Singer John Nemeth is true to blues basics

No wonder John Nemeth has the blues – he finds them all around.
"Most of the songs I write are from life experiences," the singer and harmonica whiz said in a
recent telephone interview from his home on Oakland, Calif. They can be good times, or bad, doesn’t
matter. "It’s inspiration driven."
"The blues is one of those musics that really conveys what it is to be human, the heart and soul of
it. Pretty much all I write comes out of that."
Nemeth will perform Aug. 4 at 8 p.m. at Grounds for Thought, 174 S. Main St., Bowling Green. The show is
a preview of Nemeth’s upcoming performance as the Friday night headliner at the Black Swamp Arts
Festival on Sept. 11.
Nemeth is in the early stages of a career, just having released his second CD on Blind Pig, so as he
tours he’s introducing himself to new audiences.
"When I take the stage I’m aiming to give people a show they’re not about to forget," he said.
While his music is getting solid play on satellite radio, he knows "when you hear it live that’s
when you really fall in love with it."
What new listeners should know, he said, "is I write 90 percent of my own material in a sixties
blues soul vein."
Fronting a four-piece band of guitar, keyboards, bass and drums, he’s working out his own style following
in the footsteps of Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Howard Tate, Buddy Guy and others.
The 30-something Nemeth grew up in Boise, Idaho, not the most likely stomping grounds for an aspiring
blues man. He did take some piano lessons, and sang in church, a Catholic Church not Pentecostal.
But when he heard Junior Wells at age 14, he was hooked. "He had this crazy, mysterious sound about
him."
This was the same time Nemeth started playing harmonica. He was singing with a band and the other
musicians wanted anther lead instrument. Nemeth went to a music store. First he looked at keyboards, but
he didn’t have the thousands of dollars to pay for one. Then he spotted a harmonica in the case. He laid
down his $6. "I’ve been a harmonica player ever since," he said.
It was a good move, he said. "The harmonica is really an extension of my voice."
Nemeth has worked out his own mouth harp vocabulary keeping it well-grounded in the blues tradition. He
trades riffs wit the other members of the band, opening up the songs. "The music is always fresh
and evolving… It’s cool to surround yourself with players who always surprise you."
The key to writing a good blues song, he said, is to edit it down to the essentials. "I try to make
the song as efficient as possible. You just can’t say everything you want to say. You have to streamline
it."
But the spare nature of the lyrics, stripped of extraneous detail, helps keep them timeless, giving the
listener a chance to draw their own inferences from the words. Set to a strong melody "that can be
sung even if the music isn’t there" and delivered with emotion, "that’s something that’s
pretty unforgettable."
"If you’re not giving the honest delivery of the music, you’re selling the music short," Nemeth
said. ""I’m a very passionate guy. When I get up and sing, I give it my al."
On the Net:
www.johnnemethblues.com