Spinnin' The Blues host, Holly Harris, recently chatted with Shemekia Copeland about her new record, Outskirts of Love:
HH: Hello Shemekia, It’s great to be sitting down with you again. How are you doing? I last caught up with you here, playing Cambrdige, MA last year. It was winter and we were all wrapped up. First of all I just want to say how much I love the album. It’s really wonderful. The songs have such variety and freshness. I’m excited to talk about it in a second, but I know you’re on the road. Where you now and how’s the tour going? When do you plan to be back in Chicago?
SC: Doin' great. Workin' hard. Good to be with you. I'm touring my new CD, Outskirts of Love, almost non-stop for the next two months. I'm in Kansas now. Won't be back in Chicago until October 2. But I'm having a ball!
HH: I’m excited to talk with you about your latest Alligator release. What can you tell me about the title, “Outskirts of Love’? I’m sure a lot of thought went into that?
SC: It's a CD that I think is relevant to the times we live in. Most of the people are living on the outskirts. They're marginalized. Some are homeless. Another is a victim of date rape. There's even a country song about a woman on the run in a desperate situation.
HH: First of all, what is different for you about this particular album; musically, collaboratively, and where you are vocally these days?
SC: What's different is I think it's my most complete album from a conceptional point of view. Everything just seems to fit in together theme-wise from one song to the next. It just flows. I'm back working with Oliver Wood who just seems to know how to get the most out of me. And he and John Hahn have written some of my best songs yet.
HH: Let’s talk about the cd, ‘Outskirts of Love, dropping right now. There are 12 wonderfully,
carefully selected tunes on here. Your work is so present and relevant. I just want to say, I think you
sound amazing and I’m not alone; better than ever. You are able to transcend styles, and make each
tune your own as, ‘pure Shemeika’.You also have an amazing array of talent on here with you.
Who’s in your core band? I love your choice of guest artists too- Billy F. Gibbons, Alvin Youngblood
Hart, and Robert Randolph, whom I recently saw and spoke with. He’s great. Plus you have some
special other musicians adding to the mix. Recording engineer Mike Poole and his crew really did a
great job. There are a lot of good products coming out of Nashville.
SC: Oliver put together a great core band then added fantastic local guys in Nashville like Will Kimborough, Pete Finney, and Guthrie Trapp. Plus I had friends like Billy Gibbons who I just love, Robert Randolph who I've worked with before on a Slide Brothers CD, and Alvin Youngblood Hart who really nailed it on Cardboard Box. Nashville's just incredible to record in. The level of musicianship is so high. And all the people are great. Plus when the session is over you can go out to a club and catch somebody like Vince Gill. I had an awesome time.
HH: How did the collaboration with your guitarist Oliver Wood and manager/producer, John Hahn come about?
HH: Boy, ‘Crossbone Beach’ in an intense tune if you listen to the lyrics. The songs you sing are so
sincere as you talk about love and life and the human experience, including your own. I know that is
a message your dad passed down to you that, ‘We’re all connected”. It’s really very timely right now
especially in light of what’s going on in the world. Another example is ,‘The Battle is Over, But the
War Goes On’.
SC: I'm trying to make music, Blues in particular, that is relevant to the times. So "Crossbone" is right out of today's headlines about date rape. And "The Battle Is Over" anti-war message is as well. The world doesn't really need more blues songs that only say, "My main left me, ain't that sad".
HH: I love that you selected, ‘Devil’s Hand’; a tune of your father’s on here, the great, Johnny Clyde Copeland. I hope you do one every cd! You know he would be proud of all that you have accomplished. Im sure both your parents are.
SC: I'm very luck that I had great parents. I love them both so much. Both were always so supportive of whatever I wanted to do.
HH: The songs are all very sepcial; ‘Albert King’s, ‘Wrapped up in Love Again’, John
Fogerty’s...‘Long as I Can See the Light’ , and the final cut is so poignant, ‘Lord Help the Needy’.
Commentary on social justice is important to you.
SC: I'm very blessed that I have this opportunity to use my voice and people actually listen to it. So I like to take advantage of that to do more than just sing simple songs. Social justice is important to all of us.So I try to sing about thing but in an entertaining way.I'd never want to come across as lecturing anyone.
HH: Are there a few tunes you that could like talk about specifically or that you would like to touch on so folks can be aware their messages?
SC: I think "Cardboard Box", about homeless people, is an important one. Everyday we all just walk past these poor people living out in the street. We ignore them. It's like we treat them and act they're not even people anymore. We just walk on by. It's incredibly sad and it's not right.
HH: Can you just mention on some of your greatest influences that have help put you on the path?
SC: Koko Taylor and Ruth Brown were huge influences. Otis Redding and O.V. Wright. The Stones and Led Zep. My daddy, Johnny Clyde. Dr. John. Steve Cropper. Too many other people to name. I've been very fortunate.
HH: Thank you, Shemekia for sitting down with me today. I’m always so excited to see what you are
up to. All the best on, ‘Outskirts of Love’. It’s going places. Our buddy Ed Burke was also happy to
hear the new cd on ‘Spinning the Blues’. He’s like a proud uncle out there. I look forward to hearing
the band again soon. Let’s check in again in the future. Safe travels...