By Martine Ehrenclou
Texas six-string blues-rocker, Lance Lopez, is set to unleash his long-awaited new solo album, Tell The Truth, March 2nd 2018. As lead vocalist and guitarist for the critically acclaimed, Supersonic Blues Machine, Lopez toured the world and played with some of the finest musicians around. He also toured with Johnny Winter, Buddy Miles, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Johnny Taylor and Lucky Peterson. He is known as a guitar legend with smoky, soulful vocals. Lopez’ list of musical collaborations reads like a who’s who of celebrity musicians. He kindly took the time to speak to us.
ME: Thanks so much for making the time to talk with us today. You have some really exciting stuff coming up. You just signed to Mascot Label Group-Provogue and you have a new album coming out, Tell The Truth on March 2nd.
LL: I’m a big fan of your publication by the way. I’m an avid reader. I love it. I think what you guys are doing for blues rock and blues is really, really cool.
ME: Thank you so much. We’re big fans of your music, as you know. We picked your album with Supersonic Blues Machine, Californisoul, as one of our top 10 albums of 2017.
LL: That’s awesome. I’m honored.
ME: You’re a great guitar player and singer. Please tell me about your new album.
LL: Thank you. Tell The Truth, it was an autobiographical thing for me. I went into making the record with no label, no nothing. While I was touring in Europe, people kept telling me you need to reach out to Fabrizio Grassi (producer). When I got back home after the tour, I hit him up and he said, “Let’s get together and talk about doing something when you’re out in California.”
We exchanged some ideas and I sent some demos I’d recorded and one of them was the Tell The Truth title track, which was the very first song we recorded together. We recorded “Tell The Truth” and “Mr. Lucky” and “Down To One Bar” Those three songs we recorded in about two days. It was like immediate chemistry. After that, Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top) called Fabrizio. He needed help with a track he was working on. Billy asked him what he’d been up to and Fabrizio said he’d been working with a guy from Texas, Lance Lopez. Billy was like, “Oh Man, I’ve known Lance since he was a kid.”
Billy Gibbons was a mentor of mine. I grew up around ZZ Top guys and hung out with them. Billy said, “You guys need to form a band.” We kind of splintered off and started doing Supersonic Blues Machine in the midst of doing my own record. We were doing simultaneous recording of two Supersonic Blues Machine albums, West of Flushing, South of Frisco and Californisoul.
We were recording all the Supersonic Blues Machine material and we were able to work in recording Tell The Truth at the same time. There was a lot of 18 to 20-hour days in the studio. But what a labor of love. We were able to make this record really special because it was a new beginning. Tell The Truth is my story. It’s an honest look into my autobiographical journey.
ME: Tell me about your story in Tell The Truth.
LL: It was my journey on the road and what I’ve been through on that journey.
ME: Sounds like your story is pretty meaningful and important. Can you tell me a little bit about it?
LL: It’s just about the Blues. The Blues is music of survivors and it’s very much about people who have survived some things and lived to tell the tale. Like B.B. King said—”You don’t have to live the Blues to play the Blues, but it sure helps.”
ME and LL: (Laughter)
LL: I’m no spring chicken, I’m 40 years old. Starting from being a sideman at age 17, playing with Bobby “Blue” Bland and Johnny Taylor and Johnny Guitar Watson and all those guys, I had a complete lifetime of the Blues and I’ve experienced every pitfall you could imagine through that time. I mean drugs, alcohol, divorce, pain and suffering, as well as a lot of good times too.
So, coming through it on the other side and walking away from it, that’s what Tell The Truth is about. It was a really difficult period when my health was not the best, there was drugs, alcohol, which I stopped since getting sober, getting clean, getting healthy. I had a rebirth of sorts. There was so much change going on. It was really cool to follow that journey and to be able to record stories about it as it was happening. That’s what was cool about Tell The Truth. It was living the Blues and telling the truth about it.
ME: It’s amazing that this album came out now after you’d gotten yourself clean, healthy, and as you said, experienced a rebirth.
LL: Absolutely. I mean, it was destiny and fate that it would happen that way. At the time we were just recording because we wanted to document this material. I was very very fortunate that Supersonic Blues Machine happened at the same time because it gave me an outlet to be part of a collective, a band, be associated with all my friends, and heroes and to have an outlet while I was documenting those stories.
ME: That’s very cool. Is Tell The Truth more rock or blues-rock?
LL: The title track is definitely a lot heavier. It was very much in the vein of the Texas rock thing which is what I come from. I mean my mentors were Johnny Winter and Billy Gibbons and they were some of the biggest blues traditionalists you could ever find. I used to listen to blues with Johnny Winter. We’d listen to music between 1937-1940. Blind Willie McTell, Willie Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Robert Johnson. With Billy Gibbons, we’d listen to that sweet spot between 1948 and 1955, a lot more electric Chicago music of Chess (Records), Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed. I came from being mentored by the hierarchy of Texas blues rock music really.
All we did was listen to traditional blues and I was pushed, especially by Billy Gibbons, to continue to progress. It’s one thing to be a Blues traditionalist but he said you need to look into the future and the music needs to move forward. My music comes from the different influences that I have like a lot of the rock bands from the UK, which were really all blues bands anyway. I watched a lot of country music turn into more rock and pop music. I thought the same thing with Blues. If Blues is kind of turning more into rock music—if that’s what it takes to move it forward, then I guess it’s just doing its own thing naturally. I’m also a country traditionalist too. I mean, I love all the old outlaw guys like Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash. Look, I’m a blues player and a blues singer first so any situation you put me in, the blues is going to be in the music, whether it’s Blues or not. I’m Blues to the core.
ME: Tell The Truth is an interesting title. Did you just name the album because of the track or does it have more significance?
LL: Tell The Truth had a big significance in the whole story. The title track itself is about being on the road and being exhausted or going through a bad relationship or dealing with anything in life. It’s the Blues and you’re just exhausted from it. You’re just so fed up and all you can do is tell the truth, you just want to say how you really feel. It’s a story about us being on the road in Texas and getting down to the beach in Galveston. I went out on the beach and it’s like you have no more energy to muster up anything other than just honesty.
ME: I think that’s awesome, getting down to the honesty, the real deal. I watched the official video of “Cash My Check” and I really liked it a lot.
LL: Awesome. Thank you.
ME: You play slide guitar on that song. Have you always played slide?
LL: I have, and my biggest influence was Johnny Winter. I was so fortunate to tour with Johnny towards the end of his life. He really passed on so much to me. The minute he passed away it hit me hard. I was very fortunate to have learned from him. It’s definitely Texas-based style that I learned from Johnny. I had my style of playing slide of course, but after spending all that time on the road with Johnny and him showing me different techniques and different licks, I was able to lay down so much of what he had taught me. It’s the most fine guitar I’ve ever played on any album I’ve ever done. Like I said, a lot of it was in tribute to Johnny.
ME: You toured with Johnny Winter for a long time.
LL: Yeah, we toured together in 2011 in Europe and in 2013 and 2014 we toured the States and we were getting ready to tour in 2015, getting ready to tour Europe together. Johnny and I had plans to start in New York City and then to the UK, Europe and then he passed. It was devastating for me. Yeah, I miss him every day, but I’m getting better about it.
ME: It must have been a big loss for you.
LL: It was a huge loss for me and it’s getting better but he was like family. I mean, we have family from the same part of Texas down in Beaumont, Port Arthur and southeast Texas. Our connection was really great. It was the combination of Texas and Louisiana. That was what drew us closest and he just loved having me there with him as somebody who understood what he was talking about as far as the Blues, that old music that we’d listen to because I’d been a scholar of all the country blues and Delta blues since I was 12 years old. That was our bond and commonality.
ME: I’m sure he’s with you in spirit. That sounds like a Hallmark card but I mean that. So, are you touring in March for Tell the Truth or touring for the Rockin’ the Blues Tour?
LL: We’ll be doing Rockin’ The Blues 2018 Tour in Europe in March where I’ll be guesting with Eric Gales, Gary Hoey and Quinn Sullivan. One of my dear friends is Eric Gales. We go back many years so it’s going to be a great time. Then by Spring we’ll have Tell The Truth tour dates.
ME: Can you tell me about Rockin’ The Blues Tour?
LL: Rockin’ The Blues tour is great. That’s one of the beneficial things about my solo deal with Mascot, aside from Mascot/Provogue having the greatest stable of blues rock guitar players in the world. That tour made a lot of sense for me because I’m dear friends with everybody on that tour. Gary Hoey and I are good friends and I’ve known Quinn Sullivan since he was 12 years old….
ME: Well, he’s not that much older. (Laughter)
ME: He’s an incredible player.
LL: I know, and I love Quinn. Quinn reminds me of a young Eric Clapton, he really gives me that kind of vibe. And Gary and I go way back. It’s going to be a great fun time, and with our fans on the road.
ME: Excellent. Let’s shift gears a little. You’re regarded as a guitar hero, guitar slinger. Can you tell me how you developed your guitar skills? You mentioned Johnny Winter and you toured with Buddy Miles and Lucky Peterson. I’m just wondering how you became such an amazing guitar player. You’ve been compared to SRV and Hendrix. Is there anything you can share about how you became that kind of player?
LL: I really worked hard on my instrument from the beginning. I think that’s key to anything you master in life. You have to work very, very hard with a lot of repetition and practice. I was very fortunate to have been around and still be around some of the best guitar players in the world. Whenever I was in a position to be around my heroes, I was always learning, asking questions. I think that’s the key—that I’m always a student. I never say that I’ve reached this pinnacle and I can’t go any further. That was the beauty of Supersonic Blues Machine– I was around Robben Ford and Steve Lukather and we’d be in the hotel lobby having breakfast and I would say “Hey, can we do a guitar lesson?” They looked at me like I was crazy.
I think a lot of guitar players can get competitive and challenging. I like to share knowledge. I think that’s what’s going to give the electric guitar longevity in the world of music. There has to be a common goal to progress guitar playing of all types. Everyone has to come together to learn from each other.
ME: That’s cool. You started at the age of 14 playing professionally in New Orleans?
LL: My father started me with a little acoustic at the age of 9 years old. His thing was the better you get and the harder you work the better guitar I’ll get for you next year.
ME: That was great incentive.
LL: It was great incentive to get better and work harder. My dad saw how much I’d progressed as a guitar player and was like, “Man, we got to go out and start playing.” My dad was heavily supportive of all of it. In New Orleans he would take me, and I’d go sit in with the band. I would sit in with The Meters and I just knew them as the old guys that were the band at the bowling alley. I didn’t know they were The Meters. It was really cool because those guys then hired me to play gigs with them. That’s how it started.
New Orleans was crazy—still to this day bars don’t close. I would get home from school, get my guitar and go play a happy hour gig. We would play from like five o’clock until seven, sometimes four to seven. Then we’d go to our regular gig which would be from 9 to midnight or 1. Then we would go the after-hour gig which would be 2 to 5am. Then I would go home at 5:30, sleep for an hour and get up at 7 and go to school. I would play three gigs a night and then go to class. Unbelievable that at 14,15 years old I could do that. If you asked me to do that today, there wouldn’t be enough Starbucks coffee. (Laughter)
ME: (Laughter) Sounds like a lot of fun though.
LL: It was a blast. I mean, a 15-year-old being able to play with an R&B band, then a blues band. Then the next night it would be a rock band and then a cover band. I was gigging and playing with all these different roots-oriented musicians that had the whole New Orleans funk thing. I started backing the R&B artists. That’s where it really began for me and playing blues down there. It was always very cool and a great education.
ME: I think I’ve taken up enough of your time. It’s been a pleasure talking with you.
LL: Thank you so much, Martine. Like I said I’m a big fan of you guys. Thank you so much for all you guys do.
ME: Well, thank you. We’re big fans of yours too.
LL: Take care.
ME: You too.
For more information about Lance Lopez and Tell The Truth: