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Early Blues Interview
Moreland and Arbuckle
(Aaron Moreland guitarist and Dustin Arbuckle vocalist/Blues Harp)

© Copyright 2014 Moreland & Arbuckle. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
© Copyright 2014 Moreland & Arbuckle. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Alan: What are your first musical memories growing up in Kansas?

AM: I grew up in rural Kansas on classic rock radio, bands like Deep Purple and ZZ Top. There are several moments that were life changing for me. The first time was hearing KISS and JEFFERSON AIRPLANE when I was 5 years old.  When I was about 14 years old, the guitar solo on Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” absolutely blew my mind. Two such other events occurred like this. When I was 16 years old Nirvana changed the way I saw the musical world. This also occurred at age 22 when I discovered Son House’s recording of “Death Letter Blues”. That put me on a course of spending the subsequent 7 years playing acoustic blues only. Its a never ending journey! 

Alan: Did you come from a musical family - is there a long musical heritage?  If not, where did your inspiration to make music a way-of-life come from?

AM: Yes, my father was a musician. He did not have a hand in raising me at all, but he was a guitar player - as was his father, his brothers and some other family members. Just like athletic ability, I believe that certain talents and personality characteristics are inherited. As long as I can remember, music has always been a mega strong force for me that has spoken volumes to my being in every way. 

Alan: Did you always want to become a musician and how did you actually get started in music?

DA: For me it was getting into blues that made me want to play music. I first heard the music kind of by chance when I was about 15 years old, and once I started to dig into it a little bit, my life was changed. Old school blues moved me in a way that no other music ever had at that time. I’d been singing since I could talk, but that was the first time I really gave any thought to starting a band or anything of that nature. I started playing with a few guys I knew from school and it didn’t take me long to decide that music was the thing around which I wanted to center my life. 

Alan: What kind of material were you both playing in the early days and who were your heroes?

AM: We started the band out as a duo, just Dustin and I performing as an all acoustic pre-war duo all the while, we also had an electric quartet called the King Snakes. after we had lost our second bass player in that band, we decided that we would just combine the both groups and make ourselves far more marketable. Our heroes list is vast--- with everyone from Robert Johnson, Son House, Muddy Waters, Led Zeppelin, to Johnny Cash and Otis Redding, etc. 

Alan: Where did you first meet and with your wide range of musical interests what brought you together?

DA: Aaron and I first met and jammed at an open mic night in Wichita, KS in 2001. After that we didn’t run into each other for some time. In spring of 2002 Aaron was making a CD and wanted a harmonica player for a few tracks. Some friends of mine in our local blues society pointed him in my direction. After we made the recording, we started jamming and doing some shows together, playing acoustic, Mississippi style blues. We pretty quickly realized that we had very strong musical chemistry and we became fast friends. A dozen years later, here we are.  

© Copyright 2014 Jon T Cruz. All Rights Reserved
© Copyright 2014 Jon T Cruz. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Alan: Who has influenced you the most in your music writing and playing?

AM: This really varies. We are fans of all kinds of cool music. We are really into tons of traditional blues. Starting with early blues with guys like Charley Patton, Son House, Muddy Waters etc. Bits of every other genre we adore creeps into our sound and songwriting as well. Soul music, classic country, stoner rock, classic rock, etc all rear their heads in our musical “stream of consciousness”.

Alan: You're known for your love of all sorts of American music with blues at the core, but what does the blues mean to you?

AM: To me blues is a feeling that is accomplished musically by certain rhythms, patterns, scales, and note choices. Its one of those things that is hard to define, but you know it when you hear it. I have read all kinds of academic explanations of what makes certain music “blues”, but that stuff just goes over my head. Bottom line, you can feel what is blues, and what is not.

Alan: Aaron, you play a cigar box guitar, tell me a little about it and how it fits your style of playing. Was it made especially for you?

AM: Yes, a friend on mine named Mike Snider makes them especially for me. I love them for their full sound. The fact that I can play bass lines, rhythm guitar, and lead guitar on it at the same time makes it a very appealing instrument for our chiefly bass-less sound.

Alan: In 2008 you both went to Iraq to play for the American troops stationed there, that must have been quite an experience.

DA: I’ll never forget one day when we were touring the hospital of the base we were to play that night, talking to soldiers who had been wounded or injured. We came to the back of the room, to a guy who was looking very depressed. He’d been laid up with a bad infection in his leg for weeks and hadn’t been able to get around or see hardly any of his friends in that time. He was a blues fan, so he was especially bummed to be missing the show that night. I had a harmonica with me and asked if he’d like to hear a tune. He said yes, so I played and we all sang for him. It just lit him up, seemed like it turned his whole day around. A nurse from the ward came to the show that night and told us the soldier was smiling and talking the rest of the day. It was a really moving experience. I’ve always believed in the healing power of music, but I’ve hardly ever seen in work in practice as much as that day. 

© Copyright 2014 Moreland and Arbuckle. All Rights ReservedAlan: You released 4 self-produced albums in 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2011 and now have your fifth album '7 Cities', tell me about the theme for the album, how it came about and your selection of the tracks.

DA: We were all born, raised, and still live in the state of Kansas. The album title and the story of the opening track, “Quivira” both come from a piece of early Kansas history. In 1541 the Spanish conquistador, Francisco Vasquez De Coronado explored the plains of what became Kansas looking for the fabled civilization of Quivira, and seven cities of gold. His search was, of course, unsuccessful. As we were putting together the songs for the record, we found that even beyond the song “Quivira”, the whole album was telling a this story about a search for wealth and power, followed by the inevitable downfall. We ended up making our first concept album almost by accident. 

Alan: Are there any particular songs that you play that have special meaning to you?

AM: We have a tendency to close most of our shows with JOHN HENRY. This song is perhaps the oldest of all songs we play. It has a tremendous story lyrically to it. In addition, the power and grit in which we play this tune moves audiences unlike most any other song that we play. It has power in our set that is unmatched.

[Check out John Henry on YouTube]

Alan: You are currently on a UK tour, so what's next and when will you be back in the UK?

AM: We are just starting a 10 day-long tour of the UK. We will stay in Europe for a month and this tour will take us to Switzerland, Italy and Spain. Not sure exactly when we’ll be back here in the UK, but I hope it won’t be too long!

Alan:   Thank you both and have a good tour.


© Copyright 2014 Moreland and Arbuckle. All Rights Reserved

© Copyright 2014 Moreland & Arbuckle. All Rights Reserved
© Copyright 2014 Moreland & Arbuckle. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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