Interview with Blues Artist and Georgia Songbird EG Kight

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Georgia Native EG Kight has traveled around the world performing and fundraising, received the 2013 Georgia Music Legend Award, survived a life-threatening illness, and recently released her new album, A New Day, co-produced with Paul Hornsby (Marshall Tucker, Charlie Daniels)The soulful album includes ten tracks of songs ranging from slow ballads like “Comin’ Down with the Blues” and “Bad Things,” to the blues rock tunes in “Holdin’ On,” “Misunderstood,” and “Low Mileage Woman,” to good ole hand-clapping, foot-stomping gospel blues as heard in “Don’t Give Up.”

EG was greatly influenced by The Queen of Blues Koko Taylor, B.B. King, Etta James and the great slide guitarist Bonnie Raitt, just to name a few.

With a second chance at life, EG is living life to its fullest and enjoying every new day.

GGM:  Your new album, A New Day, has a very deep meaning behind it. I listened to your music and was touched by it, and it inspired me to look at some situations in my life a little differently. Can you share with us your inspiration for the album?

EG:  I’m so glad you like the album! That means a lot to me. It’s doing what I wanted it to do – touching people, giving them hope, and giving them reason to look at life from a different perspective.

I call it my “miracle” album because there was a while I didn’t think I’d ever make another one.  Since my 2011 release, I contracted Meningitis and Encephalitis, and it changed my life. The doctors think it came from a mosquito bite. Having a brain infection of this magnitude really effects your thinking process, your energy, etc. So, for a while, I couldn’t write my name, much less a song. It took over a year before I could start writing again. I wrote or co-wrote most of the songs on this new CD after the illness. I think people will be able to pick those songs out, because they came from a deeper place. If there’s one good thing that came from the illness, it’s that I feel like I’ve improved on my songwriting.

GGM:  Is there any one particular song on the album that is especially meaningful to you, and if so, why?

EG:  The most meaningful song on this album is probably “Holdin’ On.” A couple of lines from this song were the first ones that came to me after the illness. “When the sun came up and warmed my face, it felt so good to have another day…” And it’s so true, and it felt so good to be able to write this line down. I know there are a lot of people who can relate to this song, and I hope it brings them hope. I’m a true witness to the fact that you can bounce back from almost anything.

GGM:  You were very, very fortunate to overcome a life-threatening illness. How has that experience changed your perspective on life?

EG:  Having been through this illness has made me appreciate every single day. And I don’t sweat the small stuff like I used to. I’m just so grateful for everything, especially the fact that I’m still able to make music. It seems I feel the music more deeply now. And my friends who’ve known me for a while say they can really hear the difference.

GGM:  You had a full band backing you on your new album. Tell us a little about the band members, the producer Paul Hornsby and their input in the writing, recording, and producing for this album.

EG:  When I get ready to record an album, my first call is to a longtime dear friend, Paul Hornsby.  I’ve learned so much from him through the years, and we like the same kind of music. He’s worked on many successful albums, some with Charlie Daniels, and the Marshall Tucker Band. And he had a hand in so many recordings during the Southern Rock movement.

I started this album with Tommy Talton (guitar), Bill Stewart (drums) and Marshall Coats (bass) helping out.

Tommy has a great ear when it comes to arrangements and is such a great lead player. He is a founding member of one of the Capricorn groups, Cowboy.

Bill Stewart has played with Gregg Allman, Bonnie Bramlett, Dr. John, and many more.

Marshall Coats is a young player from the Atlanta area who’s been playing with several groups, ranging from punk rock to various other genres.  He’s been on Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, and David Letterman.  

Now when I talk about my touring band, the Blue South Band, I could never say enough good things about them. The band consists of Gary Porter on drums, his wife Rhonda on background vocals, Johnny Fountain on bass, Mike Harrell on keyboards, and Ken Wynn on lead guitar. They are seasoned musicians, and are some of the best you could find anywhere.  

Johnny and Gary have been playing with me for about 16 or 17 years, then Ken joined us in 2006, and Mike in 2013. Rhonda has always been there to help out with vocals, ever since Gary started playing with me. The Blue South Band isn’t just a band to me. They are part of my family. They encourage and inspire me, protect me, and look after me on the stage, and off, more so since my illness.
When I was in the hospital, I remember waking up early one morning, around 6 am, before I could talk very well. Gary was holding my hand and talking words of encouragement, and even singing to me.  This is the kind of people I work with.  

As I would write a couple of new songs for the album, I’d call my band together for them to listen to what I’d been working on. They’d jump right in and helped with the arrangements, tempos, etc. They’d come up with some wonderful ideas. The next day we’d go in the studio and put the songs down while they were fresh on our minds. We’d usually record two at a time. They are playing on six songs on the CD, and they really shine! I know you can tell by now that I really love ’em!

And they each have their own impressive resumes. I’m so proud of them that I put their individual bios on my website.

GGM:  You’ve been a musician for quite some time now. Do you feel your music has changed over the years, and if so, in what way?

EG:  I’ve been blessed to be able to make a living with music for many years, and yes, it has changed along the way.  I was in country music early on in my career. In fact, I was performing quite a bit as early as high school. When I got to a certain crossroads in my career, seeing that country was changing and headed in a direction that I just wasn’t feeling, I was introduced to the music of the Queen of the Blues, Koko Taylor, and it changed my life. I started incorporating her songs and some other blues songs into my shows, and they became more popular with my audiences than what I had been doing in country.  So around 1995, I jumped right out onto the blues highway and I’ve never looked back. Koko and I became friends, and we talked a lot about the music business. She encouraged me along the way, and I took all of her advice to heart.

Koko recorded some of my songs, sang a duet with me on one of my albums, and has helped turn other people on to my music.  She continues to inspire me daily. And I miss her so much…

GGM:  When did you first pick up a guitar and can you share with us what inspired you?

EG:  I picked up a guitar when I was around four or five years old.  My Grandma kept me while my parents worked, and she played guitar a little. My uncle had a band and they would rehearse at Grandma’s. I would sit and watch, and listen, and I was in awe of them. I still remember those times like they were yesterday.  I thought music was the best thing I’d ever heard of. I was already singing in church, and I could even harmonize when I was around four years old. The guitar has been such a big part of my life. When I was a little girl, I wore out a path to my Grandma’s house. You could see me in the yard with a doll in one arm and dragging my guitar with the other.

GGM:  Tell us about your guitar of choice and why it resonates with you.

EG:  I’ve had many guitars during my life, but the ones that stand out to me at this time are my Taylor acoustics, and my Fender electrics. The people at Taylor Guitars have been so good to me the last several years, supplying guitars for me overseas, and in the states when I’ve needed one. I just love the way my Taylor 712ce feels and sounds, and it fits my body like a glove. I also have a 312ce that I love. Taylor Guitars have such a sweet tone, and tone is what it’s all about. And they’re easy to play!

I bought a Fender Telecaster Thinline right after I graduated from high school, and I still use it today for some of my band shows, along with my red sparkle Fender Stratocaster.

GGM:  Being a blues musician, who were some of your early musical influences that inspired you to play the blues?

EG:  As I mentioned earlier, Koko Taylor has been a huge influence, and so has Etta James.

A while back my band and I opened some shows for B.B. King, and we had the honor of watching him play, up close and personal. I think B.B. has probably influenced every blues guitarist out there. I’d know his playing anywhere.

Jimmy Reed has also been a big influence on my playing, along with T-Bone Walker. It’s their grooves that I’ve learned so much from.

Then there’s one of the best slide players I know, Bonnie Raitt. What an influence she’s been in my music! I remember the first time I heard her perform “Love Me Like a Man.” I was blown away by her singing and playing, and had to buy everything I could find of hers. I’ve been playing that song for many years now in my solo act. It still gets me going every time!

GGM:  You’re known as the “Georgia Songbird.” How did that come about?

EG:  I don’t remember who exactly called me that the first time, but it was decades ago, probably back in the 1970’s. And it just stuck with me. I’ve had that nickname throughout my career, and I’m proud to be recognized as a Georgia native. Some of my friends just call me “Bird.” I guess it’s just who I am!

GGM:  You’ve had the wonderful experience of working with so many great musicians. What impact did that have on your music and is there any one memorable moment that stands out from the rest?

EG:  Through the years I’ve been honored to share the stage with some major artists, and I’ve gotten to play with some wonderful musicians. I would have to say getting to sing on stage with my mentor Koko Taylor stands out as one of the most memorable moments of my life. Koko always told me to “Carry on child,” and that’s what I’m trying to do.

And another great memory for me was sharing the stage with Hubert Sumlin, who was the lead guitarist for Howling Wolf. My band and I worked with him a few times. He had a spirit that would warm your soul. And, just sitting around in casual conversation, he gave us some wonderful advice that we take with us every time we play. He said, “A lot of guys can play more notes than me, but if I can play one note from the heart and make somebody feel it, I’ve done my job. Sometimes folks forget why they started in the first place, and that is to have fun and take other folks along for the ride.” 

GGM:  You’re not only an award-winning musician, but an award-winning photographer, as well. What types of subjects do you enjoying photographing the most?

EG:  I still have so much to learn about photography, but learning sure is fun. I just love it! I enjoy taking old guitars, harps, and any old things that I find, and setting a scene with them. And I love taking pictures of my pet goats! And the fact that the fans are responding the way they do to my photographs really touches me. You can see some of my photography at a link on my website.

GGM:  Besides music and photography, what other interest and hobbies do you have? 

EG:  When I’m not on the road, I enjoy shopping with my mama, and spending time with her. We’re like two peas in a pod, and a lot of folks who see us together think we’re sisters!

And I enjoy my pets – my dog, Doodles, who is named after Koko’s song, “Wang Dang Doodle,” and my cat named Albert, who comes into my room every morning, crawls up in my lap and gives me a hug.

I have eight pet goats – Sippie, Sweetie, Cream, Bluezy, Tiny Tim, Hippie Jr., Brownie, and Zippy. And several of them are expecting, so we’ll have more babies soon!

GGM:  What’s next for EG Kight?

EG:  There are more songs to write, more songs to sing, and more theaters, clubs, and festivals to play! And we’re continuing to work on getting other artists to record some of my songs, too.

There are more fans to meet, more love to give, and more life to live.  After all, it’s A NEW DAY!

To find out more about EG Kight, visit her site HERE.

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