Interview: Lee O’Nell Blues Gang (Written)
Games, Brrraaains & A Head-Banging Life bring you an interview with blues/jazz/soul infused rock band, Lee O’Nell Blues Gang.
1. Hello! Thank you for taking the time to chat to us. First things first, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started.
Lionel WERNERT: Hello everybody ! I’m the leader, guitarist and composer of my band Lee O’Nell Blues Gang which I decided to form in May 2019. I took a long time to form this band since I started play guitar in my young age. I was for a long time behind others artists, and while these years, my own music started to grow up in my mind. When I found the voice I needed for this project, I discovered she was a great lyrics writer too (Gipsy is also my wife ! Haha !) and after so kind encouragements from my old friend, my brother in heart Fred Chapellier who is here in France recognized as the N° 1 of the Blues, I looked for the best musicians in my area and quickly took them to the studio. Our first album ‘Different Shades Of Love’ (10 original songs and only one cover) was released in 2020, September.
Then the pandemic has stopped everything for 2 years, and I used this free time to compose a second album ‘This is us’ (14 new original songs) released in 2022, September.
2. Someone comes to you and asks you to sum up what kind of music you play – what do you tell them?
Lionel: Well that is a question I usually don’t really like to answer, because it means that music and artists must be classified in categories which is not really a good thing. I can only say that I grew up with the iconic and legendary bands such as Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy among others, and then started to get interest in Blues , so I went to Eric Clapton, Bb King, Albert King, Peter Green; and most recently Joe Bonamassa, Eric Gales or Christone Kingfish Ingram for example.
I think my music is a mix of what I’ve been growing up, with always some good guitar riffs, big guitar solos with lyricism, a bit of technic but always looking for the right note at the right moment. I have the chance to work with my wife who has a very large voice range, with so many shades in it. She can be sweet and sassy or rough and powerful when I need her to come into rock ! As she came much more from Jazz, we can combine all our influences and all that styles to the Lee O’Nell Blues Gang style: Blues, Rock, Jazz, Soul… The better is that you listen to us to form your own opinion on the matter!
3. What’s currently going on in your camp? New releases? Tours? Etc.
Gipsy BACUET: We will have some nice concerts here in France this year and we will have the chance to be openers for great artists such as Ana Popovic or the Cinelli Brothers! Great moments to come don’t you think? And we will also start touring in Belgium! That is for French emerging band like us a very good opportunity! We are working a lot on international exposure, with Q/A like this one, or airplays on international radio shows all over the world.
The international exposure is something important for us, because here in France, when you say you are a Blues Rock band, french audience doesn’t consider you if you don’t come from somewhere else than France! The musical culture is not as opened than in other countries in Europa, so… They used to think that if England, Germany, Belgium, Nederland enjoy your music it can be pretty good and they allow themselves to listen to you! And even if the third album is already in Lionel’s mind, we think that we will wait a little!
We have to make the two first albums live on stage right now… I don’t teach you anything saying that it cost a lot to produce an album when you are an independent group!
4. What has been the most positive experience of making music to date for you?
Lionel: To express yourself is the most important thing when you are a musician. So it’s great to play someone else’s songs, but when you are on stage, when the audience is waiting and listening for YOUR songs… it’s a piece of heaven!
You can meet so many people from so many countries, so many different social classes. Music has the power to unify everyone during one moment!
5. Likewise, what has been some of the more challenging aspects and how have you overcome them?
Gipsy: When someday you say ‘Hey honey what about making an album with our songs?’ you didn’t expect to meet such challenges on the road! At each step, from the deposit of your works for copyright till the day you finally get your CD in your hand you will discover and learn all the aspects of music production. All the steps to take, the rules to follow, the work on the artwork, and above all the patience you have to show… It’s a long, hard but exciting journey…
Lionel: And after all that you have to book yourself and this aspects is the hardest… But thanks to webzines, press magazines, radios and social medias, it can be easy…. but the other side is that nowadays there are so many bands, good ones using the same process that you can quickly find yourself in the middle of a kind of jungle!
Live music is certainly the best way to be known by the audience… So let’s go on stage as much as possible in France and over the borders!!
6. How do you handle the modern expectations of being in a band? Always online, having to put out content constantly, your success measured in likes and follows?
Lionel: Unfortunately Gipsy and me are not very good in that online practice! We do our best, but you know Blues Rock music is primarily for the 40/70 years old! So they are also not super comfortable with networks… But to be honest, being always online, putting content constantly takes us too much time, and this time should be practicing, booking etc…
7. What’s something that really ‘grinds your gears’ about the industry/business these days and what would you propose is done to combat it?
Gipsy: Music is really run by money… If you can’t pay for a PR agency, a booking agency, a label or whatever can help you in this business it will be hard for you to get more than 10 or 12 concerts in a year…
Lionel: Today, if you are not a band we’ve heard about ten years, festival programmers don’t trust you and just make you play in poor conditions because you’re a new band. They do not take into consideration the quality of your ‘product’ but rather its notoriety and they absolutely do not help you to make yourself know. We must do everything by ourselves for a very long time before acquiring credibility! It is such a shame.
8. Speaking directly to listeners – what would you ask they do to help support your music?
Lionel: Subscribe to our Youtube channel, Facebook page, add us to your Spotify or Deezer playlists, like, share and follow us (or another band you like)! The more exposure bands can have from people the more their friends can discover something new and maybe interesting they might not have found by their own.
9. Outside of the music, what’s do you do to relax?
Lionel: We listen to music, very various styles from Classical music to country , metal and Jazz… There is always something good to take!
Gipsy: Haha ! Sometimes I’d like to watch a movie at home, but after few minutes Lionel takes his guitar and plays unplugged while the movie is on TV… I can say that there is no moment when we are not making music, thinking about it, or looking for venues to play in the future!
10. Where can people find you?
Gipsy: Right here, and thank you for all!
Lionel: See you soon on stage guys!
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