Davy Knowles is a fantastic blues guitarist and singer. Knowles has released a few albums with his band Back Door Slam in the 2000s; however the 29 year-old has gone out on his own over the past couple of years and has earned his chops on the road by opening up for the likes of Jeff Beck, Joe Satriani and Chickenfoot.
His latest effort Three Miles from Avalon is being released on October 14 and it is one of the best albums that I have heard this year. The Isle of Man native has covered all of the bases on this outstanding blues album. There is a nice combination of fast paced rockin’ tunes as well as some slow blues jams on the LP.
Knowles will be out supporting Three Miles from Avalon this fall and he will be making an appearance at The Music Box Supper Club on Friday, October 14.
Knowles recently chatted with NEO Music Scene to discuss his career, his latest release and his upcoming appearance in Cleveland.
Greg Drugan: Hi Davy, where are you calling from today?
Davy Knowles: I’m calling from home. I live in Chicago.
GD: I read that you were born on the Isle of Man, what was it like growing up being kind of isolated and are you considered a British citizen?
DK: I am considered British but my nationality it Manx. It was an amazing place to grow up! I look back now and think how lucky I was to be in such a beautiful place. Musically speaking it was safe and easy to find people with similar interests. It really was a safe, nurturing community out there. I feel that I owe a lot to it, definitely.
GD: When did you start playing the guitar?
DK: I was eleven when I first started playing.
GD: Who are some of your musical influences and what attracted you to the blues?
DK: I started playing guitar because of Mark Knopfler. I heard “Sultan’s of Swing” by Dire Straits in the car and that was just it for me. I’m totally in love with Mark Knopfler and still am. I started the guitar thing and I believe wholeheartedly that this kind of music or any kind of music that isn’t mainstream needs a host. My dad was that person for me. He had a fantastic record collection. As soon as he saw I had this interest in music, he opened me up to a whole world of stuff. If you like Mark Knopfler, you’re gonna love John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. From there it was just absorbing liner notes from his record collection. John Mayall is a good example because there are Freddie King tunes, Ray Charles tunes and Otis Rush tunes. So I think you need someone to introduce you to that stuff and it was my dad and my older sister.
GD: It’s funny you should bring up John Mayall, I just got to see him for the first time last week and he’s phenomenal. At 82 years old he’s still going strong.
DK: He’s just amazing, isn’t he? He’s never lost sight of that musical crusade of his. He’s so focused, it’s amazing.
GD: Speaking of concerts, do you remember the first concert you attended?
DK: I would have been eight or nine. There’s an old castle on the Isle of Man called Peel Castle that was built around 900. The government put on a concert and I saw Ladysmith Black Mambazo on the grounds of the castle. It was absolutely stunning. Paul Simon’s Graceland album is a big influence too. So they were my first concert.
GD: That’s awesome. You are a self-taught guitarist; how did you develop your style?
DK: I wish there was a better phrase for that because I don’t believe anyone is particularly self-taught. I didn’t have any formal training. But I did have people show me some stuff or take me under their wing, I don’t believe I was entirely self-taught. As far as style goes; I’m still trying to find it. It’s an ongoing quest. I love the melodicism of Mark Knopfler but I also like the sheer energy and passion and total aggression of someone like Rory Gallagher. Hopefully I can hit somewhere in the middle there.
GD: I also read that you got to work with Benmont Tench from the Heartbreakers, how did that end up happening?
DK: Incredibly and luckily, Peter Frampton produced my second album. I was 22 or 23 at the time and he put an incredible band together. It was Peter, myself, the drummer and bass player from Jackson Browne’s band and Benmont Tench on keys. It totally came about from Peter. Benmont was a total gentleman and an astounding musician.
GD: You also got to open up for some true guitar heroes like Joe Satriani and Jeff Beck; what kind of advice did those guys give you?
DK: I think the best advice I got from either of them was just a subliminal kick up the ass! Watching Jeff every single night was just mind blowing. We didn’t talk about music so much because he’s kind of a quiet introvert kind of guy. It was a huge lesson in taste and tone and phrasing. Then with Joe, he’s just a lovely human being. He’s very encouraging, just a sweet human being. There was a fantastic moment where we were playing a show together in Amsterdam with Sonny Landreth as well. We were playing on stage, all three of us together and Sonny was taking this incredible guitar solo and Joe says to me “Oh man, I don’t know what I’m going to play after that!” And I just looked at Joe and said “I don’t know what I’m doing here!” But Joe is just a very encouraging and very inclusive kind of guy and I’m very grateful.
GD: Who do you model your vocal style after? I heard your album and if someone were to say that you were from Texas, I would have said ok. There isn’t a trace of an accent.
DK: Laughs. Well, all of my favorite singers were American or American influenced. Some of my favorite British singers are Paul Rodgers and Steve Marriott. They kinda sound like an old black woman, which I think is fantastic.
GD: Your album Three Miles from Avalon is being released on October 14; are you referencing the Isle of Man in the title?
DK: Well kind of, but not wholly intentionally. To me it was kind of metaphoric of this island from the King Arthur legend that you can never find. So it’s the thing that is so close but yet so far. Someone had told me after I had already had the title that archaeologists found a small island off the coast of Isle of Man that might be referring to the Arthur of legend. So it kind of works in, but not intentionally.
GD: The new album is very diverse; you open up with some rockin’ blues tracks, and there are some slow blues jams on it. What is your favorite song on the album?
DK: That’s a hard one. It’s a toss up between the title track and “Falling Apart.” It’s difficult to pick a favorite because it’s all so new. But “Falling Apart” is one that I love to play live, it’s got a good weight to it. “Three Miles From Avalon” is such a personal tune for different reasons. It’s hard to choose.
GD: You will be playing in Cleveland on October 14, what can fans expect from your show?
DK: Hopefully, a high energy, rock/blues old fashioned kind of show. I’m gonna try to harken back to that golden era of rock and blues. I strive and aim for good high energy fun. And we will have a full band.
GD: Davy, thank you so much for your time and I am looking forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks. I wish you the best on your new album, I feel it’s one of the best ones of the year.
DK: Well, thank you so much! I look forward to seeing you as well!
Check out Davy Knowles at the Music Box Supper Club on Friday October 14. Go to www.musicboxcle.com to get your tickets.
For more information about Davy Knowles and his outstanding new album Three Miles from Avalon go to www.davyknowles.com