2005 - Al Witham
spent years playing acoustic guitar in a kind of bluesy country swing
vein - ragtime picking, flatpicking, vamping it on a beatbox - and on
the side I always wrote songs - not very well. But for some reason, just
when I thought I was getting too old for it all, the songs started to
get good, I had an opportunity to record them at Breaker Bay Studio, and
in a very short time I learnt how to use my voice, make a record, play
electric guitar, and front a band. Whew!
always comes from life. I always liked the old folk stuff because it was
just that - songs people used to sing to each other about their lives.
This is just a modern version. Some of the songs are about my life, some
are about other people, but written in the first person. Even when it's
autobiography, I try to leave room for the listener in the song. I want
them to feel that it's about them. There's a touch of country, jazz, and
soul in my music, and a whole lot of blues. As I get older I keep coming
back to the blues more and more. I've got enough scars to know what I'm
singing about now. If the songs are real and you mean what you're singing,
people respond. Nine times out of ten it's the same old crap we've all
been through, stuff they've been singing about for centuries.
have been your main musical influences ?
Dylan, Mississippi John Hurt, Johnny Cash, Muddy Waters, Charlie Christian,
The Band, Billie Holiday, Ry Cooder, Bob Marley, Toots and the Maytals,
Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Lucinda Williams, Tony Joe White, Bob Wills, Carribean
and African music, just about anything from Austin or New Orleans, and
an awful lot of lost nights, over an awful lot of years, spent in smokey
bars watching an incredible array of Wellington live bands in their natural
greatest musical moment?
launch of my debut CD, Just Is, at the Bristol,
in February last year. It wasn't necessarily my best performance musically,
but it was the most intense, and the biggest step up. The fiercest February
storms in recent history were brewing, my songs and CD were being launched
on the world for the first time, I had never fronted an electric band
before, and I had been fighting off a bad cold for days and seriously
doubted whether, physically, I'd be able to sing. It was pure sink or
swim. There was a big crowd, lots of friends, a lot of people working
hard for me, and the whole night rushed along in a supercharged, adrenaline
We got a huge response and I was so wound up I did a wee jig after I got
off stage - just from sheer nervous energy. I didn't stop spinning for
To make a second CD, keep getting better, and write at least one unforgettable
best recent listen?
Manx at the 2004 Byron Bay Blues Festival, and Steve Earle at the same
festival. In fact, the whole darn festival!
Recorded music: Jolie Holland's Escondido, and an early mix from
a work in progress - Tyree Robertson's Mr Lucifer, a passionate song driven
by some monster guitar work from Dougal Speir.
thoughts about the Kapiti Live Music Club?
has a nice cruisy Kiwi feel. It's a chance to mix with some really nice
people, some good musicians, and I always enjoy it. I like the open minded,
down to earth attitude. It can be hard making the journey from Wellington
mid-week, but I'm about to move to Pauatahanui, so I'll be a lot closer
now and hope to come along more often.