KENNY WAYNE SHEPHERD: “This Record Is More Of A Rock Album”

Kenny Wayne Shepherd 2019

He’s only 42 years old but already has 9 solo albums under his belt and a couple with side project The Rides, the band he formed with the legendary Stephen Stills. Mick Burgess called up hot shot Blues guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd just before the start of his UK tour that includes a headlining appearance at the Ramblin’ Man festival, to talk about his new album The Traveler.

You’re over in the UK for three dates later this month. Are you looking forward to playing over here again?

Absolutely yes. I’m so excited because the new record has just come out and the reaction has been really positive from both the fans and the press and we’ve been really enjoying playing the new material at the shows and we’re all excited to be bringing the new show back over here.

How many of the new songs will you be playing on the tour?

We’ll be doing a minimum of four out of the ten new songs at the shows each night, maybe five or six depending on how much time we have but there’s also 27 years’ worth of material to choose from. It’s kind of difficult at times to find the right balance but we do try to showcase some of the new songs and also play the older songs too that the fans want to hear.

You’re also headlining the Outlaw Country Stage at Ramblin’ Man festival this month. You must be excited about that?

We played there a couple of years ago and headlined then. We had a great time and thought we played a great set which they must have thought too as they asked us to come back.

There’s a great bill this year including Foreigner, Cheap Trick, Black Stone Cherry and Chris Robinson Brotherhood. Will you be sticking around to see anyone in particular over the weekend?

It depends on the schedule. Last time we were there I saw several bands. We were playing later in the day so we showed up early so we could see some of the bands going on before us.

The last time you were here you had quite a formidable band behind you which included Chris Layton from Stevie Ray Vaughan’s band and Tony Franklin from Blue Murder and The Firm on bass. Is this your band for the forthcoming shows?

Chris will be coming over but Tony hasn’t been in my band for a while now so we have Scott Nelson from Austin, Texas with us and he’s a great player.

You’ve worked with singer Noah Hunt for a fair number of years now having worked together since 1997. When did you two first cross paths?

We first crossed paths when I was auditioning singers for my band and he came along as a recommendation. We flew Noah down to the audition with about twelve other people and I felt pretty confident when I first heard him sing that he was the right guy for the band and I think it’s worked out pretty well as I’ve started singing now so we have two lead vocalists. It’s pretty cool. He’s a great singer. His voice and my voice are very different and gives us a broader range of material that we can cover.

When did you start writing for the record, The Traveller?

I’d write in between tours so whenever I had an opening and some time I’d take time to start writing. I accumulate ideas randomly and store them in my file and when I see an opening in my schedule, I start sifting through my ideas with the people that I write with.

It seems to draw on more of a Country influence than your earlier albums which are from a more Blues direction. Is this a reflection of the music you’re listening to at the moment?

Not so much the music I’m listening to but more the music that I’m writing at the moment. I don’t think that there’s such a big Country influence in there, in fact I think Country has moved more in my direction than me moving in a Country direction. A lot of Country sounds more like ’90’s Rock music now. On the last record, Lay It On Down, we did a song called Hard Lesson Learned where we included a lap steel and that was more Country than anything we’ve ever done. I’d actually say this new record is in more of a Rock direction than anything else. There’s definitely Blues and Rock on this record.

You worked with Marshal Altman on the production of the record. What did he bring to the process?

He’s really good with vocals and is a great songwriter himself. He’s a roll your sleeves up and get down in the trench’s kind of guy. He’s there from the moment I get into the studio to the moment I leave. It’s like he’s part of the band. He’s really involved in every step of the process. We have such mutual respect for each other and it’s a very productive relationship.

You’ve self-produced some of your albums in the past. Do you prefer working with an outside producer to give you an objective ear to your work?

I like collaborating with people. That’s why I co-write songs and that’s why I bring in people to co-produce as it brings a fresh ear to the music I’m trying to create. I think it makes me a better musician and makes for a better album so long as it’s somebody who’s abilities I respect. I really enjoy the creative process working with other people.

You’re singing more on this record than you have done in the past. Is that down partly to working with Stephen Stills in The Rides, the band you have together?

Definitely. I started singing back in 2004 to varying degrees. It was really easy for me to let Noah do all the singing as he is such a great singer and that would leave me free to play guitar all night which is what I love to do. Stephen really pushed me and was adamant that we shared the vocals together. When we went out on tour, I was forced to have to sing at the show every night. That in return made me more comfortable in my ability to do it and that has spilled over into my own band which has been great. He was so encouraging and told me that he had a good track record in getting guitar players to sing as he’d done that with Eric Clapton too.

How has Noah adapted to this?

He’s been fine. It gives him a bit of a break. His voice is competing with amplified instruments that are much louder than a voice so it can be tiring at times so this gives him the opportunity for a rest and to pick up a guitar and play. I think that’s fun for him as well.

You covered Joe Walsh’s Turn To Stone on the record. Why did you choose that song in particular?

The main reason was that I felt we could do a good version of it. I originally chose that song as we were at an event in Seattle where they were honouring Joe with a lifetime achievement award and they invited a bunch of artists to come and pay tribute and we did two or three songs and this was one of the ones we chose. I kind of like digging deep rather going for the obvious songs and I hope that would inspire my fans to do the same thing. They may know who Joe Walsh is but maybe they’ve not heard this one before and then they dig around to find some more Joe Walsh songs. It sounded great so I thought we should record it in the studio. I actually toured with the Eagles on the Hell Freezes Over Tour and played at Wembley Stadium opening the show for those guys. That was amazing and was my first introduction to touring in Europe.

What about Buffalo Springfield’s Mr Soul? Did that come about as a result of your connection with Stephen Stills?

I’d played that with Stephen and Neil Young at a benefit concert in Los Angeles. That was a real thrill to play that song with those two guys. Recording that is my way of paying tribute to that experience. It’s funny as some people have been put off as the guitar lick in that song closely resembles the Rolling Stones. I think some people thought that I was copying the Stones but I said that this is not my song, go and listen to the original and they can talk to Neil Young about that.

What are you up to for the rest of the year and does that include a new album with The Rides?

Me and Barry Goldberg have begun writing songs for the next album by The Rides, it’s just a matter for us to get together to finish writing and recording the next record. Everybody wants to do it. It’s just finding the time in our busy schedules. I am actually coming back over to the UK in November for some more dates and I’m already starting to book a European tour for next year and have started writing for the next record too. I’ve also started on the follow up to my documentary Blues From The Back Road, that I put out back in 2007 so that’s on the radar too.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s UK tour starts on 17th July in Newcastle. See for more information


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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