Interview With John Nemeth

Ahead of the release of his new album, 'May Be The Last Time', we caught up John Nemeth to discuss his music and recent health issues.

FT:  Tell me about the musicians who have inspired you over the years and how they have shaped the music you make today.

JN:  I’ve been inspired by thousands of musicians.  My first band Fat John And The Three Slims were my first major musical inspiration. These teenagers from Boise, Idaho had so much soul and they could play anything. They kicked off my career in 1991 and I’ve never had a Plan B.

Sam Myers from Laurel, Mississippi, was a huge inspiration of mine. He was a groove machine, his solo work as well as his work with Elmore James and Anson Funderburgh had a huge impact on me. I had the opportunity to fill in for Sam in 2006 while he unfortunately dealt with health issues. In 2007 I recorded the album ‘Magic Touch’ with his band Anson Funderburgh and The Rockets. I then had the chance to perform with Sam at the King Biscuit Blues Fest just before he passed.

Elvin Bishop hired me to be the vocalist on his Grammy nominated ‘Blues Rolls On’ album. His groove is legendary as well and it inspired me to yet another level. Both Sam and Elvin had amazing bands that helped me feel the Blues in ways I had never experienced.

Memphis drummer, Howard Grimes, who worked with O.V. Wright and Al Green would draw me into his world and pull soul singing influences out of me that I didn’t know I had. He drummed on my ‘Memphis Grease’ album which was the number one air played blues album worldwide in 2014.

FT: As well as successful solo career, since 2017 you’ve fronted The Love Light Orchestra and released two wonderful albums with them.  How did that collaboration begin?

JN:  The collaboration began in the studio in 2013 when Joe Restivo and Marc Franklin recorded ‘Memphis Grease’ with me. These cats are some of the heaviest and underrated musicians in the world. We all wanted to start a band that paid tribute to Junior Parker, Bobby Blue Bland and B.B. King. It turned out to be much bigger than expected. Most of the LLO band had worked with Bobby and from the first rehearsal and performance it was obvious that the chemistry was undeniable. Our latest record was cut live to tape in three, four hour sessions. That was a supernatural experience.

FT:  You are about to release your eleventh album, ‘May Be The Last Time’.  Tell me about the musicians you assembled for the recordings.

JN: Elvin Bishop, the guitarist/songwriter and I go back to 2006. He’s a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame artist and founder of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. He had the 1970 hits ‘Fooled Around And Fell In Love’, ‘Struttin’ My Stuff’ and ‘Travelin’ Shoes’.

Kid Andersen, multi-instrumentalist and I go back to 2004. We worked together for a couple years after he worked with Charlie Mussellwhite. He engineered and co-produced my Love Me Tonight’, ‘Name The Day’, ‘Blues Live and Soul Live’ albums. He currently backs up Rick Estrin.

Bob Welsh is a guitarist/pianist. We go back to 2004. He was in my band from 2006 to 2010 before joining Elvin’s band.

Willy Jordon played drums for John Lee Hooker, Elvin Bishop, Carlos Santana and many other greats.

Alabama Mike and I go back to 2006 when I recorded on his debut release.  He’s had many great albums since then and is a talented blues and gospel singer.

FT:  ‘May Be The Last Time’ was recorded in record time due to a serious health scare that required what is potentially life changing surgery.  Tell me about that scare and how it felt to be in a position where having just got back on the road after the pandemic you were suddenly facing another career-damaging scenario.

JN:  The one thing that the music business teaches you is positivity. If you lose it, you’re out. It took a lot out of me to keep my head up, but I always did.  I just had to remind myself every day that it could be worse and to be grateful the tumour was benign.  Being on tour helped keep my mind straight.

FT: How did friends and family react to the diagnosis?

JN: I would be nothing without my family and friends. After my insurance company Bright Health denied payment for my surgery, they got together and raised the money to help pay for my procedure. My fans have sent me so many letters of encouragement and financial help. The amount of gratitude I feel is immeasurable.

FT:  The surgery took place back in May.  How are you feeling now and how is the recovery process going?

JN:  I am a marvel of modern medicine. I still have procedures ahead of me, but I look great and feel pretty good. It takes a lot of energy to recover from this. The good news is I can play and sing. I have the stamina for a show here and there and am working my way towards touring again. I am beyond grateful to Dr James Melvile and his staff.

FT:  As self-employed musician, you’ve had to fund and pay for this treatment yourself.  How can fans of your music help to support you financially?

JN:  They can send money through my gofundme, or donations to P.O. Box 40461, Memphis, TN 38174. Paypal: johnnemethblues and venmo: johnnemethblues

FT:  Going back to the new album.  One of the thing that struck me about it was the positivity contained within it.  Was that conscious decision?

JN:  We are all positive people. But there was this looming feeling that it was going to be the last time we played together. Elvin, Kid, Bob and I have done so many shows together that we never considered a last time. We didn’t talk about it, but it was there. I’d like to give a huge shout out to Nola Blue records, Blind Raccoon Radio Publicity, and of course the band for donating their time, energy and money. I’m eternally grateful to you all.

FT:  John, thank you for your time and best wishes from everyone at Folk and Tumble for the future. 

JN:  Thank you, Gerry. I appreciate you taking the time to interview me and spread the word of my music.

‘May Be The Last Time’ is released on September 16th via Nola Blue Records.