Noah Wotherspoon has been immersed in the blues and mesmerizing audiences with his soulful guitar playing since he was a teenager. Wotherspoon and his band have earned top honors at the International Blues Challenge. This year, the band released its debut studio album entitled “Mystic Mud,” which was selected by the Cincy Blues Society as the Best Self-Produced CD for entry into the 2016 IBCs. The release was was presented a “Jimi Award” for Best Blues/Rock Album of the Year by Blues411. Wotherspoon and his band will take the Electric Blues Stage (presented by Benchmark Bank) at the 18th Annual Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival in Gahanna, Ohio at 9:30 pm on Friday, June 17. We interviewed Noah to learn more about his blues journey.
When did you discover your passion for music?
I started playing guitar at the age of 11 and was out playing gigs when I was 13. From early on, I was attracted to music and just naturally became more & more immersed. Music has been a vehicle to meet a lot of beautiful people and led to experiences I couldn’t have imagined. It’s served as a medium to be creative and grow spiritually.. not too mention it’s also been a lot of fun and therapeutic.
What influenced you in the beginning?
Music was always around. My mom would listen to a lot of 50’s rock n’ roll and reggae. Around the time I was 10 years old, my older brother Adam’s best friend started bringing over recordings of Stevie Ray Vaughan and other guitar-oriented music to the house. I remember it was around that time I felt a burning desire to get a guitar. When I was growing up, my mom always had a lot books/classic literature on the shelves, and I think that would end up informing and inspiring a lot of my song-writing and creative endeavors down the road.
Who inspires you now?
Musically, my listening is all over the map. Lately, I’ve been paying closer to attention to the trail-blazing blues guitar players like Gatemouth Brown & Otis Rush, and trying to take a deeper look at the way they would phrase and speak with their instruments. I also listen to song-writers like Dylan, Neil Young and Townes Van Zandt. I like old movies and try to read as much as I can; right now I’m reading Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth which is really phenomenal. I try to fill my brain with a hodgepodge of imagery and ideas that I can hopefully channel into song-writing.
How would you describe your music?
All along, my music has always been rooted in the blues. Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, all the classic blues performers, the folklore & mystique surrounding the music. It’s what really pulled me in when I was first learning to play. Just the other day, “I Ain’t Superstitious” by the Wolf came on the radio. I still get transported to another dimension. Over the years, I’ve been introduced to a lot of different musical styles. I have a love for everything from the Beatles & Harry Nilsson, to world music and vintage country. In effect, that probably all goes into the hopper and my writing/guitar playing is a cross-pollination of things. It’s always been my hope to stay connected to my roots & the things my teachers generously showed me, and balance that with creativity and giving something new.
What’s your greatest achievement to date?
In 2015, I received the Best Guitarist award at the International Blues Challenge and my band came in 2nd Place in the Band Category. It was a huge honor and still surreal to think about.
What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened during a performance?
This wasn’t at one of my shows, but was one of the wildest things that’s ever happened to me in a musical setting. When I was about 16, I had long blond hair. Bobby “Blue” Bland was in town and performing at Gilly’s (legendary blues/jazz venue in Dayton, OH). I went to the show and found a seat up in front of the stage. They introduced Bobby, and the very first thing he did was start singing “You’re Red Hot Little Mama”.. right to me (assuming I was girl). The table of ladies I was sitting with were breaking up with laughter and shouted up to Bobby, “He’s a boy.” He abruptly stopped the song, and it turned into this whole little scene. They then shouted up to him that I also play guitar and he ended up inviting me on stage. His guitar player handed over his guitar and we went into “Stormy Monday.” He ran me through the paces … asking me to “play like T-Bone Walker,” “play like Wayne Bennett” etc. I still talk to his son Rodd who was on drums that night; we still laugh about it.
If you had to pick a personal theme song, what would it be?
I’d want to say Also Sprach Zarathustra (Theme From 2001: A Space Odyssey)… but that goes to Elvis! Mine would probably be a bit goofier.. maybe the Looney Tunes theme?
The Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival draws blues and jazz fans from throughout the region. What are you most looking forward to that weekend?
Of course I’m really looking forward to playing; but I’m also really looking forward to seeing our friends Deuce & a Quarter who are on right before us. They’re awesome people and put on a great show.
What do you hope fans “take away” from your performance?
It’s always my hope that people have a fun and that we’re able to offer an escape in that window of time. Thinking back to my favorite performances I’ve gone to see, the ones that stayed with me were ones that I walked away from feeling inspired and rejuvenated somehow. Rob Thaxton (bass), Brian Aylor (drums) and I, always try to give our best and have a good time on stage. I want to show my gratitude and hope to make a connection with the people that take the time & energy to come out to watch and listen.
Where can fans find you online – to learn more about your background and music?
noahwotherspoon.com. All of our band dates are listed there; you can also order our album “Mystic Mud” (digitally &/or physically) in the store page.
Check out the entire 2016 Creekside Blues & Jazz Schedule, and learn about other activities for all ages at: www.CreeksideBluesandJazz.com or the Gahanna Convention & Visitors Bureau (presenters of the CBJF) at 614/418-9114. $15 Weekend wristbands for the Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival are available online only, prior to the event.