With the COVID-19 pandemic taking hold across the globe, Folk and Tumble is taking time out to speak to the musicians and artists who, through no fault of their own, have found themselves out of work and facing uncertain futures. Next up in our series is blues guitarist Ronnie Greer.
FT: You’ve just released a live album ‘Blues Constellation’. Did the COVID19 situation have an impact on the release date and planned shows?
RG: Unfortunately, it has had a big impact on the live shows. In particular the launch gig, which was due to take place at the Ards International Guitar Festival in April. I was thrilled to hear that the festival show had sold out inside 72 hours but obviously disappointed to have to cancel. Thankfully, the organisers have assured me they will be rescheduling as soon as some semblance of normality resumes. But the release date remained unchanged and ‘Blues Constellation’ is available to buy now via the Ronnie Greer website.
FT: What can your fans expect to hear on the new album?
RG: If you’ve ever enjoyed the Ronnie Greer Band in live performance, then this is a life-like reproduction of that experience! The album opens with the core five-piece band playing primarily Chicago-style blues, with myself on vocals. Then, we bring in the various special guests to join us and they do their own thing. Still blues-based, but featuring some of the other stylistic nuances within that idiom. We play everything from Charles Mingus to Massive Attack, with some Steely Dan, Van Morrison, T-Bone Walker, Herbie Hancock and Lucinda Williams thrown in.
FT: You are well known for collaborations with other Northern Ireland based musicians. Who else appears on the album?
RG: Yes, I’m very blessed to have some of the finest musicians and singers in the country as regular collaborators in my musical orbit, and they’re all on this album. My core band consists of Anthony Toner on guitar and vocals, John McCullough on keyboards, Nick Scott on bass and Peter McKinney on drums. On the live recording at the Island Arts Centre, Lisburn we were joined by very special guests Ken Haddock, Grainne Duffy, Kyron Bourke, Linley Hamilton, Dave Howell, and Gerry McWhinney.
FT: Like many musicians at the minute, you are sitting at home having had your main source of income taken away from you through no fault of your own. How does that sudden loss affect you financially and mentally?
RG: Having recently retired from a regular day job, my musical activities have always been of a supplementary nature. But I very much sympathise with my fellow musicians who are mostly a lot younger than me and are very much dependent on music as their main source of income.
FT: Did you have to cancel tour dates?
RG: Unfortunately, like everyone else at the moment, all my gigs are either cancelled or on hold. But the good news is that I’ve got some nice gigs lined up in support of the new album, all of which will be rescheduled when suitable. Full details will be regularly updated on the Ronnie Greer website and Facebook page.
FT: What can people do to support musicians like yourself through this difficult time?
RG: It’s difficult to expect music fans to be able to do much in this respect, what with live venues all being shut down. I suppose it’s a matter of keeping the faith, looking forward to better times ahead – and hopefully, when this is all over, everyone will be ready to get out there and support live music to an even greater degree than previously. In the meantime, I think any support via album sales, etc. would be welcomed by everyone.
‘Blues Constellation’ is available to purchase now via the Ronnie Greer website.