Ray Bonneville talks about his latest album ahead of Silver City School House gig

Ray Bonneville - image courtesy of the artist

Reno – Ray Bonneville will appear in the Silver City School House and Cultural Center in Silver City, Nevada on January 19.  For an advance look at Ray Bonneville and his music, Will Houk spoke with him by phone to discuss his latest album, Ray Bonneville at King Electric and other details about his artistic influences and thinking … the audio is a mix of words and music …

Ray Bonneville told Will Houk that his writing and recording process is different on every album.

“On this one, I went in with two good friends of mine, Richie Lawrence on piano and accordion.  He’s a very good friend of mine.  I used to play in a band with him in the ‘70s back in Boulder, Colorado and then lost sight of one another for a while and got caught up and started playing a few years ago and started playing together, so he’s playing keyboards.

“And the son of another friend of mine, Spenser Boren.  His son’s name is Andre Boren, and he plays drums on it.  Richie and I went to New Orleans and played a little bit with him, and we got a good vibe, so we went in the studio not to rehearse and laid down the tracks a little bit unsure of how we are going to play the songs.  Just communication in one room live off the floor, and we got some very very good vibes, very very nice recordings out of it, and I feel great about it.  We worked with my engineer Justin Douglas here at King Electric Studios in Austin.  He’s done other records with me, so I felt like I was in good hands.”

When Will asked Ray about his musical influences, Ray turned the question back on Will and asked what influences he hears.  Will said Bonneville reminded him of Louisiana blues man Tony Joe White.

“Tony Joe White is for sure one of my influences,” Bonneville said.  “He just passed away, I don’t know, four, six months ago, and he had just played in town here, and  it wasn’t long after that that he passed away, but yeah he was one of my influences.  I really liked his really swampy approach, but I’m influenced by a whole bunch of different people though.  Among them, Slim Harpo I think was an influence of Tommy Joe’s.  He had to have been.  I’m influenced by JJ Cale.  I’m influenced by Hank Williams Senior.  I’m influenced by a whole slew of blues folks, both acoustic players and electric players, but by and large today I am influenced by really good song writers.

“I liked early stuff that Lucinda Williams put out.  Basically anything that moves me that I believe, I’m influenced by.  I’m a big fan of stark writing.  I like to write about people who live on the edge of society.  They interest me.”

Though Bonneville’s musical style is largely made up of rootsy blues influences, he doesn’t consider himself exclusively a blues artist.

“I played blues for some 20 years without doing it the way I heard it on the records.  I just kinda did it my own way, and then I started writing songs in the early 1990s, and I already had this kind of bluesy guitar style and harmonica style, but I don’t really consider myself to be a blues man.  I consider the music is more influenced by blues but by so many other things.  Some of those things would be the road.  The different kinds of people that I meet.  The people that live on the edge of society.  The human emotion … the way I write the songs, I like to leave room for the listener to put in their own detail.  I don’t put in a whole lot of detail I just sort of sketch the story and allow the listener to put his or her own details in there so that they can consider the song to be theirs.  I want it to be their song.  Not my song.”

The opening track on the album is titled Waiting on the Night.  Bonneville’s rhetorical strategy of leaving the details up to the listener are most evident in this song that dispenses with particulars to illuminate the emotional core of a character’s circumstance.

“I’m a night guy,” Bonneville said.  “I live at night.  I rarely go to bed before two or three in the morning.  I’m just more comfortable at night and I think a lot of people are.  I think at night emotions and feelings are more likely to be pronounced.  The character in that song, he’s somewhere.  I’m not sure where he is.  The listener knows where he is, but he hears a train going by far off.  He’s somewhere where he’s alone.  Some kind of relationship has happened and he’s thinking about, and some things didn’t get said that he wished had been said.  He’s just pondering on his state right now.  It’s loosely written again so the listener can put themselves in the shoes of the character, and you get the feeling of maybe a motel by the side of the road or maybe a cabin out in the country.  You can see a light on and you can see maybe somebody smoking a cigarette or having a drink late at night and thinking about his life or something … his or her life.  It’s not necessarily a guy.”

For more music and comments from Ray Bonneville, listen to the embedded audio feature above …