A Q&A with Lee O’Nell Blues Gang
Blues rock with a touch of jazz, from Reims, France…
What’s the title of your latest release, and what does it mean to you?
Lionel: Well, our latest and second album is called This Is Us. It was released in September 2022. As the creator of Lee O’Nell Blues Gang, the only composer and the lead guitarist, as our first album Different Shades Of Love was released in Septemebr 2020, I’m pretty proud of all this work accomplished in barely four years of existence. On the other hand, as the first one has been released between two lockdowns here in France, and as we hadn’t been able to promote it as well as expected, This Is Us is a kind of birth or rebirth! And for the public and fans who already follow us, it’s a good thing. We are productive!
What was the hardest part about putting this release together, and why?
Gipsy: Each release is so long and hard. There are too many aspects and time between the moment you get your song and the moment you can take your album in your hands! It’s really a game of patience, and personally I really don’t have much! Can we talk about the easiest?
Lionel: Haha ! No really, the hardest thing is not the release by itself, it’s all that is around promotion, and above all to find the concerts, the places and the organizers who will trust in you to program your group.
Gipsy: The financial aspect is maybe the hardest! When you are the only part which act on your album, you must pay all: Musicians, repetitions, studio, sound engineer, the right to record your own songs (I don’t know how it is going out of France, but here, you must pay to allow you to record your own songs!), mix, mastering, disc pressing…
Who produced the release – what did they bring to it?
Lionel: Gipsy and I produced this album and a friend of us: my friend and my brother of heart, the great French Bluesman Fred Chapellier. I’m the only composer, Gipsy is the songwriter and even she is helped by friends because English is not our native language, we are absolutely free to do what we want. I know the sound I want to hear, I know where I need to add other guitars, I can decide to put or not backing vocals. Nobody is behind me to tell me this or that. There is not a label to remind me that it’s too long to be ready. Freedom and open minds is what I enjoy.
Gipsy: This Is Us was written and composed while the pandemic was here, so we took the time we wanted. It is a kind of luxury.
What do you want the listener to take away from listening to your music?
Lionel: If the public recognizes himself in our universe that’s good. I would enjoy them to understand the reason why I mix vintage and modernity. But to spend a good moment while they are listening one of our album, or during a concert is the most important. To share a good moment together.
Gipsy: If they are smiling while at a concert that is good. If they are dancing too. If they are crying that’s a good thing too. I ‘d like them to feel the same emotion as us.
How does a track normally come together? Can you tell us something about the process?
Lionel: There is something that will never change: I compose, Gipsy writes. And then it depends, sometimes, music came first, sometimes the lyrics. But we are working together in the same way. I had the opportunity to have a wife (yes, she is also my wife and not only my singer!) who can use a lot of shades of her voice. She can be tough, she can be sweet, she can be powerful or sassy, and even bring a touch of jazz…
Gipsy: I’ve always thought that Lionel could compose some movie music. Each time I bring him some lyrics with an idea of how I would like the song to sound, he exactly knows what to do, and succeeds in it. As an example I wrote a song about his father who passed away before we met, 20 years ago. And I wanted to say something like, of course I’m sad and lonely, but you are always a part of me and life is going on… Lionel followed my words saying that now life is a kind of dance with everlasting tears etc… and he added a touch of rumba in the song. That can be surprising, but never in bad taste. He knows how to mix in the same song, a good riff which will stays in your mind after the first listen, some great phrasings and some lyricism in his way of playing.
What band/artists have influenced you the most since you started this project, and why?
Lionel: I grew up with the rock legends: Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy, Rainbow, among others. Then I studied the blues roots legends BB King, Albert King, Peter Green, Eric Clapton and most recently Eric Gales, Joe Bonamassa or Christine Kingfish Ingram… So I think you can find a part of them all in my songs and also in my way of playing and the approach of the guitar.
Gipsy: I like sweet voices with honey, and like strength and power when it is demanded. I listen to Sarah Vaughan, Etta James, Joanne Show Taylor and my favourite at this moment, my friend Jade Macrae who is a fabulous Australian singer and also backing vocalist for Joe Bonamassa. Listening to her can calm me down and recover serenity. That is really the only one to make me feel that.
What countries would you like to tour? Are there any standout venues you’d like to play in?
Lionel: Thanks to radio shows or webzines all around the world our music is now listened to. We will soon start to play in Belgium and we are also waiting for a little tour in Germany.
Gipsy: We are yet a young band, and we are looking for booking agencies who could make us play in different countries! So if there is one who is reading us right now, we would be happy to answer your demands! Haha!
Lionel: We would like to play over the French borders and most of all in Canada or United States… But UK is alright too!
If you could pick one track for our readers to listen to in order to get a taste of your music, what would you pick, and why?
Lionel: Hard to answer, because there is a lot of me in each song. Maybe very important to us is: ‘Never Again’ from our first album. Because it’s about the violence made to women. But ‘Kiss Me Again’ or ‘You Don’t Know Who I Am’ from the second album are intense too. I love them all. And I think I’m definitely not the right person to influence someone to sum my universe in one song. Sorry!
What ambitions do you have for the band/your career?
Gipsy: Oh,that is very simple: play almost every day, and everywhere!
Lionel: I would like that promotion will be good enough to give the public the desire to come to see us on stage without wondering what they will discover!
Finally, as you leave the stage, what are your parting words?
Gipsy: Thank you so much for coming tonight, thank you for your smiles, your happy faces and thank you to be yourselves. You are wonderful! See you soon on the road, and come in five minutes to the merchandising table to meet us, drink a beer and discuss. We love you!
For more info visit: leeonellbluesgang.com