SOCAN Words & Music
Spring 2000

Michael Pickett:  Talking Blues

Blues musician Michael Pickett listens to the music in his head.  And it has made him one of Canada's most respected songwriters.

"Some musicians are overflowing with ideas.  I need some silence to hear what's going on in my head.  I am patient with it."

Toronto-based Pickett has been a stalwart presence on the Canadian blues scene for more than 30 years.  In the 1970s he was the harmonica-playing, richly voiced leader of the bands Whiskey Howl and Wooden Teeth.  Today he fronts The Michael Pickett Band, which he formed in 1981.

Pickett, 50, released the first CD of his own songs in 1998 - an event that was actually the result of rejection.  He had shopped a demo tape around, hoping that other artists would record his songs.  "Nobody was really falling all over me, and six months down the road I thought, well, you know, this stuff sounds pretty good, maybe I'll just put a CD out."  That CD was Blues Money .  It received a Juno nomination, won a Jazz Reort Award and a Real Blues Award .  And Pickett received the 'Blues With A Feeling Award' at the 1999 Maple Blues Awards

Pickett's latest release is Conversation With The Blues .  The title, he says, "had been popping around in my head for a while."  It stems from his view of performing as being similar to a very interesting conversation that has unexpected twists and turns.  "There's a give and there's a take.  If you know exactly where it's going, the conversation or the performance gets boring."

The new CD features 12 tracks, 10 of which are Pickett originals.  It's an eclectic collection, with songs influenced by soul, R&B, funk, gospel and jazz, among others.  True to form, Pickett listened to the music in his head and let the tunes form themselves.  "I go where the songs are going.  I'm not pigeon-holed into one particular style of blues music.  A lot of songs on my CD are not what I heard originally.  There are songs that I'm thinking ought to sound like Mississippi John Hurt and sound more like Jimi Hendrix, and I kinda go, you know what, that's OK."  

Pickett garnered eight 2000 Maple Blues Awards nominations , including 'Entertainer of the Year ' and ' Recording of the Year' for Conversation With The Blues , as well as a 2001 Juno nomination for ' Best Blues Album' .  At the Maple Blues Awards, held Feb. 7 in Toronto, he shared ' Harmonica Player of the Year' honours with Carlos del Junco.

While Pickett is enjoying his new role as recording artist, he's still keen on hearing his words coming out of another performer's mouth.  "I'd be a very happy camper if somebody like Colin James picked up one of my tunes.  Or Jeff Healey.  Or Eric Clapton."

And with all that music going on in his head, there's a very good chance that will happen. 

Laura Bickle


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