An interview with Sam Joyner: Blues and other music became a commercial product

How has the Blues and Soul music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Early on the music has helped me express myself and navigate my way through life in my community and later beyond. The words to every song would say what I was thinking and the music what I was feeling. In my travels the music allowed me to see the universal language performing for an audience who may or may not speak English or whereas I did not speak their language, yet we both understood the feelings, emotions and human experience. I consider myself a doctor here to treat your musical needs.

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? What’s the balance in music between technique and soul?

My music is organic. Its, raw, adventurous, and rebellious. For me it’s a matter of “did the song reach the people who need that song? I am not a perfectionist. I realized that the elders they played the song according to how they felt that day. No set timing, guitars were often out of tune, pianos were out of tune, didn’t stop them from expressing themselves. I will do whatever it takes to express my point.

What moment changed your music life the most? What’s been the highlights in your life and career so far?

My time in Japan is my first thought in what change my music life the most. I had never been treated with such royalty and respect or so generously compensated. It made me realize my self-worth musically and financially and played an important part in the growth of my solo career. My idea of highlights is that I am still rollin strong, still creating, still achieving and still in demand.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future?

I don’t know that I miss anything from the music of the past. From the past I have evolved and continue to evolve and yet still a product of the past. My fears are already being realized which is the politics in music, dictatorship in mainstream radio, the financial influence and traps. My hopes are also being realized which is that our younger generation gravitates back towards organic music. Today a 6-year-old girl ask me to play some soul music. Last week I had 15, 16, 20’s and 30s year old’s asking for blues and jazz. I love that!

Why do you think that New Orleans music continues to generate such a devoted following?

I think people are looking for the soul of the music. People are looking for authentic roots oriented music and New Orleans is where you can find it some of the best of the best. History and experience continues here in New Orleans.

How was the thought of the Micronesian Blues Society? What touched you from the Pacific Islands Blues circuits?

I was playing soul music with a reggae beat and playing Stormy Monday Blues and some Jazz on the Islands. A friend John Hoffman from the neighboring island had a blues radio show and I did a live broadcast. We would meet at his studio at his house and jam out. I decided to invite john to be a guest on one of my live shows and there was enough interest to do more shows and bigger. I billed the show as “The Micronesian Blues Society Presents” and people came out of the woodwork and thus the Micronesian Blues Society was born. What touched me was I came from Urban Blues and we had some serious Lead Belly, Son House, Robert Johnson style blues players which I learned about the music from.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Most important to me: Take care of your Health, Family, Friends and Fans. Balance and Moderation are essentials. What you think you want may not be what you thought it was. Everything has a price and you may not realize what it is. Those to whom much is given, much is also required of them. Too much money can destroy your music spirit, and everyone will not become a famous superstar or star so be the best at being you. Better your Best!

What is the impact of blues music on the racial social cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

Blues originated in the African American communities of the Deep South, serving as a powerful expression of enduring hardships and fighting for equal rights. Later, It crossed racial barriers, influencing various music genres and artists. More so today but there have been many interracial families, black people who looked white as well as integrated communities. The music industry was born during a time of discrimination, and injustices.

Blues and other music became a commercial product. The exploiting of artists without copyright protection was commonplace and more so if you were black. The industry dictated what was considered blues, rock ‘n’ roll, and jazz, shaping public perception and market trends. The racial discrimination aspect though solidly in place, I suspect had a lot to do with money to be made.

The math seems fairly simple, white people purchase the most music. Racial discrimination can be viewed as a marketing tool. I firmly believe that its pure capitalism. Who will sell the most records Big Mama Thornton or Elvis? It is sad that most of the pioneers like Little Richard not only had their music stolen but virtually their whole act in its entirety.

This is why it is especially important that an audience know the creators such as Lead Belly, Son House, Willie Dixon or Muddy Waters etc. Proper acknowledgment is crucial to preserve the integrity and history of the music just as when you are performing Bach or Beethoven.

Music should affect you like a food or medicine that feeds your heart and soul as it speaks to you in a universal language.

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