Interview: Blues Dynamos Jim Dan Dee
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
Ever since I was a child, I would sing non-stop. I grew up in a musical French-Canadian family, there was always a piano or an organ around. As far as Blues music, Canadians like Colin James and Jeff Healey initially inspired me to want to sing and play guitar.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I am a guitar builder, a luthier. I absolutely love my job, it was a natural evolution of guitar teching for bigger acts and my love of mechanical engineering, electronics and woodworking. One of the best things about the job is just like music itself, you NEVER stop learning. There are always new techniques, new materials and new designs to play with and every commission is unique.
How long has your band been around?
Jim Dan Dee was founded in 2014, but my drummer Shawn Royal and I have been playing music together for close to 20 years.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
Toronto, I’m not sure the location had any profound impact on my musical journey. Getting noticed in TO is hard as Hell, so perhaps it gave me a certain never-quit attitude and made us better business managers… there’s a lot of pay-to-play venues and promoters that we learned long ago to avoid. Q107 in the 90’s was a fantastic station, and helped me discover SRV and many, many others. Back then the played everything from Green Day to Alice In Chains to Janice Joplin, there was no strict genre. The day SRV passed away they played all his albums back to back until 1 or 2 in the morning… I remember listening to it all night on my clock radio in bed with my guitar beside me. What a loss.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
Everything’s just Jim Dan Dee… its really just a little reminder to us musicians who have to play the businessman as well, to have fun and not forget the music is the reason we are here. A reminder that all is cool, and have fun with it.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
Oh too many… Hot July nights at Cherry Cola’s in Toronto (With amps melting down!), opening for Big Wreck in Brantford was incredible, playing the Distillery with The Sheepdogs, Late night Clubs after the Kitchener Blues Fest… The biggest stages and the smallest clubs are equally memorable.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
After the pandemic, a lot of our favorite places are gone. New stuff is sprouting up in its place. My personal dream venue is The Apollo. Massey Hall would also be fantastic.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Shawn Royal, Bobby Sewerynek and Dwayne Lau, my boys in Jim Dan Dee. I could never have got here without them.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
Don’t take it too seriously, be yourself and put the art first but: NEVER let anyone take advantage of you. I have saved up millions of exposure bucks, and still can’t find anything to spend them on.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
I wouldn’t change a thing.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Real Blues for sure. It’s three separate stories, and sums up the human experience to me.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
Killer is a real fun one that people love… I love playing the guitar parts in that one. Some of our longer standard Blues jams are really enjoyable live, when I can trade off solos with Bobby on sax, and the band gets really dynamic.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
More often than not a song pops in my head, and I sing the different parts into my phone. When we are working on a new album we will flesh these out into real songs together and they evolve tremendously. Once in a while when we are lucky, Bobby will be the voice whispering in my ear and we will write a tune based on one of his ideas. Those are some of our biggest hits!
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
I like to leave that up to interpretation, but a pure basic message I try to get across every once in a while is to be kind to one another. Externally and internally, it can be a hard thing to do.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
Yes, we talk about them. Open communication has always been our modus.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
Absolutely. This Summer is incredibly exciting, we are playing so many festivals in and out of province. We are going back to New Brunswick and the East Coast twice, and playing a full set at the Southside Shuffle Festival in front of Downchild. We are booked right through to September, with no rest in sight! We cant wait to get out to the festivals and venues and say hello! It’s going to be a rockin’ Blues Summer!