Award-Winning Blues Recording Artist Julian Fauth Interview

"He's been compared to Tom Waits and Bob Dylan, but blues singer-songwriter Julian Fauth is a true original"

~ Toronto Star

Julian Fauth is a singer and piano player whose style is based on the tradition of pre-war barrelhouse blues and boogie woogie, with infusions of gospel and jazz. He writes his own songs in addition to re-interpreting traditional material.

In his teens, Julian was a protégé of Mississippi blues giant Mel Brown, whose influence was invaluable.
He plays regularly in his hometown of Toronto and has toured across Canada, the USA, Western Europe, Russia and Cuba.

Julian has recorded a number of CD’s with Electro-Fi Records. His first CD, “Songs of Vice and Sorrow” was nominated for, and his second CD “Ramblin’ Son” won, the JUNO for Blues Album of the Year. His third CD was selected Best Blues Album of 2012 by the CBC, he’s won one Maple Blues Award and been nominated for many other MBA’s. Julian has played with many great players and has opened for Johnny Winter, John Mayall and John Hammond.

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Award-Winning Blues Recording Artist Julian Fauth Interview

Scott - Hi Julian, thank you for agreeing to do an interview w/ my website Guitarz ... Give our readers a short but descriptive label for your style of music.

J - It's based on barrelhouse blues, with a bit of gospel, folk, country and flights of insanity thrown in.

Scott - Where do you live, play live, and record?

J - I'm in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Occasionally I play outside of Toronto, but mostly here.

Scott - Are there a lot of places to play your style of music in and around your area? If so, could you name some venues?

J - Real estate costs are so high right now that a lot of places are closing. But there are some places where I play regularly. In the east end of town, where I live, there's the Sauce, which has an old player piano. The mechanism for the rolls doesn't work, but it's fine as a regular piano and they keep it in tune. In the west end, I play frequently at Gate 403, a jazz and blues bar that's been around for a long time but is currently on the market, and a Sunday brunch gig at Axis, in the Junction neighborhood. Once a month I play with a band at the Rex Hotel, a mainstay of blues and jazz in Toronto and a nice grand piano. I'm a sideman for Dr. Nick there. Also, starting on March 16, I'll be doing a weekly Friday gig at a place downtown called the Senator Winebar, upstairs from the Senator Diner. There are also other music venues that sometimes feature blues, for example Hugh's Room, Grossman's Tavern, the Tranzac Club, the Reservoir Lounge, N'Awlins and a few others. Most bars don't specialize in blues, but they tolerate it once in awhile.

Scott - How many albums do you have out? Has your style changed musically over the years. If so, how?

J - I've recorded four CDs under my name for Electro-Fi, plus two earlier indie ones (but those are all gone). I think my style has changed over the years, but up close, I may not be aware of all the changes. I started out playing pretty much nothing but blues but then branched out a little because people don't necessarily want to hear just blues. However, I have a habit of changing anything I play somewhat, and a lot of the time it ends up sounding like blues anyway. My style has also been affected by some of the people I've played with. In the last decade, a bunch of people with more of a jazz background have started playing with me, and that may have pulled me a bit in that direction. Another factor has to do with the pianos I get to play on. A lot of them have been out of tune. That's just the way it is in a lot of bars. So big chords tend to sound janky. As a result, I developed a style with more single-note riffs and runs, both in the left and right hand.

Scott - Why the piano? There had to be that pivot-able moment when you said to yourself, "I want to do that?" Do you remember that moment?
J - My father inherited a piano when I was maybe five, and for a long time it was our only instrument. When I was around six, I started listening to blues and trying to plunk on the piano to play the music I liked. If they'd had a different instrument I'd probably have tried it on that. But later I did try different instruments. I played a little harmonica, and when my sister was given an old guitar by a family friend, I'd borrow that and learned to play a little guitar. Later I even used to do guitar gigs, but I haven't had any for several years now and my guitar playing has become pretty rusty. In grades 8 and 9 I also used to play trumpet and trombone in school, and of course I tried to play blues on those. I played piano with my left and held the trumpet with my right, or wedged the trombone on my knee and played along. Once, a teacher caught me fooling around with the standup bass they had in the music room, and since he needed a bass player from the stage band, he gang-pressed me into it. But I wasn't very good because I couldn't really read notes very well.

Scott - Why did you pick pre-war barrelhouse blues and boogie woogie, infused with gospel and jazz for your style of music?

J - My father used to work at a radio station, and they used to discard the LPs after awhile when they started to wear out. He brought some home, including a blues LP which he gave to me. I was about six then. He didn't listen to blues himself, but he didn't care if I scratched it up. That started my love of blues -- that and a couple of radio shows I heard which had cuts by Leroy Carr, Meade Lux Lewis, Montana Taylor and others. I think what attracted me to blues, and later to gospel, was the singing, at first. I especially liked the older recordings, pre-World War 2 and early post-war, because the singing was emotionally intense without being affected. I especially liked the bluebird sound, with piano/guitar combos, and the early post-war 'down-home' sound from all those fly-by-night labels (some of which got bigger). I sometimes also listened to jazz, both older stuff like Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and Duke Ellington's band from the late 1920s and, later, some things like Bud Powell and Cannonball Adderley, and especially Nina Simone, whom I discovered much later, but who became one of my favorite artists. But the thing I started out with and kept coming back to was blues, people like Little Brother Montgomery, Roosevelt Sykes and Memphis Slim, Otis Spann, Big Maceo, etc. But I also liked the early blues guitar and harmonica players. It wasn't really a conscious decision on my part to pick that style of music. My parents listened mostly to classical and some Greek or Russian or French music. I liked that, but classical singing didn't move me. It seemed too artificial to me. But blues just got its hooks into me. And, purely by accident, I started with the early stuff; I didn't start with rock and work backwards like a lot of people.

Scott - What types of pianos and keyboards do you play?

J - I don't own a piano, and I'll play whatever piano the bar has. I do have a keyboard. It's a Roland S-300. Not fancy, but it's full-sized, weighted keys, and has a few basic piano and organ sounds. I use that if I have to, although I prefer a real piano if it's possible. I also had an Alesis QS 8, which is good and has a million sound samples (well, a lot anyway). But it's heavier, so I gave it to my girlfriend.

Amps and Microphones?

J - I just have a Sure 58 mic and an old solid state Traynor amp, but I don't use that for gigs. I go through the venue's PA if I'm playing keyboard.

Scott - Who have been your main influences on your career to date?

J - Above all the old blues musicians whose recordings I've listened to, people like Leroy Carr, Charlie Spand, Roosevelt Sykes, Sunnyland Slim, etc. I was a big fan of Memphis Slim as a kid (and I still like him). Among the people I actually met in the flesh, I guess Mel Brown had the greatest influence on me. He was a Mississippi-born guitarist (and piano player) who used to play with everybody -- B.B. King, Bobby Bland, John Lee Hooker and many others. He settled in Kitchener, Ontario, where I lived, and he had a regular Wednesday night gig at a place called Pop The Gator's. He'd let people jam with him, too. I used to go often when I was young, sometimes to jam but often just to listen and absorb as much as I could.

Scott - Who are you listening to these days?

J - I still listen to a lot of Nina Simone and early blues, some classical chamber music (Schubert, Schumann and the other shoes), some jazz, and a lot of the stuff my girlfriend has introduced me to -- Kendrick Lamar, Fiona Apple, etc. I don't listen to that much contemporary blues, but I like the records of Harrison Kennedy and Paul Reddick, as well as Guy Davis and Eric Bibb. I also love Howlin' Wolf -- not a piano player, but possible the most unique blues singer ever. When I got my first Howlin' Wolf record I was 12, and that falsetto howl still sends chills up my spine.

Scott - Ok, now for the music business... What are your thoughts in reference to the music business as a whole and how it relates to you and your musical apirations.

J - I honestly know little about the business of music, to my detriment, I didn't really set out to make a living in music; I just started out jamming in bars in Kensington Market, but then I started getting gigs, and since music was pretty much the only thing people gave me money for, I became a musician. But I played music because I loved it and it often made me feel better, psychologically more balanced. I was never very good at the music business and still don't know much about it. It's a hard business to make much money at, especially in an expensive city like Toronto. But if you play a lot and you don't have extravagant expectations, it can be done.

Scott - Please give us some top musical goals you would like to achieve in 2018.

J - In the past I had some chances to play overseas, and I'd like to do that again. There was some talk of me playing in London and Paris this year. It doesn't look like that will happen this year after all, but I will try to get it for next year. That would really be fun. Lately I've had a lot of gigs for which I've had to learn other people's music (including some that isn't blues). It's fun and maybe will inspire me, but I'd like to get back to writing some of my own songs.

Scott - Where can we buy your music?

J - You can order it from, or through, or download it from i-tunes and (I think) spotify. Or at least stream it from there. If you're ever in Toronto and see me play, I may have a few CDs on me as well.

Scott - Julian, give us a parting shot across the bow with some wise words of wisdom when it comes to the music business.

J - Well, I recently read an interview with Quincy Jones in which he said something to the effect that if you play for the money, God leaves the room. Of course you need money, but I think that's true. I've done some gigs that were for the paycheck, but the gigs I enjoy most, and that bring out the most music in me, are the ones where I just get to focus on the music and am fairly relaxed. That's mostly regular gigs in small venues. I think the business side will hopefully somehow work out. I have to focus on it sometimes, but the main thing is that you have to love playing what you play. You can't always love it, and you can't always have a good day, but I'm always chasing those moments when I feel like I can express something and communicate with my fellow musicians or with the audience.

Thanks very much, Scott.


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