Live & Direct with Christone "Kingfish" Ingram
The young and talented blues guitarist Christone "Kingfish" Ingram performed Live & Direct at WYEP on September 21, 2019. WYEP's Joey Spehar had a conversation with Ingram about his album Kingfish and more. Ingram did an acoustic performance of four songs: "It Ain't Right," "Been Here Before," "Before I'm Old," and "Fresh Out." This session was broadcast on WYEP on September 23, 2019. Here is a rough transcript of the interview. (edited for clarity)
Joey Spehar: Today we are Live and Direct with a legend in the making, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram. Welcome to Pittsburgh.
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram: Thank you guys for having me, for sure.
Joey Spehar: Well, it's a pleasure to watch you make music you grew up in Clarksdale, Mississippi, which is known as the “cradle of the blues.” Also home to two of my favorite singers, Sam Cooke and Nate Dogg.
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram: Yeah, man! See, I can get along with you!
Joey Spehar: What's it like coming from a place with so much musical history?
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram: Man, no words really can describe it. I just know that I was around the blues a lot and everywhere you go in Clarksdale, music is all around. It was just a great introduction to music, period, but not only the blues.
Joey Spehar: So the blues is-- it is Clarksdale.
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram: Pretty much. Yeah, Clarksdale is like the Mecca of the blues. It’s like the Holy Land.
Joey Spehar: So when you started playing music what drew you to this style of music? Because I have a feeling there's a lot of kids in Clarksdale, but not a lot of them are playing the blues or even listening
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram: Well, I was exposed to it enough at an early age to take a liking into it. And not only that, it’s the history and the culture and the culture and the storytelling of the songs. I was just drawn to that, and not only the guitar playing as well. That was just a plus. And I felt like that I could resonate better with the blues music instead of you know, all the all the hip-hop that was going on, you know at the time even though I do listen to hip-hop as well.
Joey Spehar: You come from a pretty musical family, right? I mean your mom's cousin is Charlie Pride. And Charlie Pride, for those who don't know, he's a very pioneering guy. He was an African-American who played country music.
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram: Pretty much. Yeah, man, one of the first ones.
Joey Spehar: Do you feel a kinship to him in a way, maybe as somebody who's doing something unexpected?
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram: Honestly, yeah. Because I find it quite the same because people—they’ve seen young black guys play the blues but it's been a dime a dozen that they’ve seen a black guy coming rock it out like that, and where I come from you really don't see that. So I feel like, yeah, there's something that's not natural.
Joey Spehar: We're Llive & Direct with Christone "Kingfish" Ingram, who has a wonderful new blues album out called Kingfish. And Kingfish is on the road with the Fish Grease: A Juke Joint tour. So you're a young guy with as you say one foot in the past but one foot in the present, and I think that puts you in a pretty unique position to push the blues further.
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram: Thank you, man.
Joey Spehar: So how do you straddle that line between the past and the future?
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram: Well coming from Clarksdale, Mississippi, I do feel like there's a thing where I do have to keep that traditional sound alive. But, at the same time, I think I can do more. I see no, I see nothing wrong with mixing the blues with elements of other music we have today because you never know what you might create. I try to keep everything I do deeply rooted in the traditional thing, but at the same time, I feel like I definitely can do some more stuff.
Joey Spehar: It's got to feel good for you as a young guy who's gotten a lot of acclaim from like the blues OGs, so to speak. As a blues fan first, what was it like to work with somebody like Buddy Guy? Someone who really believes in what you're doing.
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram: Man, it was it was awesome because Mr. Guy was one of the first electric blues guitar players that I pretty much discovered. And from his styles, his dynamics, to the way he did it voice -- I was drawn to it. And to get to see all that in person and hear it, you know, it was great, man. It was great, man. I'm very grateful to him.
Joey Spehar: What's the best advice that you've gotten from one of those old timers
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram: Pretty much this sounds cliched, but the thing is-- they've always told me to follow my heart, you know. Don't try so hard to please people, do what you know makes you happy.
Joey Spehar: Are you happy?
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram: Oh, most definitely. I struggle with it every now and then, but you know how it is, man.
Joey Spehar: We all do. Yeah. Thank God for the blues!
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram: Yes, sir!
Joey Spehar: So do you feel—You’re a young guy, but you're getting established now. Do you feel the need to pay that forward and help out more young people coming up?
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram: People say keep the blues alive, but to me, it’s not dying nor does it need a savior or stuff like that. But I feel like to keep this going, we need more kids to do this. Specifically, with blues being an African-American art form, it would be great to see more kids of mine in there. This is a culture and history thing, and we need that to show that for everything we have now, the blues was the roots and the foundation.
Joey Spehar: I think you're a pretty modest guy. But I think that the blues also require a certain kind of confidence that you don't see anywhere else. So when you hit the stage, you pick up that guitar, you see the crowd in front of you, do you feel like a different person at all?
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram: Yeah, man most definitely. It is funny you mention that because my manager brought that up last night. ‘Cause we played a show in Cleveland and I was tired. But the minute I got on stage… when I’d seen the energy of the crowd, all of that just went away. So yeah, man, definitely. Definitely.
Joey Spehar: How do you approach a song differently in the studio versus on the stage? Because you've got this beautiful record that sounds fantastic, but it's also probably a bit different once you hit the stage.
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram: Yeah, because on the record I played in restraint a little bit. And the songs off the record that we do now, I kind of added some more flavor to it and different things, and they’re little bit more wild than they are on the record. They’re pretty much low key on the record.
Joey Spehar: When you say “give them a little more flavor” though, I don't think that you are an obnoxious guitar player, I think that you've got some restraint which has got to be hard to do sometimes, right?
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram: Yeah, man, because that's another thing I struggled with. Playing a lot of notes can be fun. But sometimes it could be annoying depending on the listener. So, yeah, it can be hard.
Joey Spehar: So when we've been to the show, and you've made us feel what you wanted us to feel that night, what do you hope we do with that?. What do you hope people take from your music in the next step.
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram: I’ve never gotten a question before. Honestly, I don't know. I’ll say this… I hope you feel different than the way you came. You know, I hope you feel like if you came in a bad mood, I hope you feel like a weight has been lifted off, and you feel a release, or something like that.
Joey Spehar: Music is medicine, right?
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram: Yeah, man, that's what I try to do. You know, as one of my favorite guitar players—Prince—said, we pretty much cure the ills of the people. So yeah.
Joey Spehar: Well, Kingfish is out there curing all the ills with the new album Kingfish, out on tour with Fish Grease: A Juke Joint tour and we hope you come back to Pittsburgh sometime soon and visit again.
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram: No problem, and thank you guys for having me, man. I love it here.