10 Questions with | Jed Potts & the Hillman Hunters
If you love your blues music whilst listening in your car with the volume turned up to ‘LOUD’, there is no better band for you than Jed Potts & the Hillman Hunters, super cool, not too fast and not too slow, and a style you can happily introduce to the family! The guys have a lot in common with their motorised name sake but more of that later. Seriously though, these guys know how to get the party started and their new album 'Swashbucklin’ highlights that perfectly, You can mostly catch JP & the HH around Edinburgh, Scotland, but every once in a while, they get out and play a festival and they've also opened for the likes of Ian Siegal, Nimmo Brothers and The Hoax, to name-drop but a few. Jed, being the chronic over-achiever that he is, hates staying-in of an evening and so also plays with other popular beat-combos like The Blueswater (which also features Charlie Wild, although on guitar, mind you), Swampfog, The Katet and some others. On occasion he's even been called-upon to dish-out his trademark hot licks with the likes of Blues n' Trouble, Maggie Bell, and Brandon Santini. Indie Boulevard spoke to Jed Potts about blues, live gigs and the new album.
IB: Hi Jed, Your music is inspired by the classic American blues of the 1950s and early 60s, and you really deliver with passion and power. Why does the blues inspire you and what excites you most about this genre?
Jed: I love the blues because there is nothing to hide behind. There’s a basic form and you’ve either got something to say or you don’t. You have to play with intent and purpose, and if you don’t it just doesn’t resonate. It’s the great leveller. People often mistake simple with easy, and playing blues constantly keeps you in check with that distinction.
IB: Do you stick to the set list when you perform live, or were there times when you got carried away with the groove and you and the band started improvising?
Jed: These days I like to go on stage with a set-list, but it’s well understood that we might go wildy of-course from it. Sometimes the purpose of having a plan is to throw it away. We also rely heavily on interplay and the vibe that we can create together. Our music doesn’t really work if you just recite it. We need to all kind of get into a thing together for it to mean something.
IB: You recently released a new album 'Swashbucklin'. To be honest, it took me back in time, it sounds very vintage, like an old vinyl record. Tell us about the album.
Jed: Cool! Yeah, we basically recorded it in the same way all those old records were recorded. With a couple of small exceptions the album was recorded completely live in the studio. In other words we were all playing together. Again, with a couple of exceptions, I was singing and playing all of the solos and things live too. We also did it in such a way where we used very little separation between the instruments. A lot of bleed. Meaning that it would be very difficult to replace or fix anything after the fact. This is a great working method for us because it means that you perform the songs, as opposed to thinking it’s all going to be created after the fact.
IB: How did the recording of the album go? Were there any unusual moments that you remember?
Jed: Well one thing that was certainly different was that, because of the pandemic, I had a lot more time to listen through to all of the different takes, and decide on the best ones. Normally we would decide on a take during the recording process and stick with it, but this time I was able to double check those decisions, and often change my mind. It also meant that we could create comps, which essentially means that we could take the best sections and put them all together to make one great performance. We didn’t record anything to click and I’d always been told that editing takes together in this way without having recorded to click wouldn’t work, but I learned first hand that that’s absolutely not true. It was cool. Basically like using modern digital technology in a way that tape editing would have been done. The song ‘The Fastest Outlaw’ is actually a composite of a lot of different takes, for example. But even I have no idea where those edits are now. Mega credit has to go, as always, to Graeme Young’s extreme engineering skills.
IB: Sometimes recording tracks brings surprises. Was there a track or even an entire album in your career that was pretty nerve-wracking? Which track was the most uncontrollable and unstoppable?
Jed: I played acoustic guitar on Brandon Santini’s album ‘The Longshot’. It was quite a strange experience as I was in the office down the corridor, whilst the rest of the band were in the main live room. So I had no visual communication and had to rely totally on the headphones. It also made conversations between takes quite strange, with me not being in the room. It was a great experience, though, and I’m so grateful to have been a part of it.
IB: Let us talk about the audience. You play music that is not mainstream, but rooted in good old blues, jazz and rock'n'roll. How did you manage to find your listeners who love your music?
Jed: I think the number one thing that an audience recognises in a performer is honesty. If you love the music you’re playing then the audience are likely to get on board. When we formed the band I consciously avoided anything that I thought was too well-trodden, and instead dug a bit deeper and found material that I really wanted to sing and play. I always treated our repertoire like how a great DJ would do it. In other words, find stuff that the audience might not have heard before and be a curator of great music for them.
IB: 'Swashbucklin' came out on October 28 this year. What are your plans? Will there be a tour to support the album?
Jed: Well Jonny does panto over Christmas so we’ll need to take a bit of a breather, but hopefully in the new year we’ll get around to a few festivals and things. We’d love to get out and play further afield a bit more.
IB: You guys signed with Wasted State Music and that's a very important step for a musician. Many of our readers will be interested in how this came about. How did you manage to sign a contract? Did the label find you?
Jed: I’ve known Toni Martone for a long time and we’ve both been around the music scene in Edinburgh for years. He also works closely with Graeme Young, who engineered the album, and so I approached Toni, I think at Graeme’s suggestion, about putting out the album and he was into it. And also into putting it out on vinyl which is very exciting. It’s unlikely we would have been able to do this if we were putting out the album independently, but we always wanted this album to be on vinyl so we’re very happy.
IB: How has your life changed since you signed with Wasted State Music? I mean, has it become easier for you to focus on the music?
Jed: I’m fortunate enough to be a full time musician of about ten years, but it’s certainly given us a little more focus and a reason to concentrate on the band a bit more. It’s still early days yet but I’m looking forward to seeing how things with the label will develop.
IB: And the last question. If your music was a soundtrack for a movie, which movie would it be?
Jed: Maybe something that needs the mood lightened a bit…Like ‘Prisoners’ or something. Yeah, ‘Prisoners’, please.
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