It doesn’t happen often, which quite possibly is good, yet it happens, fortunately. You live with your comfortable music collection reaching out mainly to what’s related to it and you’re fed with what’s on the radio or TV even if you don’t want to – but then, once in a while, something special comes your way from an artist you’ve never heard of, and you go, “Oh well, I’m gonna be a fan! I’m not gonna like it, I’m gonna love it!” That’s like it is with Atlanta’s own Beau Hall, a guy with a funny sounding name and serious music. Not too serious in the lyrics – Beau possesses a marvellous sense of humor – yet very serious in approach. He has all the makings that make up a great musician, and he deserves to be at the top – especially now, when such a blistering blend of rock, funk and blues seems to be fashionable again. And now, when Hall has a solo album, “UNH!” out, it’s hopefully only a matter of time that he’ll make it there. Beau, still, has some doubts…
– What with not being sure your songs are strong enough, where does the album’s swagger come from?
“Swagger” – what a great description of the music! I’m a huge fan of singers like Tom Jones, Michael Hutchence, Mick Jagger – singers who have such a powerful style of belting out the notes, and a fan of songwriters like Prince and James Brown who write from the crotch with the confidence of a pitbull, and guitarists like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Hendrix, who’s playing is so powerful that it sounds like the amp is about to explode – I’d say these things all put that swagger in my music.
– What does “UNH!” really mean?
“UNH!” is the most used lyric on the CD. When the CD was almost completed, I started thinking about a title. I felt that very little ties these songs together. Lyrically, I cover topics from my doubt in a God, like in “Swing Down”, to techniques for picking up girls, like “Oh Face”, “Can I Get Some Lovin?” and “Superhot Lady Cop”, to mourning the death of a girlfriend, like in “Sometimes I Cry”. Musically, I’ve got rock, funk, and blues. I wanted a title that was funny, but I wanted a title that declared that I was becoming more independent with this CD; and I wanted the title to say a million other things. After spending two weeks going through everything from “Should Apply Himself More”, which is the most frequent comment on all my report cards from school, to “I told you I could do it myself”… In the end, any title I came up with just seemed ridiculous or angry, so I just picked what seemed to be the one word that appears in every song: “UNH!”
– How does a white boy happen to have such an acute feel of blues and funk?
When I was a little kid, disco and funk was hot. We’re talking 1975 maybe? K.C. AND THE SUNSHINE BAND, THE JACKSON 5, and then along comes PARLIAMENT with “Flashlight”. That’s all I wanted to hear when I was thirteen. Other kids were digging on LED ZEPPELIN, I was digging on Prince by eighth grade. As far as the blues, and you’re going to laugh at this, but when I saw “The Blues Brothers” – wow! — that was all I wanted to do… even though really, I don’t think they played real blues songs in the movie, except “Sweet Home Chicago”. But as soon as I got home and told my dad that I wanted to play the blues, he broke out his record collection. I was bored with it! Until he played THE ROLLING STONES. And then it all came together – they played blues with some rock and a little funk – tying it all together.
– The other address of your site is http://www.funkmusician.com. Do you position yourself primarily as a funk player?
Funkmusician.com is a side project I’ve been working on – it’s going to have lessons and a podcast and all sorts of stuff to try to build up a community of funk musicians. That web address will eventually point to the funk musician site. I don’t know if I really am primarily a funk player. I wish I was. I think I’m primarily a blues rock player with a heavy heavy dose of the funk. And really, I’m discovering that funk isn’t really it’s own genre anymore, it’s more of a style that is applied to other genres – blues-funk, funk-rock, jazz-funk… when really, it’s all “music that has a groovy beat”. As a genre, funk seems to only contain three artists: James Brown, George Clinton, and Prince. Everything else out there somehow gets pushed into some other genre with the hyphenated sub-style; CAMEO is funk-disco. Sly and the FAMILY STONE is Soul/Funk. MAROON 5 is pop/funk. Lenny Kravitz is funk/rock, or even just rock… when, really, you could interchange half of these songs with the other artist.
– There’s a real class in your guitar and bass playing, but your influences come hard to pinpoint. Who did you listen to when learning the craft?
I started out playing guitar – barely – to Keith Richards and Jimi Hendrix, I guess. And then I heard Stevie Ray Vaughn and that was it. All I wanted to do was to sound just like that. So now, every solo I play, I can trace back to some Stevie Ray lick, unfortunately. I wish I could distance myself more from his style, but, man, it’s just burned into my style now. As far as bass playing, I’d say, I started out copping Prince bass lines, and I can probably track any bass line that I play, back to some Prince song. Except the more rocking stuff like “Hell And Ecstasy” or “Anti-Social Butterfly”. On those, wow, I have no clue where I pulled those licks from.
– A couple of years ago you wrote: “I’m lucky for what I had, life wasn’t so bad. At least from where I’m standing now”. Has your attitude changed now that you have your solo record out?
I can’t believe you tracked down that song! “Star 69”. It was about all my girlfriends over the years and how I didn’t really appreciate them at the time. And to that respect, I’m still appreciative of the life I had back in high school, and wish I could have been aware of what I had back then, instead of flying through girls like clouds. I don’t think that song really applies to my attitude about my music or my life. There’s another song – “As Good” – that’s more appropriate. “This can be as good as it’s ever going to get, and it’s alright with me.” When I’m ninety-five, if I look back, and this was the best moment in my life, well, I won’t mind at all. With the release of this CD, I’ve done more than I ever expected with my music.
– There’s a dramatic ballad on the album, “Sometimes I Cry”, alongside more frivolous songs. What feelings did feed the recording?
I wanted to pick my best songs, regardless of genre. I started thinking about recording the CD in February, and actually went into the studio in June. I wanted the record to be it’s own thing instead of a “blues” or “rock” or “funk” record. I narrowed it down to maybe fifteen songs, and burned those demos on a CD and drove around for weeks, picking each song apart. I dropped off a few great ones because I didn’t know if I could re-create the energy in the studio again, and I selected some songs that were so new that I knew it would be fresh because I’d only recorded a month before: “Can I Get Some Lovin”, for instance. In the end, I wanted the record to be a party record – something you could throw on at a party and groove through every song. And then there’s “Sometimes I Cry”. I don’t know. My original plan was to put it at the end of the record since it didn’t really go along with everything else, lyrically, but in the end, I really like it where it is right in the middle.
– As well as guitar, bass and piano you also play violin, trombone and sax, but why aren’t these instruments on the album?
I wanted a certain rawness to the record. Arranging horn and violin lines would have sounded awesome on the record, but I think it would have taken away the immediate feel of the record. Really, I wanted every song to sound like it was thrown together only minutes before hitting the record button. A lot of my favorite demos were recorded like that – I’d come up with a hook or a guitar line and put the song together around that one line… three hours later, I’d have a great energetic demo. Sure, it lacked the polish of a real record, but the energy on those songs was awesome. I wanted to try to do that. I’m just not that polished on those other instruments to just knock out parts right away like that. Although, hey, that piano solo is pretty painful to listen to. ain’t it?
– Does your solo endeavour signal an end for BLIND SLIM?
My goal in changing the name from Blind Slim to Beau Hall was to put a real person behind BLIND SLIM. I wrote most of the music for BLIND SLIM, sang, played guitars, recorded the CDs, booked most of the gigs – I think that by the time I recorded this CD, there wasn’t much of a difference between the Beau show and the BLIND SLIM show. I started BLIND SLIM with my friend Shinn Uehara back in 1998, and he’s plays guitar in the Beau Hall band, THE MAGNIFICENT 7. On the CD, Lindsey Mercer plays the harmonica solos, and he played in BLIND SLIM. The rhythm section in THE MAGNIFICENT 7 are new guys, and they’re great. So then, is there a time when I’ll bill the shows as BLIND SLIM instead of Beau Hall? I suppose I could do that. I don’t really see the point – the two are synonymous. Sort of like Eminem and Marshall Mathers… when and if he starts doing shows as Marshall Mathers, would he ever do a show billed as Eminem again? Sure, but what’s the point?
– Was it a honor when Prince online fan community embraced “UNH!”?
It was a huge honor. Huge. Prince.org has been a part of my song-crafting since probably 1999. – Hah! How ’bout that? – I joined and started posting comments about my own music, and talking to other ‘orgers’ about their music. Over time, I’ve posted probably fifty plus songs on there, looking for feedback. At one point, the community was so tight that we organized our own site, www.newfunkorder.com, and released several compilation CDs. The positive feedback from my music on those CDs reinforced my decision to do a solo record. For a group of people who are fans – fanatics really – to hear my music and support me, in the way they did, was a huge honor. I’m constantly looking to see which one of us out of that group ends up on a clear channel first.
– Do you often get asked about the movie called “The Deep End” where one of the characters is called Beau Hall?
Hahaha! No. It seems like I’m the only person on the planet who googles “Beau Hall”. Well, except you now. Did you find the girls’ dormitory named “Beau Hall”? That’s pretty funny to me.
Many thanks to Ms Lucy Piller of www.allrightnow.com for helping us get in touch.