KAREN LEE ANDREWS: BLUES ON BROADBEACH ‘BANDWIDTH’ INTERVIEW
Keeping their chin up and forging ahead during the Covid-19 crisis, the good folks at the Blues on Broadbeach festival now present Bandwidth, a virtual showcase capturing live music performances from some of your favourite Blues on Broadbeach 2020 artists – all from the comfort of their own homes.
Self-isolating music fans around the world are invited to join the party. Amid a calendar of cancelled and postponed gigs and festivals, Broadbeach Alliance was adamant that Blues on Broadbeach would not be taken away from fans and is happy to announce that Australia’s largest free music festival will now be a 90-minute music event premiering Live on Facebook on Friday, May 15, 2020, at 7 pm AEST. Northern hemisphere-based fans can also join in on this experience with a special encore screening on Saturday, May 16, 2020, at 7 pm Los Angeles time PDT.
Bandwidth will feature many of the acts who had been booked originally for Blues on Broadbeach 2020 including: Tommy Emmanuel, The Black Sorrows, The Soul Movers, Tami Nelson, Turner Brown Band, Karise Eden, Shaun Kirk and more.
Also included on the bill will be the queen of Oceanic Blues, Karen Lee Andrews, who has impressed all with her smokey, passionate and soulful stage performances. Armed with a fabulous new EP “Far From Paradise”, Karen had planned to tour the EP this year and begin recording a full length album for 2021 release, however like everyone else plans are on hold. Thankfully via Bandwidth, we can all experience the fabulous Karen Lee Andrews in concert on Friday May 15th.
Australian Musician’s Greg Phillips caught up with Karen this week to chat about life in isolation, her gear (including that gorgeous Eastman hollow-body guitar she plays), and of course we talk about her Bandwidth appearance.
Hi Karen, how are you coping with isolation?
I’m hanging in there.
What are you missing most about normal life?
Just the spontaneity of going somewhere. The normal things we take for granted, going to the movies or just going to see our friends. That’s been hard, not seeing family but everyone is the same.
What’s been getting you through this period?
Trying to keep preoccupied building up my gym at home, adding a few things and making sure I keep as healthy as I can mentally and physically and just mucking around on the guitar. Also just taking the opportunity to try and relax and accept what is happening.
What plans did you have to put aside this year?
A lot of festivals and shows. From the the profits of that it would fund a new album, which would then help me get new festivals and shows next year. That’s been put on hold. It has been very disappointing but I’m very understanding of why we have to do that. It’s been a little bit devastating.
At least the Blues on Broadbeach people have resurrected the festival in virtual form with Bandwidth. You played Blues on Broadbeach in 2018, what are your memories of that?
It was the first festival I had played in 3 or 4 years, actually the first show in 3 or 4 years. I was really excited about it. When I got up on stage, it was empty but as soon as I started playing it filled up really quick. I just remember everybody there being music lovers. Everybody wanting to hear music. It’s so awesome when you are in an atmosphere like that and you’re the one providing the music. It’s amazing … a win win for everyone. It’s something that I definitely will always remember.
You’re now doing Bandwidth, the live stream version of the festival. Have you presented many livestreams since lockdown?
I’ve done a couple, one in my backyard and one in my home studio, so I have dabbled in that but I am really excited to be a part of Bandwidth, presented by Blues On Broadbeach. They have really been awesome to their artists and also to their audience, the people who come. With Bandwidth, Blues On Broadbeach tell you how it’s done in a production sense and I am really proud to be a part of the Blues On Broadbeach family.
Normally a festival provides an outline of what staging is available etc. Now they are providing guidelines for the livestream, so it has similarities but really, it’s a whole new world.
It will be really different. We completely respect and appreciate people who come to festivals like Blues on Broadbeach because the atmosphere and support and encouragement is amazing and we always want to give them the best performance that we can under certain conditions.
You recently released a new EP ‘Far From Paradise’. Why did you select those particular tracks to release?
It is a true representation of me. A lot of the songs were written at time when I felt all of those things, all at the same time. It took me about six months to write and formulate the songs and I picked those ones, they were in my heart and I felt that I could communicate them to the audience quickly and give them a glimpse of what I was doing and how I felt.
Is there a song on the EP that is closer to your heart?
I always say Love You is my favourite and will perform it on Bandwidth. It’s a really special song, inspired by one of my good friends and captures how a woman is in a relationship and the nurturing side of that. It is something that I try to be.
I see you a lot with a beautiful hollow body guitar. What is it and what do you like about it?
It’s an Eastman, based on a Gibson 335 but it’s a very clean sounding guitar, a very sweet guitar. What I like about it though is it’s bottom, the bass, so it can sound very, very heavy and can have very sparkly tops, which is what I really love. I got it from the Guitar Factory in Gladesville brand new. I have to use quite a few overdrives to get it a little bit dirty because it can sound very clean. What I like about it is that I can go between sounding really raunchy and ballsy to very sweet, so it is very versatile in that sense. They play amazingly and it’s just so stable and the same constantly, it’s great
I was looking at your promo for Bandwidth and there’s a pretty beat up Fender amp behind you. Tell me about that amp.
Yep that’s a Fender Vibrolux and its a custom made, very old amp. I bought it off my minister. Just the qualities are amazing. I love the warmth and I love the depth. It’s not so clean, it doesn’t have to work too hard before it begins to break up, which is good. I was too lazy to fix the cloth on it. I know I should, I’m being very irresponsible but there is something about the character of it that I really love.
You generally work as a trio, what do you like about the trio format?
Well Yanya Boston is my drummer and he has such a great sense of what’s going on and he gives himself to the music rather than it drives him. He’s very giving and generous when you play with him. He is about what makes everyone else sound amazing. Even when you ask him to do solos during a set, he doesn’t like to do them, even though he is more than capable. He just likes to contribute and make sure the artist is represented in the best way possible. Adam Ventoura, who plays bass is an amazing bass player who can manage to play on his own with just a bass and manage to entertain you for an hour and you’ll go, how did he do that? I get him to do a lot of the solos because he’s exceptional and a lot of the time people will come up to me after the set and say, you’re great but Adam, he’s amazing! I have two awesome musicians who I play with. We’re missing each other very much during this period. Traveling with them is awesome too, they are two great humans who look after a woman on the road. The dynamic we have on stage captures people.
You have an amazingly soulful voice. Who are some of the singers that inspired you growing up?
Growing up I sung a lot in church, that was a big influence on me. My family was a big influence too. We are Polynesian so I grew up listening to them singing to me. I would say that was my first influence. Then in my teenage years into my twenties, it was Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Gil Scott-Heron, so many artists, a lot of soulful artists, those that I could get my hands on because it wasn’t really played on radio.
Once lockdown is over, what’s the plan?
I am completely unsure. We just don’t know what the industry is going to look like. There are new innovations and people coming up with new ways to do things but I am keeping an open mind as to what the next step will be. Like everyone else, we are interested in seeing what the music industry will look like coming out of this.
People are saying that songwriters now have the time to write songs but you also have to be in a good creative headspace to do that, how are you finding things from that perspective?
I have an album ready to go. I was going to use a lot of the profit of what I was going to do this year in terms of festivals and shows, that was going to fund my album and I was hopefully going to release that in 2021 but because I have no shows, there’s no funding. I am ready, good to go, just don’t have any money. It’s good that people are writing during this time, that’s awesome but we just hope there’s enough resources at the end of it to help the artists get through it and record their new music that they have written
We look forward to seeing you on Bandwidth. What’s the best place for people to buy your music and learn more about you?
www.karebleeandrews.com and my EP will be on there.
Bandwidth Live on Facebook on Friday, May 15, 2020, at 7 pm AEST. Northern hemisphere-based fans can also join in on this experience with a special encore screening on Saturday, May 16, 2020, at 7 pm Los Angeles time PDT.
- Dom DiSisto