Via Nocturna Magazine interview with Steve Jewell of Otis
Category : REVIEWS
Starting a career with a homage album is not too common. But that was the case with the Otis, Kentucky band. Regardless of the importance of this debut album, things have changed radically with the new work, Eyes Of The Sun , which has been so well received. We then realized the path traveled by the Southerners and what changes were these, in the words of guitarist Steve Jewell Jr.
-Hello, Steve, how are you? New album on the streets, what’s the feeling in the band?Hey man! We’re all doing well! We could not be happier with this new album! We work hard to do this and we are very excited that everyone can hear it. We are very grateful for all the great reviews originating from all over the world. People are enjoying our new album and we could not be more blessed or grateful!
-Being a young band, can you tell us a bit about your journey so far?Of course! We are four young people from the great state of Kentucky in the southern United States. All four of us grew up in the same area and in small neighboring towns. All four of us at Otis started out and grew up playing music with our parents and family. We grew up listening to country traditional, bluegrass , rock classic rock southern, blues , soul , funk , R & B. We all met from our local music scene and eventually it led to us all being at the Otis. We are from the same city as The Kentucky HeadHunters and Black Stone Cherry. Both bands are well established and well known around the world and have even won awards like Grammys. The mark went up a lot in our region! And so far, both bands have been extremely supportive of our career, so we can not even thank them enough.
-What names or movements influenced you most?
All the iconic music recorded by Chess Records in Chicago in the 50s like Muddy Waters, Howlin ‘Wolf and Elmore James. Soul singers of the 50s and 60s, such as Otis Redding, Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin. Music from Europe in the 60s, such as Cream, The Beatles, Free, Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green, Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck Group and The Who. Of course, the iconic 70s rock bands like The Allman Brothers, Marshall Tucker, Johnny Winter, ZZ Top, Tom Petty, Wet Willie and Charlie Daniels. Above all, Roots music . We are inspired by the honesty, stories and purity that exist in roots music .
-Has anything changed in your way of working from the first record to this?
Yes, drastically. Our first record was blessed because we worked with our friend and mentor Greg Martin of The Kentucky HeadHunters. He had an idea to do a tribute album to a guy named John Brim, a 50s Kentucky Bluesman who also recorded for Chess Records. We wrote our own arrangements for 10 of John Brim’s songs. Greg Martin produced the album with our friend David Barrick, who was also the engineer of the album (David is also the engineer and co-producer of our new album) and our friend Dean Smith. The album also featured Jimmy Hall, by Wet Willie, sometimes vocalist for Jeff Beck, on the harmonica. We wanted to do our best to honor John Brim and his music, so we worked hard on the blues and we heard a lot of music released by Chess Records. We also read a lot like Robert Palmer’s book Deep Blues . We used all the vintage gear to record this album. 40’s Fender amps , old Gibson guitars and amplifiers . We wanted to present an album that was as honest and pure as possible but also with the mentality of a rock and roll bandjoining Chess Records to record an album. This album taught us a lot about music and this made us better composers, better listeners, playing better with each other and opened our eyes to what are the roots of music.
-Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top did a great compliment to your album. How did they feel about your words? Naturally flattered, but also scared or not?
It was such a great feeling and humility. We grew up listening to ZZ Top, while kids learned to play theirs, we have posters of them on the walls of our room. Of course you dream that maybe one day you’ll find your heroes, but they become fans of your band and comment on how they like your music, it’s a dream come true. Billy has been very nice and supported a lot. He is the best!
-The production of Eyes Of The Sun was in charge of another great name that is Paul Nelson. How was the experience of working with him?
It was great! We are big fans of Johnny Winter and Paul is a great musician and played as well as produced some albums of Johnny. An album that Paul produced for Johnny gave him his first Grammy . Paul came in the last half of the record, brought in lots of great ideas and helped put things together. We also have a song on our album titled Lovin ‘Man , where Paul plays.
-Do you already have any extracted videos taken from this album?
We have a music video for our first single , Blind Hawg , which can be found on our website .
-How is the promotion of Eyes Of The Sun in progress ?
Things are great! The contract we signed with Cleopatra Records of Los Angeles, California was great and very supportive. Our entire team has been working hard to push our new album and we are receiving a lot of good reviews and airplay . Things are going very well.
-I know they had and will still have some dates now in October. And then, what have you confirmed?
We have new tour dates to be announced every week! Dates until we finish our tour at the end of 2017. Our team is working to get a tour in 2018. We encourage people to check our dates on our website , come to see us and be part of the Otis family.
-Many thanks, Steve! I give you the opportunity to add whatever you want …
We would like to thank everyone who supported our new album. We can not thank you enough! Many thanks to everyone on Via Nocturna. Be sure to join us on our site and social networks. We like to interact and talk to everyone! We hope to see you all on the road soon!