Friday, August 30, 2019

Give Me The Truth - Blues Enthused looks for answers from Sean Webster

Notalotta people know this, as Michael Caine imitators like to say, but Sean Webster has followed in my footsteps.  See, although he’s now based in the Netherlands, the soulful singer and guitarist grew up in a Nottinghamshire mining village called Elkesley.  He probably went to school in nearby Retford, as I did myself for a couple of years back in the late Seventies.  He may even, like me, have enjoyed gigs at semi-legendary local music venue the Retford Porterhouse, which at one time or another hosted bands like Def Leppard, Saxon, Dr Feelgood, and even Robert Plant’s Honeydrippers.  Or maybe he didn’t, because he’s younger than I am and may have missed its heyday.

But that’s where the resemblances end.  Because Sean Webster grew up to be a very gifted guitarist and singer of soulful blues, whereas I – didn’t.

Sean Webster - cool or what?
So with his band's new live album Three Nights Live coming out on 2 September, I swapped some questions and answers with Sean, to find out about his musical journey.

How did you get started in music, Sean?  Who were your early influences?

Music was always a feature in the house as I was growing up. My Grandma bought me my very first guitar at the age of 3 I think. Sadly she died when I was about 8 yrs old so she never saw me even take much interest in it. I actually got started at school at the age of 14. My early influences were Eric Clapton, Gary Moore, Pink Floyd, Dire Straits. The usual I guess.

And how did things begin to develop for you as a professional musician?

I think they are still developing!!! I’m not quite sure when things got better, but I do remember filling in for a band on the main stage at Burnley Blues Festival back in maybe 2002 or so, and that jumped me ahead quite a bit.

You’re based in the Netherlands nowadays.  How did that come about?

I was touring The Netherlands back in 2008 for the first time, and I played a few festivals. One happened to be in Giethoorn where I met my wonderful wife. After a shaky start between us, I finally moved to Holland in 2010. After a short stint in Australia in 2012, my wife and I moved back to Holland and now live in the village we met in.

Being based on the Continent, how widely do you tour in Europe?

I’m always looking to broaden my touring and pushing to get into more countries etc, but so far I’ve played in France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Poland, Finland, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg.
Next year I already have a 3-week tour of Czech republic booked and will hopefully tour Spain and possibly parts of Russia too.

The new album includes a cover of John Mayer’s ‘Slow Dancing In A Burning Room’, and I’ve also heard you perform his song ‘Gravity’ live. What attracts you to his work?

John Mayer just has it. He is one of the world’s best guitarists, he writes great songs, has a cool vibe, and is one of the very few crossover artists that attract all ages. If he wants to, he will be around for a very long time. 

Which may all very well be true, but let me say this, dear reader. John Mayer isn’t half the singer that Sean Webster is.  So if you want to hear an imaginative John Mayer song like ‘Slow Dancing In A Burning Room’ delivered with real emotion, go listen to Sean Webster singing it.

And speaking of emotion, I’m reminded that Steve Van Zandt likes to introduce his song ‘Some Things Just Don’t Change’ by saying that he wrote it for David Ruffin of The Temptations, who he says was “the King of Despair – your girlfriend left you, David Ruffin was your man.”  Well, due respect an’ all Stevie, but if you’re looking for the King of Despair, then Sean Webster is my man.  

So what’s it all about Sean?  I’ve joked in previous reviews, about so many of your
Dwelling at the dark end of the street
songs being about relationship pain and misery.  But I don’t imagine that’s entirely representative of your life, so how does it come about?

Actually it is quite representative. Perhaps not any more as I’ve finally found true happiness, but still I sometimes think how my life would be if it all turned black. 

To quote Billy Crystal's character in When Harry Met Sally, "That, my friend, is a dark side."  Okay Sean, but do you ever start off writing a cheerful song, only for it to take a left turn into something dark?

Erm . . . . No. My wife always says why can’t you write a happy song. I joke saying, when I find happiness I will. But like I said, I am happy . . . .  Maybe I’ll try . . . . I doubt it - but maybe.

What’s the song by someone else you really wish you’d written, and why?

I think Etta James's ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’, because it’s such a great song that speaks to me every night I play it. I don’t believe in faking it, so if I stop enjoying playing it I’ll just stop. But each time I play ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’, it speaks to me. I guess I think about what it would be like if my wife left and some nights I’m on the verge of tears. I guess that’s why every night someone in the audience is in tears. They feel it.

Conversely, what’s the song you’re most proud of having written yourself, and why?

Tough question. I think if I’m allowed two, they would be ‘The Dream’, which I wrote directly for my wife quite a few years ago, and ‘Leave Your Heart At The Door’ the title track of my last album. I don’t tell many people but it’s a song for my daughter about growing up. She’ll understand when she gets a bit older.  She’s only 4 now.

Are you going to be touring in Britain and Europe to promote the new album?

Definitely!!!! We have a 2-week tour planned in September for the UK finishing up at Carlisle Blues festival, and then we’ll be touring the album into next year in Europe. 
I start a 9-date theatre tour in The Netherlands with some high profile Dutch guys the day after Carlisle, so I’m pretty tied up for a while but I am writing a new studio album and will keep popping up with my band.

As I wrote in my review of Three Sides Live, more people should be listening to Sean Webster. More people should be going to see him. It’s as simple as that.  So now’s your chance – get hold of the live album, and catch him on tour wherever you can.

Go to the Sean Webster Band website to order Three Nights Live and check their tour dates.
Read the Blues Enthused review of Three Nights Live here.

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