Since he discovered the blues in Germany in the late 1970s, Big Daddy Wilson has never been the same. Renowned as well as uncomfortable in public, the American has since become an intriguing bluesman, an artist who has spent a long time telling his deep stories in Europe before seeking to reclaim his native land. His latest album, Deep In My Soul, recorded between Memphis and Alabama, testifies to this brilliantly. Qwest TV met with him to hear more.

By his own admission, Big Daddy Wilson is a shy man. It’s a feature of his personality that has characterized him since his teenage years, one that has driven him for several decades to externalize his feelings in intimate texts, punctuated here and there by outbursts of sincerity and truthfulness. Subjects include his personal life, the love he has for his wife, his vision of music, and also of the world. One of the tracks on his latest album, Deep In My Soul, is called “Crazy World,” and this is no coincidence: “you just have to look at Donald Trump to see that the world is not going well,” he says. It’s amazing that a guy like him can be president of such a powerful country. You know, I always thought the world was crazy, but often in the right sense of the word. Today, it is becoming difficult to remain optimistic … Hence the title, “Crazy World,” a way for me to encourage kindness at a time when everything is going wrong.”

Sweet home Alabama

Fifteen years after his first album, Get On Your Knees And Pray, Big Daddy Wilson continues to probe his contemporaries, telling the story of their strengths. diversities and flaws. He does all this from Bremen, Germany, where he made his home in the late 1970s as part of his military service. Since then, the American has built his life there. That’s where he really discovered the blues, where he met his wife, where his children grew up. This does not prevent him from defining himself above all as a “citizen of the world,” however, as a man open to all cultures. “Germany is my home, in a way. But I can’t just stay here, I need to move.”

However, Big Daddy Wilson is not one of those travellers who journeys the world in order to distance themselves from their personal history. His new album is a way of returning to his homeland, of drawing inspiration from his roots. Deep In My Soul was created between Memphis and Alabama, in this mythical region: the Southern States, so essential to the history of the blues. It is very inspiring for him “Right in this moment,” he explains, “there is no reason for me to reinvent my writing style, but new ideas are constantly emerging depending on where I am. Alabama was one of those places. One reason is that Jim Gaines, a music legend in my opinion, immediately opened the doors of his studio and family to me, and another is because this region is so fascinating.”

Prince of the city

An intimate project, almost autobiographical at times, Deep In My Soul nevertheless evokes the very opposite of a withdrawal into the past or into oneself. It’s author evokes the beauty of blues, a music so sincere and steeped in history that it seems to be perpetually open to new winds. “The blues is the perfect medium to talk about anything, or to test new sounds.” Big Daddy Wilson then found himself reminded of Willie Dixon’s famous phrase (“Blues is the roots; everything else is the fruits”), and his heart leapt: “Blues is the foundation of modern music. It is a genre that is based on feeling and therefore takes different forms depending on how you feel or how you want to tell your story. These are slices of life, and that’s why the blues is still as relevant in 2019.”

Without revolutionizing anything in any fundamental way, in form or substance, Deep In My Soul remains pretty relevant. One reason for that is that Big Daddy Wilson reveals himself as a clever storyteller (“I Know,” is one example, evoking his meeting with his wife), by calling on the legends of the genre (Eric Bibb, for instance) without ever including them on the record. He has also established a new reputation within his native town: that of an “international artist,” he grins. He concludes – with a natural forthrightness: “In Edenton, North Carolina, my work was ignored for a long time, and it hurt me. That’s also why, I think, I needed to record this in the United States after working with Hungarian, Italian and Swedish musicians. Now I am recognized, and have even been given the keys to the city. It gives me the impression of reconnected to my roots, of being somewhere deep in my soul.”

Big Daddy Wilson – Deep in my soul (Ruf Records)

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Centre national du cinéma et de l'image animée | With the support of the Creative Europe programme of the European Union With the support of the Creative Europe programme of the European Union