Interview with Pete Devine of Pete’s Rock News and Views (http://petesrocknewsandviews.com)
PD: How would you describe yourself or your band as an artist?
Lionel WERNERT : Well, Lee O’Nell Blues Gang is a Blues Rock group based on guitar (me, haha !) and a female vocalist (Gipsy, who is also my wife). A clever mix of vintage and modernity with a touch of soul and jazz to offer only new tracks of a Contemporary Blues Rock.
So the Gang is composed by Philippe DANDRIMONT on bass, François BARISAUX on keyboards, Pierre-Alain DELAUNOY on drums, Gipsy BACUET as lead vocal and also song writer , and me Lionel WERNERT on lead guitar and composer.
PD: Can you tell us briefly about your background – i.e. where you’re from, how you came to make music, etc.
Gipsy BACUET : We came from France, not native but living in Reims (the capital of Champagne and Kings in the Middle Ages.
I started music when I was 6 years old, with classic piano lessons that I dropped when I was 12. Then I went back to music school to study a little in a jazz class, then since I was 20, I never stop singing and earning my life as a singer in a lot of bands till I met Lionel 15 years ago.
Lionel: For my part, I’m a self-taught guitarist. I started at 11, listening rock legends like Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin, Rainbow …Then I got interested by the roots of rock, the Blues and listened and studied Peter Green, Albert King, Eric Clapton among other till Joe Bonamassa, Eric Gales as contemporary Bluesmen.
I also played with a lot of artists, and my best friend, my heart brother who is a famous French Bluesman Fred CHAPELLIER, invited us as guests during one of his shows in 2019 cause he knew that Gipsy and I had a duet and used to play some covers of Blues standards and some of his own songs. At the end of the concert, he told me that I’d better build my own Blues band to express what I had to say.
That is what we’ve done 2 weeks after this famous show and 6 months later we went to the studio to record our first album « Different Shades Of Love » released in September 2020, but the pandemic had stopped everything like for all the musicians all over the world. So in 2021, I decided to compose and produce a second album, « This is us » released in sept 2022.
PD: Who and what inspires you to make music, both in terms of musical and other influences? What do you like to write about in your songs?
Gipsy: Generaly speaking what inspires me is life and human relations. I like to write about the complexity of human relationships, and I like to keep a certain ambiguity in my lyrics. When you listen to the songs, you’ll never know if what I’m talking about is something that I have experimented or not. For example, the first album « Different Shades Of Love » was all around the different colors of love and all the feelings you can explore: passion, jealousy , distress and even a song about the violence against women (Never again) . The second album was written during the pandemic, so it was a kind of self-analysis, an introspection so you will find sadness and melancholy, tears and passion, joy ans questions, hope and darkness, anger and sadness, fatalism and disappointment, fear ans loneliness but never any regrets.
Lionel: My experience, life in general and all that I’ve been able to listen to. I like to mix a vintage sound and a certain modernity in the construction of a song. Finding common point between opposing genres …
As an example, in the song « The man in the corner » Gipsy wrote some lyrics about my father. She sadly never met him cause he died before I met her. At home (cause Gipsy and I are a couple on stage and also in the city), we have a picture of him and we can see him showing the lens that takes picture of him. When Gipsy started to write the lyrics, she sang « the man in the corner is always on my mind, the man in the corner is always by my side » etc.. The song is about those we missed so much but she didn’t want something too sad to talk about the fact that life still goes on with our angels whom keep on watching over us. She wrote « welcome to the dance of the everlasting tears… » I decided to put a king of rumba rhythm and melody in the song . This song is not sad, it’s a simple report of life going on whatever happen; and you will be sooner or later swept away by the whirlwind … Think it’s better to listen than explain…
And in terms of music, I enjoy playing blues with a touch of soul, of jazz and good rock generally speaking.
PD: What are your aspirations as an artist?
Gipsy: I just want to sing and make the audience feeling good when they listen to us. I’d like them to recognize themselves a little in our words and music.
Lionel: If we could play beyond the French borders that would be great. Cause unfortunately the French music culture is not really the one we love. In Belgium, Germany, Holland, England and United States of course the rock is really anchored and present. In France, not really… If any booking agency is reading… we’re waiting for you to contact us ! Haha !!
PD: What is the proudest moment in your music career so far?
Lionel: When my friend, my brother Fred CHAPELLIER asked me to compose a song for his new album !
Gipsy: When Jade MACRAE (an amazing australian singer and background vocalist for Joe BONAMASSA) who wrote with me « Just need a prayer », the last track of « This is us » sent me an email saying « You’ve got a lovely way of writing and singing this song » .
Lionel: When your work is recognized by some people so talented like Fred CHAPELLIER or Jade MACRAE is a kind of consecration…
PD: Promoting one’s music is such a challenge these days, especially with so many new artists emerging from bedrooms in the day of the home studio. How is that going?
Lionel: Promote a new album and a new band is actually really something very hard today. But it is on stage where you can really judge the band. It’s quite easy to make an album in a home studio, even if you need a minimum of competences of course. Harmony, rhythm and melody are not the only things you need to make a good song. You need to feel the music you play, I mean you need to have understood and digested a lot of things before pretending to compose a song. There are so many persons who really love and understand the music, some connoisseurs who can guess if you play with or without your plectre, some who know every riffs of Albert King for example… Home studio can make illusion on an album but on stage you are alone with your guitar in front of the audience . They look at you and you can hear « ok, show me what you’re able to do now… Take me into your world ». For me, that is the real promotion of music, being on stage almost every evening to make your music live with emotion and truth.
Gipsy: Well… he said it all. That’s the reason why radio shows , interviews, chronicles, webzines and sheets like yours are important for artists. You offer us the exposition to the world, people like or not and then decide to come for a concert . I think that discovering a band like that, then going to a concert and after the show thinking « yeah, that was so good, I’d like to get their CD to listen again » is the best way to support a group. But in fact, sometimes, and that’s what I also do, buying a CD, listening to it again and again until you know it by heart, and then going to the concert to be surprised by the way the songs are played live is good too.
PD: And how do you book and promote your live shows and tours? Any performances coming up?
Lionel: We do everything by ourselves. We have no label, no booking agency, no manager, so it takes time and other bands could tell you the same, it’s sometimes difficult to put all the caps on your head at the same time, but… nevertheless we success and have few beautiful concerts to come. For example, we will soon open for Ana Popovic, or The Cinelly Brothers…
Gipsy: Yes, this is another way to promote our music. Being the opener for such bands is a very good opportunity for young bands like us.
PD: What do you think about downloading music online? What about streaming sites like Spotify?
Gipsy: Well, the times are hard for everyone. Of course artists are not paid the same for a CD or a downloading or streaming. It’s a way to listen music everywhere easily and with a cheapest cost of course. And we must live with the times so …
Lionel: But the connoisseurs, people who are really passionated still buying CD and even vinyles. Cause the objet has a signification. It’s the work of an artist or a band, it’s like a book. You can take it in your hand, watch the pictures, read the lyrics of whatever while you are listening to the music. It’s a real moment while you pay attention to all the music aspects.
PD: What song do you wish you’d written and why?
Lionel: « Too close to the fire » by Eric Gales. It’s such a simple song, so obvious and so beautiful . In this song you can find everything. Every Bluesman could have played it: BB King, Albert King, Gary Moore, a vintage sound and also strength and power.
Gipsy: « Crazy » by Willie Nelson. That sounds so jazzy for a country song. So simple, so sweet and for the beauty of the lyrics. « I’m crazy for crying, I’m crazy for trying, and I’m crazy for loving you… »
PD: Is there anything you don’t like about the music industry, which you would change if you could?
Lionel: I don’t really know how it is beyond France, but here people always wants to catalog you in such a style or another. Music has so many shades, Jazz, Blues, Classic, Rock , Pop, Country etc… let yourself be carried away by the emotion that gives this song at this moment and that’s all.
PD: So, what are you working on at the moment?
Gipsy: Haha ! Lionel is a kind of hyperactive person, so he’s already working on the third album…
PD: Where can we learn more about you and buy your music/merch online?
Gipsy: Well, on our website: www.leeonellbluesgang.com you can buy our 2 albums.
You can also follow us on Facebook, or Instagram, you can watch and subscribe our Youtube channel:
On Deezer and Spotify, just write Lee O’Nell Blues Gang !!
Lee O’Nell Blues Gang links:
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