Joanne Shaw Taylor: A Chat with Guitar Connoisseur

By William Swanson

I was driving through traffic about a year ago when I heard it, that amazing strong blues rhythm but the voice I didn’t recognize. The voice was soon gone as the guitar grew and took over not only the song but every sense I had and every inch of my vehicle.

One of the great things about having satellite radio is that it shows you what music is playing one of the bad things is that unless you’re on the right station you never get a chance to hear any artists that are up and coming or not played that frequently.

I missed seeing who it was that day, didn’t change the station for a week after but I never heard it again. It wasn’t long after that the Pandora station I had programmed for Gary Moore type music played something so similar I couldn’t mistake it.

“Yes, Joanne Shaw Taylor! Now I know who it is” I most likely yelled this out loud as excited as I was. I spent the next few hours on youtube watching and listening to everything I could. There was never an off moment. She switched from tele to les paul without losing any part of that awesome tone. She plays the rhythms and sings and then her syrupy, gritty blues vocal river drops off and that guitar, whichever brand it is that is graced by her hands, starts coming to life and takes over.

She handles the soft tones and harmonics with deft hands and also comes in like a sledgehammer when it’s the right time. It is truly remarkable to listen to her and should you ever get a chance to catch her live I highly recommend it but if you can’t, sit for a while and find her music on the internet, it’s worth it, just don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon once you start.

Guitar Connoisseur: Dave Stewart was obviously an important of you career, do you stay in contact with him?

Joanne Shaw Taylor: I do. Dave’s always been something of a mentor to me and has been a close friend for many years now. I saw him on his recent trip to london and we did a little impromptu jam at his private members club in London, The Hospital.

GC: Do you draw on any certain artists either past or present for inspiration?

JST: Yes of course. You have to keep yourself motivated and inspired so obviously I listen to a lot of music. Everything from the early blues, classic rock that inspired me in the early part of my career to contemporary artists/guitar players.

GC: I read that Joe Bonamassa is how you got into playing a les paul, true?

JST: Ha! he was certainly badgering me for many years to “come to the dark side” as he described it. During the recording of my 3rd album “Almost, Always, Never” I borrowed a few off gibson as we needed a slightly heavier sound we just weren’t getting from the tele and I just fell in love with them. Also around the time i was stuck in a bit of a rut with my playing so switching my sound up a bit helped me get out that funk.

GC: How much of a change was that from your tele?

JST: Not too drastic, it’s true what they say most of your tone is in your fingers. I still sound like me just a little thicker. It’s more of a feel thing for me as the player, I find i’m more fluid and I can dig in more on the les paul.

JST album 237

GC: Do you have what you’d consider a #1 guitar?

JST: Yes probably my first guitar, it’s a 1966 esquire. I don’t take it out on the road too much anymore as it’s very valuable to me and it’s been knocked around too much on airlines.

GC: BB King said that the blues aren’t about bad things so much as just the human struggle, something we can all relate too, what do you get from the blues?

JST: I can’t disagree with BB on that. I get the same thing i get from all music… joy.

GC: Did you take lessons or were you self taught?

JST: I’m self taught.

GC: You’ve toured all over Europe and come through the united states a few times, where would you like to go next?

JST: I’ve never been to Italy so that’s high up on my bucket list… I’d also like to return to Australia as it’s one of my favorite countries and i’ve made some wonderful friends there.

GC: You have an amazing blues tone no matter what you play, how much of your sound comes from your fingers and how much of it requires specific hardware? (pedals, tunings, strings, amps, etc?)

JST: I mean pedals, amps strings… they obviously all effect your tone in some way but I really think the bulk of it is in your hands.

GC: Who most would you like to jam on stage with?

JST: I always wanted to jam with prince as he was a big here of mine. I’d love to play with the stones. they are hands down my favorite band.

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