Real music comes from the soul, believes singer-songwriter/guitarist Selwyn Birchwood.
“The music that I enjoy is music that comes from people’s souls, it comes from people’s actual experiences rather than imitating what other people have experienced,” he told me in a recent interview. “Music is more authentic when people are putting themselves out there. You can relate to it on a higher level, and then add your own personal experience.”
You’ll get a chance to hear what he means Friday, April 8 when Birchwood plays Chan’s, the legendary Woonsocket venue known for “Egg Rolls and Jazz,” and in this case, blues.
The Florida native released his latest album Living In A Burning House in early 2021, and due to the pandemic, he’s just getting out on tour now to play the #1 charting album live. He described how his band approached the recording.
”What we’re trying to do is find our own sound, and I feel like with this album we kind of got there. Every song on the record are songs that I wrote. I’m just glad that there’s at least a couple of people out there that still appreciate musicians who write their own music,” he said.
The album was produced by Grammy Award-winning musician/producer Tom Hambridge, who has worked with Buddy Guy, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram and Susan Tedeschi. “I’m glad it’s been accepted and embraced so much at this point,” Birchwood continued. “It debuted at number one on the iTunes Blues chart as well as the Billboard Blues chart, and we’re up for three Blues Music Awards this year.”
As mentioned, he’s a purist when it comes to presenting the Blues genre.
“I feel these days Blues has kind of turned into a kind of paint by numbers, where people are just kind of coloring in the lines and playing what everyone recorded in the 1950s and 1960s. At some point, it starts to feel a little bit ingenuous when you hear people talking about and singing about someone else’s story rather than their own. Every time I get on the stage, I’m up there to tell you where I’m from and what I’m about.”
Pre-Covid, Birchwood played live about 150-175 nights a year, “we were working like crazy,” he noted. As the pandemic wanes, Birchwood sees things improving “ it feels like there’s a turning of the tide, the crowd size at shows has been swelling like crazy, everyone seems to be excited about the new music.”
“I guess they say ‘you don’t know what you got till it’s gone.’ It feels like a blessing the whole time whenever we get to play a show and share a night with people, when you get that taken away, it makes it much more apparent,” said Birchwood.
He’s got a busy schedule coming up this summer including a blues cruise through the Mediterranean with Joe Bonamassa. I asked Birchwood if he noticed any difference between crowds in Europe vs. fans in America.
“American audiences tend to listen to music with their eyes, they wanna see what people are wearing on stage, and how they act on stage. What people look like, that’s what plays a heavy factor in who’s getting booked, and what kind of music is being played,” he remarked.
“In Europe, people are definitely listening more intently to the music, it’s not uncommon for a crowd to be completely silent over there until the end of the show, there’s a super high respect for the musicians on stage. In the US it’s more of a party atmosphere, more dancing and carrying on, that’s how we like to experience it over here. It’s just different ways to love the music,” he explained.
So it’s all systems go for the show Friday … “I’m excited to see everybody out there and share a great night of music. I’m really looking forward to getting up there, I haven’t been able to get up there for quite some time so it’s gonna be a special night.”