretty lonely. The older I get, the more I realise my parents were keeping me balanced.
I read that at the age of 16 you lived for a time with blues legend Brownie McGhee!? What was that like?
Brownie was the patron of the blues society in Melbourne. Turns out he actually read the newsletters. I was invited to his home in Oakland to play with him. It’s one of those surreal things that I still see as a cartoon in my head. Brownie might as well have been Elvis to me. He was my absolute hero, so to be a school kid from Melbourne in his home seemed beyond ludicrous. I guess I feel very much a link in the chain as a result of that. Like I was welcomed to ‘the club’ by him, or was given the responsibility of carrying on after he left us. I don’t think I’ve ever played a show since that moment that didn’t include one of his songs.
You have a healthy following in Japan. Do you get over there often to play and promote your work, and how do the Japanese audiences react to you and your music?
I haven’t been in a while now. There was a brief ‘perfect storm’ of three years where Cole Clark, the guitar company I work with, became quite popular over there, and as a result I did too. I was at the right place at the right time I guess. That was my first experience playing theatres and that changed my career path totally. Much of what I learned there I brought home and infused into my career here. I built my confidence as an entertainer in Tokyo.
I think what I loved about played there was the shock factor. The way I attack my acoustic guitar and my frantic style of having no style was brand new to the audiences I had there. I am possibly heading back next year. It would be great to tour there again.
How is the rest of 2018 shaping up for Lloyd Spiegel – you have quite an extensive Australian tour on the horizon!
I’m about to go full steam ahead on a national tour for two months. I am really lucky to have a great relationship with the venues I’m playing and everyone involved on this tour. The whole thing feels like a well-oiled machine and I’m buzzing at the thought of it. Once that’s all done I head to New Zealand in August, a Canadian tour October/November, then start all over again. With any luck, I’ll get time in between to write some songs.