You’ll forgive David Gogo if he seems a little distracted Wednesday afternoon.
The Canadian blues veteran is scheduled to play the first of three shows just after noon at the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer in Calgary as part of the Calgary Midwinter Bluesfest.
That free gig also happens to coincide with the closing hour of the NHL trade deadline — something of a holiday for many of the puck-loving amongst us.
In fact, contacted fresh off a flight that brought him to our fair city for the next couple of days, the West Coast-based, Habs-loving musician, responds to the initial greeting of “How are things?” with a pretty great indicator of where his head is at.
“It’s trade deadline time,” he says. “That always gets me going.”
This despite the fact that, on a career level, Gogo, who has played and toured with such legends over the years as Johnny Winter, George Thorogood, ZZ Top, Bo Diddley, Albert Collins and B.B. King, is currently enjoying an incredible stretch thanks to the release of his 14th and perhaps most acclaimed and successful album, 2015’s raw and ready Vicksburg Call.
But. Well. Hockey.
So, again, should any blockbuster deals get done with his beloved Canadiens, cut the guy some slack and let him have a moment.
Before that, though, a slightly more focussed Gogo took a little time to speak with theYYSCENE.
Q: You’re pulling triple duty in Calgary. They’re really getting their money’s worth, aren’t they?
A: Yeah, they’re making me work. I don’t like it. (Laughs) …
(The shows were) kind of a fluke. I’d already booked myself into Edmonton for March 3 and 4 at The Blue Chair for some solo shows — I do it about once a year, this time of year. So I was out (in Toronto) for the Maple Blues Awards and ran into Cindy (McLeod, the Calgary festival producer) and she said, “Geez, I guess there’s no way you could come to Calgary on the Wednesday, Thursday,” and I said, “Actually, that would be poifect.” So that was nice.
And, of course, I won Guitarist of the Year.
Q: I was going to ask, but it’s nice that you slipped that in.
A: Yeah, well, it’s funny, I didn’t expect it — thank you — because Paul DesLauriers, him and his band were winning everything that day. The bass player just won for Bass Player (of the Year), the drummer just won for Drummer and they just won for Electric Band, which I was also up for. Even when they announced the nominees it was, “Paul DesLauriers,” and I was like, “Fuck.” And then, “Steve Hill,” who won last year, and I was like, “Ah, fuck.” And then, “Colin James.” Like, “Colin James? Ah, fuck!” “And Tim Williams, too?!” So I was quite happy to walk away with that one.
Q: It capped off what’s been a pretty great year for you, with the Juno nomination last year, things seem to be going well in the world of David Gogo.
A: And we were up for the Western Canadian Music Awards, too, for the album. Yeah, the last album, I’m really, really pleased with Vicksburg Call, so it’s time to start thinking about coming up with something new. So I’m just starting to put on my thinking cap, thinking about what to write, where to do it, and all that kind of stuff. I’m not going to rush it too much, but it’s definitely time to start getting serious.
Q: That brings up the question: You had such success with this album, is it tempting to do the same thing or do it the same way or are you the kind of person who wants to go the entirely opposite way?
A: Well, I’ve done that in the past and you can alienate some people doing that but you don’t want to be too repetitive either, you know. That being said, I really like the record, I think it’s my favourite record that I’ve ever made, so I see it being more in that direction. I don’t want to say more of the same, but more of that direction. So much so that I actually just got together the fellah that I wrote the title track with (E. Johnson). He lives on Gabriel Island, I was playing there last week, so we got together and came up with a couple of ideas.
I love playing the songs live, too, people seem to really respond to them. And we even got some commercial FM play with the title track, which it’s been a few years since that’s happened for me.
Q: Why do you think that is? Why do you think people are responding to this? Do you think it was the way it was recorded, live, off the floor, that energy? Or do you think it was the material, itself?
A: I think a little from column A, a little from column B. But if I knew for sure I’d definitely go in tomorrow and make another record. (Laughs) But I think that’s what it is, I think the material’s good and there’s a live energy to the album. That’s hard to capture sometimes — you tend to overthink things or in the studio you take too much advantage of being in the studio, when you should just set up and play.
Q: So the shows this week are solo?
A: It’s all solo, this whole trip is solo. It’s all acoustic. And the acoustic act is a whole different thing for me, too. Some people when you see them do a solo show, it’s basically the electric band minus the band, you know. But with me, there’s maybe one or two songs — three at the most — that cross over from the band setlist to the solo setlist. So it’s a whole different set of tunes, plus it gives me a chance to interact with the audience. And a big part of it is talking about my experience the last however many years it’s been — almost 30 years, basically, playing live — and I get to talk about some of the fabulous people I’ve met and even sometimes played with. I’ve toured with a lot of the legends and many of them aren’t around any more. So, people seem to dig that, they get a little bit of the insight, they get the history, and that.
Q: So it’s basically two hours of you name-dropping.
A: Well, Al Pacino told me I shouldn’t say that. (Laughs) But yes.
(Note: This interview was edited for clarity.)
David Gogo performs a free event Wednesday 12:10 p.m. at The Historic Cathedral Church of the Redeemer (604 1st St. S.E.); participates in the free A Walk Through Blues History talk later that night at 7 p.m. at the King Eddy at the National Music Centre; and performs a ticketed concert Thursday at 7 p.m. the Ramada Hotel Fox on Sixth (708 8th Ave. S.W.). All shows are part of the Calgary Midwinter Bluesfest, which takes place until Saturday. For tickets and the full lineup of events please go to http://www.calgarybluesfest.com.
Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for theYYSCENE.ca, and the co-host of the show Saved By the Bell, which airs Wednesdays from 4-6 p.m. on CJSW 90.9 FM. Follow him on at Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He likes beer. Buy him one.