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Interview with Jed Potts & The Hillman Hunters
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
My parents are big music fans, and there was always music on in the house when I was growing up. They started taking me to concerts when I was eleven years old, so I think full credit has to go to them for me being a musician. I can’t really do anything else so who knows what I’d be doing if it weren’t for music. Maybe I’d just be doing something really badly.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I love going to see other musicians play. There’s so much great music in Edinburgh, crossing all sorts of genres. So yeah, one of my favourite things to do when I’m not playing is go and see someone else do it. I think this really helps with creativity because you’re constantly being inspired by other people.
How long have you been making music?
I’ve been playing guitar for almost thirty years, been playing live for over twenty years, and making my living exclusively from playing music for ten years.
Where are you based and how did that influence your music?
We (Jed Potts & the Hillman Hunters) are based in Edinburgh, Scotland, and I think the vibrancy of the live music scene here has influenced us in terms of how much opportunity there is to play and develop. I’ve also always found that the scene here, across all genres from metal to funk, is very friendly and supportive. It’s a scene built on community not competition, and it seems to work very well.
Tell me about your most memorable shows, if you haven’t played live what is your vision for a live show?
We’ve been lucky enough to play with our friend Brandon Santini a few times as part of the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival and it’s always great playing with him. It’s so fun for me to just stand back and watch him work. Plus his harmonica playing is always killer.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
The Jazz Bar in Edinburgh is definitely a favourite. We’ve played there so many times over the years and have so many great memories attached to the place. Despite the name, after midnight it’s a great party vibe, with a nice little dancefloor right in front of the stage, so the shows there are always very high energy for us.
And in terms of venues I want to play, it would have to be the Barrowlands in Glasgow. It’s a legendary venue and I’ve seen so many great shows there over the years.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
I’d love to share the bill with Messuggah and Tony Bennett. We’d open, then Messuggah, with Tony headlining. That would be class.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into making music and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
For anyone getting into music I would say don’t get too focused on your instrument. Remember it’s just a tool for expressing yourself with. Oh, and if you don’t already sing, give it a shot. It’s a very valuable thing to be comfortable with your own voice and has opened many doors for me, both creatively and in terms of being able to work.
And I suppose, to that same point, if I was able to give myself advice I’d go back in time and tell myself to start singing ten years earlier!
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
It’s hard to pick an absolute favourite but “Swashbucklin’” means a lot because it’s about positivity and feeling really good, and musically I feel we were able to cover a nice bit of ground within a relatively short song.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
“Won’t Be No Use” is really fun because it has a few different sections so there’s quite a lot to sink your teeth into, and “It Won’t Be Long” is fun because there’s a section in the middle where we can improvise and kind-of check-in with one another.
Funnily enough, the one which seems to get requested the most is an unreleased song called “And Now You’re with Zargalon”. It’s essentially a space country song which I wrote with my friend Graeme Watt, who is a filmmaker. The song is will be part of the soundtrack to an upcoming film of Graeme’s, but as soon as I started playing it live people started asking for it.
What is your creative process, and what inspires you to write your music?
A lot of the time I get ideas for riffs and melodies as I’m falling asleep. It’s tricky because I have to wake myself up, figure out how to play the thing, then make a quick recording of it before I go back to sleep. Then at some point down the line I’ll revisit the recording and develop the idea. I suppose that’s quite a strange method and I don’t write everything in that way, but I am very vigilant against trying to be too clever when writing. In other words, I’m a firm believer that it’s the back of my mind that’s got all the really good ideas, so I suppose it’s about getting out of the way of myself and letting that stuff come through.
Do you have messages that you like to get across in your music, if so please tell me about them?
In terms of the Hillman Hunters stuff I mostly try and keep things light lyrically. Writing blues to me has always been a bit like writing jokes. In a typical twelve-bar verse form there’s a set-up, which you repeat, then a punchline. So I suppose, if there is a message, it’s to have a good time? Granted, it’s not the most heavy message, but I suppose that’s the point.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
On the 20th of December at La Belle Angele in Edinburgh I’ll be putting on a charity event called Blue Christmas. I’ve been doing it for a few years and I basically ask all of my very talented musician friends to come along and play all of that good old festive rock’n’roll music. All of the proceeds go to charity so it’s a good time for a good cause. Tickets are available via ticketweb so if you live in the Edinburgh area come along for some festive fun.
How can your fans best keep up to date with you, any socials you want people to check out?
My website is jedpotts.com, Facebook is jedpottsmusic and jedpottshillmanhunters, and Instagram is jedpottsmusic. Thanks!