Interview with Big Al
Written by Michael Sutton
A peek into the guitar case of Portland, Oregon-based rock and bluesman Big Al.
The name is certainly provocative; interpret it as you wish. But as Portland, Oregon-based bluesman Big Al continues to
stockpile rave reviews and Triple A radio airplay nationwide, there might be only one way to define what the Big in Big Al means.
With a killer new album, Fresh Blues, that electrifies with an authentic rock & roll heart as well as a vintage blues spirit, Big Al is
on the verge of becoming, well, bigger. Before stardom hits, Big Al gave CDReviews.com the opportunity to peek into his guitar
Michael Sutton: A number of music critics have commented on the soulfulness of your voice. Although the music you play is
certainly the blues, your singing displays other influences, such as Rod Stewart and Daryl Hall. Growing up, did you originally
intend on leading a rock & roll or pop career before falling into the blues?
Big Al: Yes, I had always wanted to lead a rock & roll group because that is what I grew up with. I bought rock & roll records of
artist that influenced me both from a musical point and also a performance aspect. Musicians like Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Rod
Stewart, The Doors and Bob Seger.
Sutton: Soul Blue is your first album. What took you so long to finally produce a record?
Big Al: It was finding the money first. I think many bands want to produce an album but money is a big object to hurdle and then
finding that inspiration to actually focus on doing it.
Sutton: What is it about the blues, both musically and lyrically, which appeal to you the most?
Big Al: The blues is the root of rock & roll. Once I started listening to some of the old greats of blues like Robert Johnson and
Howlin’ Wolf, it was like a light going on both musically and lyrically. I had to sing the blues. So I could say that I understand the
music as far as theory but the passion of the lyrics captured me.
Sutton: Describe the feeling you get when you perform live. What goes on through your mind? Do you sense an electric charge
from the audience?
Big Al: Performing live turns me into another animal. I have been told that I move around the stage with so much animation and
passion that the crowd stays involved. It’s not something I rehearse like rehearsing the chords or lyrics to a song; it is just
something that comes alive when I am onstage.
Sutton: There's a moving version of Ben E. King's "Stand By Me" on Soul Blue. What made you decide to cover that?
Big Al: I have been singing that song for many years. It has developed into a song that I try to make my own because I feel a
powerful story in that song and my vocals really capture that. If I have only one fan in a crowd of one hundred they will scream
out for me to play that song. So when I decided to make a CD all persons involved said you have to do that song because if any
cover song can make a hit for you that could be the one.
Sutton: What is the blues scene in Portland, Oregon like? Is there a developing following for the genre?
Big Al: The blues scene in Portland is like the rock/psychedelic scene I found in San Francisco in the 60s. The talent in the blues
scene in Portland is off the scale. I am surprised that this town has not caused a blues revolution to take place in this country.