Philip Sayce: Raw Blues In Small Doses

By Keith Sharp

img_2171By all accounts, Philip Sayce’s Friday April 14th 2016 gig at Toronto’s Silver Dollar Tavern was just another concert date as he continued to promote his new “Influence” release. Yes, there is a historical significance in performing at the Silver Dollar,  a venue he constantly frequented during those early teen years as Sayce developed his craft as a novice blues guitar slinger.

“So we threw up some microphones, recorded the show and this is what we got,” said Sayce on the phone from Los Angeles prior to executing a brief tour of Ontario and Quebec nightclubs in November in support of his newly released Scorched Earth (Vol.One) live release.

“We could have released the full show which would have been about 90 minutes long but we felt that recording a 40-minute segment would be a more digestible amount,” explained Sayce of the seven elongated tracks which constitute this live release. “I am sure that hard core fans would love to hear the full show but there are some people who feel they can’t listen to the whole thing, so we’ve given them a sample of what we do.”

Supported by bassist Joel Gottschalk and drummer Kiel Feher, Sayce, a native of Wales who grew up in Toronto, stretches out those seven songs over 40 minutes merging “Steamroller into “Powerful Thing” and rolling the emotional “Standing Around Crying” into the tribute to his birthplace “Aberystwyth”. Other tracks include “Beautiful”, “A Mystic”, “Out Of My Mind”, “Alchemy” and the designated single, a cover of Don Covey’s “Ain’t Nothing But A Good Woman On My Mind”

Aside from recording complete studio albums, Sayce notes that The Scorched Earth concept allows for a series of similar releases that he will record during his travels. “This release gives a good overview of what the night was all about. I fully intend on releasing Scorched Earth Volumes 2 and 3 and maybe more. I can record other tracks or I can play the same songs but in a completely different way. This format gives me a lot of flexibility.”

Veteran blues fans may remember Sayce as a teen guitar whiz who learned his chops playing at The Silver Dollar, Grossmans and Albert’s Hall before joining  The Jeff Healey Band in 1997, spending three and a half years with the band, touring the world and performing at the famed Montreaux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.

Sayce then moved to Los Angeles in 2001 to join up briefly with Uncle Kracker before joining Melissa Ethridge’s band in 2003 touring on her Lucky release, recorded her next six releases, appearing with her at the 2005 Grammy Awards and at the 2007 Academy Awards where her track “I Need To Wake Up” from Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” documentary won the best song Oscar.

untitled-3Sayce began making his mark in the U.S by appearing with boyhood hero, Eric Clapton during his 2013 Crossroads concert date at New York’s Madison Square Garden and when he released his “Influence” record in 2015, Steve Waxman, VP Marketing for Warner Music Canada, heard one of the album tracks on Spotifly and convinced label president Steve Kane, to distribute the album in Canada.

” I have to admire Warner Canada,” acknowledged Sayce. “No one there has told me I have to cut my hair or sound like this. They have totally embraced the musical side of what I do. I have had people in the past  tell me to make my music more mainstream vanilla, don’t play guitar so much – but thankfully, Warner Music has never done that.”

Understanding  the perception of blues music is that it is played by aging musicians, Sayce acknowledges that a challenge he faces is to expand his demographic to younger fans. “The challenge is to get younger people to expand their horizons outside of the mainstream and to discover other influences. Get younger people to check out Paul Rogers, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan or to listen to Cream or Jimi Hendryx. Then they can appreciate where modern music came from.”

As for Sayce, he is set to promote his new live album by performing a series of club dates starting in Montreal November 2nd with scheduled dates in Ottawa November 4th, Kingston November 10th and at Toronto’s Mod Club  November 18th.

Moving forward, Sayce’s prime ambition is to perform as much as possible and present his brand of blues rock to the masses. ” I have to be true to myself and play music that is meaningful to me. I am trying to speak my truth through my music . What gets me out of bed in the morning is listening to B.B King wailing on the guitar or Stevie Wonder singing, that’s what makes my blood boil.”

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