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8 Questions with…..Detroit musician Carl Henry

Originally posted on 22 May 12

It’s 11:11 am

I am re- posting this interview that I originally did with a very cool cat by the name of Carl Henry,a blues musician from Detroit. Carl is one of the most giving artists I know of. He’ll gladly play a big festival or show on one night in front of a large crowd and the next day you’ll find him playing a small senior center or even at a library in front of 20-30 fans of good music.

Since I posted this,Carl has had his own medical issues in dealing with some nasty kidney stones that ended up requiring multiple surgeries. But he has kept his good humor with him and is now back at it,making people happy by creating some marvelous music. 
When I saw this in my memories on FB,I thought it was proper to re-post this interview to share with my new readers. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Welcome to another edition of my interview series called “8 Questions with…..”. Today,not only are we talking to a very talented artist in Carl Henry,we are also offering 2 FREE SIGNED CDs as well. You’ll have to see the details after you read the interview…*s*
I met Carl via FB while we were swapping comments on another mutual friend’s Wall. We were both agreeing and disagreeing on some subject related to something or another. When I clicked on his name,I noticed he was a very active local musician here in the metro Detroit area. Well being that I am big supporter of local music,I sent him a friend request which he accepted right away.
  Now I got a first look at just how hard this man WORKS. Carl gigs tirelessly at gigs both large and small…like playing for senior centers around the area. Music is the universal language and the fact Carl travels everywhere playing his music for folks who normally would never get out again to hear great live music,well,how can you not respect a musician like that?
  So asking Carl to do this interview was a no-brainer. I was dying to ask him some burning questions and his craft and how it relates to him. I really hope you all enjoy reading this as much as I loved putting it together!
This interview is dedicated to San Jose bluesman Andy Mazzilli.
And now……8 Questions with……Carl Henry.
TIC:  Where you born and what was life like growing up in the Henry household?

 I was born in Troy Michigan, back when Maple Rd (15 Mile Rd) was still a two lane dirt road. Growing up I watched it change until it became the five lane road it is today! We were kind of from the poor side of the tracks in Troy. My father was a steel worker, who had never made it past the sixth grade in school. He came from a family with seven kids, and during the depression years, he had to quit school to work to help the family. My mom was a stay at home housewife who also came from a family with eight brothers and sisters. Always made some great big get togethers  at the holidays. I am however, a only child. (I think I was born so big my mother said “never again”!)
I lived in Troy in the same home all through my school years, and our life was rather good growing up. We had a cabin up north on a lake we would retreat to almost every weekend. And always I was having fun, spending a lot of time with one of my Uncles, Norm Nieman who used to be a race car driver. (Late Models) You could usually find me at a race track when I wasnt up north fishing or hunting with my dad. 
TIC: Who influenced you to want to play music and how did they do it?
CH: My mother was my first big musical influence. We had a upright piano at home, and she was a classically trained piano player, but she was also horribly shy. She rarely played when people were around, she was always nervous. But besides playing selections of Bach, and Brahms, she also had a hidden love that was frowned upon by her parents. She loved to play boogie woogie on the 88. I can still hear her playing the “Bumble Boogie” in my mind to this day. My father was a country music fan until later years when he started liking blues and other types of music. They bought me my first guitar when I was thirteen. Been going ever since.TIC: Walk us through the very first time you played in public,how did you get the show,what did you do to prepare for it?
CH: Funny you should ask this, because I through the magic of Facebook, just hooked up with the super gentleman I played with in front of the public ever, and he was my chemistry teacher in Troy High School, Mr Mark Stern. He had a love for bluegrass and country music, so we worked up two songs together “The Wreck Of The Old 97” and a song by Micheal Parks of “Then Came Bronson” fame called “Sing That Song Again”. We performed them at a talent night show at Troy High in 1975. It turned me from total ‘loner’ status in school, over to the ‘cooler’ side. After that I was hooked on not only the music, but the love of pleasing a audience.
TIC: You mention in a interview how much you love Johnny Cash and his music….so why the blues and not country music?

CH: Well, the answer to that is easy acutally. I do it all. I have been blessed to play all kinds of music through the years, and most people know I dislike the pidgeon holes that the mere suggestion of ‘genre’ tries to limit you with. For example, I even play Irish and Folk music well enough to be asked to perform in this years Motor City Irish Fest. It is very true I have a ton of experience in the blues, and a great love for blues music. I really got my whole education in stage performing from some of the greats in the blues. My first real club gigs were with super people like Uncle Jesse White, and “Mr.” Bo Collins, and I’ve always learned a lot not only about the music, but indeed about life from these great people.
But, to get back to your question, I do play country, and the newer styles of it, as well as the old. I even do “Western” music, which not too many people do these days. My next cd, which is in production now, will be titled “All Folked Up” and will be a mixture of country, folk and blues. I always tend to call my music “American”. Because I love the melting pot that America is when it comes to music. To me the only genre label that should be attached to it is, ‘is it enjoyable?’
Johnny Cash I think would agree with me. He recorded all kinds of folks’ songs in his day, and sounds just as good doing a Trent Reznor song as he does singing a old gospel tune. 
TIC. Blues musicians have a seriously bad history for hard drug abuse,what is your take on this?
CH: I think you can say that about a lot of different music too, but a few things rings true for me, about the drug and alcohol abuse that is very alive in many folks in music. You will find that songwriters and performers of all kinds face many evils. I often say that to write a song you ‘open your heart and let it fall out’. Which means you are sensative. To feel the hurts of others, as well as the hurts of yourself. Add into that mixture the fact that most all musicians work in clubs, which not only serve booze, but at which many drugs are available all the time, and it’s hard not to fall into those traps. Now, add the fact for the touring musician that the road is not the glamourous place most think it is…you live from a suitcase, hotel to hotel, and usually your very lonely during those times, missing someone you wish you were with, or, thinking of problems elsewhere that you wish you were there to address…I myself was a raging alcoholic for many years in my youth, which led me to quit the booze for five years. I have the occasional shot or beer now, but I now have control of it, and can walk away, where at one time it did indeed control me. I am so happy those years are behind me.
Today yet I worry so for the younger performers, who believe that a drug leads to greater creativity. I never ever found that to be the case.
TIC:  Do you agree that blues music is too constricting,that fans are less tolerant to artists playing their own original music then the classics? Explain your position on this.
CH: Wow, you do ask good questions! I think you can ask fifty different people to describe the blues, and you would almost get fifty different answers. It is not a easy genre to define with solid walls. And also much depends on where you are in the country at the time. I will give you a example. I toured in Texas a few years ago. In Austin, San Antonio, those areas and more, they do not want to hear you do one single ‘cover’ tune. They want all original music. In Detroit, you will find most people wanting to hear the cover versions, with a original tossed in occasionaly. So the blues audience here is a totally different animal than in other areas of the country. Blues you will find also has it’s ups and downs in popularity. Right now I would say it is in a down trend here, because there are very few clubs left that make a commitment to being a ‘blues’ venue. And radio airplay, unless your listening to public radio, or internet radio, for blues is almost non existant. You will not hear the blues on a Clear Channel station. On places like Sirius, and satellite radio yes. But on local radio, unless it is a WDET or WHFR, or another public radio station, forget it. It is one reason I always try to support public radio. When you’re a entertainer in the clubs, your job is to make the people in those clubs happy with your music. These days, it is increasingly difficult to do just a blues show. You better be ready to play other genres to keep the crowds happy. When I am hired for a blues show however, as I am many times through the year, then you can play just the blues, because that’s what the people there came expecting to hear. In clubs, I get all kinds of requests of all genres. I earned the nickname ‘The Human Jukebox’ by being good at many different styles. You absolutely have to do that to be a good entertainer in my opinion. You will always have the people who want to yell “Freebird”, or “Mustang Sally”, you cant escape that. Original artists who do their own music all the time, are always going to be in for a lot of work. Because as I mentioned, especially here in the D, people simply love hearing cover songs. It is one thing I never minded really, I just want the audience to have a good time, because that’s why they are there. 
TIC.How has the music scene evolved since you started playing? Is it easier to record,tour and put out music or harder?

CH: The music scene changes so much it has changed while I was writing this sentence. It’s much easier to record these days, everyone has a home studio, and that is a good thing. I am very far from up to date as far as the latest tech, with auto tune, and all the other things that have burst on the scene in the last ten years or so. And it is also good that it is much easier to get your music out to the public. CD Baby, and many other digital download resources are available at affordable prices to all artists now. The only down side is, you had better be up on all the latest greatest avenues to sell your music, and I am way way behind in that regard. My latest cd was the first recording I ever really made that was truly public, the others you had to come and purchase from me directly at a show. And still I am not out with it on the various outlets like CD Baby, and the other digital outlets. And I know I shoot myself in the foot by not being there yet. It is a priority for me to work on. This last cd sold more than I ever have of anything I have ever done, and was the very first time I ever purchased a ‘bar code’ for anything in my life. So the old fella is catching up, but too slowly for my liking. I do everything myself, and there simply aren’t enough hours in a day sometimes. Touring, has never been a problem for me, usually I can submit some songs to someone, make a few phone calls, and set up dates. I have also been awful lucky to have made friends with people who like what I do, that have been kind enough to book me for the larger festivals, and larger club dates I have done. I can’t thank those folks enough. Being the chief cook, and bottle washer all at once is not a easy chore, and I have been very lucky and blessed. My days consist of bookings in the mornings and afternoons, when I dont have a afternoon show, and playing in the evenings. I like to think I work hard for the people I play for, and after over 25 years of it, I still love what I do.
TIC: What are the five freshest blues acts playing today and why should we check them out?
Now THAT is a hard question because there’s so very many talented acts. Detroit is full of them, of all genres. I will give you five favorites.
First, The Broken Arrow Blues Band. I’ve known the guys in the band many years, and they are rockin the houses wherever they go.
Second, A young group from the thumb area Gasoline Alley, these kids are fantastic, and are creating a sound of rock and blues and country that defies genre, and is just plain full of good energy. These young men will go far.
Third, I would have to add The Clay Adams Band, I’ve known Clay a long time, and he’s just now beginning to get the credit he deserves as far as being a songwriter and artist.
Fourth, a group that is breaking out bigger into the national spotlight, The Rusty Wright Band. Rusty and Laurie and the group have almost limitless talent, and Rusty is just a plain old guitar monster.
For the Fifth, I’m going to break out of the blues, and tell you go see The Codgers. They are a group of fellas I have known since my old days of playing at the Tipperary Pub in Detroit, and may be the only band who can out drink Shane McGowan and the Pouges. And your guaranteed a superb time anytime you can see them play. They bring a energy to the stage as well, that anyone will enjoy.
And my apologies to anyone I left out here, with only five to pick from. This is the D my friends, and we are so loaded with talent here, that to be honest I dont know why anyone would pay large dollars to see a national act, when the music we make right here is just as good as anything you’ll see on any national stage. I am honored to be a part of it.
    • TIC: What advice would you give a youngster who wants to play blues? What is more important,the chops or the songwriting?
      CH: The first thing I will tell you, is keep your day job. Playing blues, or any live music is a hard hard living. But when your bitten with the perfomance bug, I know how it is. As John Lee Hooker would tell you “It’s in you, and it’s got to come out”. I would say to you, learn with your heart. Feel it. If you cannot feel it, your not going to have the chop on the instrument you want, and your sure not going to write anything well, unless it indeed comes from inside your soul. And never quit. Because when you do, your not quitting music, your quitting your own soul and being. Dont look to imitate. Look to create something from inside yourself. Study the old masters, research them, understand what and why they did what they did, and when you play their song, stay as true to it as you can. But when you make your own, do just that, and make it your own whenever you can. You will always have your influences, and they will show up in your own music. But be sure to stay true to what you feel, and usually you wont go wrong.Thanks so much for having me share so much of my insanity. If I can add one thing, it’s to tell everyone a thank you from the bottom of my heart, for giving me the honor, and the privilege to play music for you. Go see a live show, and keep supporting blues, and all forms of live music, so we dont turn into a nation where we ‘used to hear live music’. Every dollar you spend on live entertainment will come back to you in joy.

      Thanks to Carl Henry,we have 2 free signed CDs to giveaway. Simply drop a comment on the interview below and let us know what you thought of the interview. That is all you have to do…….not so hard,is it?
      To learn more about Carl Henry and his music,including news updates,touring dates and how to purchase his music,please visit Carl on his website which you can find by clicking here.

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