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Dirty Rhythm & Blues - An Interview with Robert J Hunter

10 August 2016 | Stephanie Brandhuber

Combining gruff, penetrating vocals with rough overdriven guitars, the three –piece Robert J Hunter Band is bringing their truly unique dirty blues sound to an ever-growing fan base. Having previously supported bands such as Wilko Johnson, The Animals, Eddie & The Hotrods, and HeyMoonShaker, The Robert J Hunter Band is taking the blues scene by storm.

It’s hard not to take note of lead singer and guitarist Robert J Hunter’s voice as he begins to talk about his music. Gritty, deep, and gorgeously growly, it’s only when talking to the singer that you realise he hasn’t been raised on the banks of the Mississippi River, the heartland of American blues, but is actually a Channel Islands native.
 
When asked how an Alderney boy got into blues music, RJH attributes his love of this genre to his father: “I grew up listening to what my dad listened to, that being people like Rory Gallagher, John Martyn, and Pink Floyd.” Taking inspiration from these rock and blues legends, Hunter decided to pick up a guitar at age fourteen and try his hand at music making. “When I started playing guitar, I wasn’t very good”, he confesses, “so I did what I could do and ended up falling into my own genre with the skills that I had, and I sort of developed upon that.” As for his distinctive voice, the singer humbly insists that, “I could never really sing, so I sort of developed my own singing style, and I naturally fell into the blues genre, and I haven’t really done anything else since.”
 
“I’ve always liked that with the blues, it’s always a ‘less is more’ kind of thing”, the singer-songwriter explains when asked why he loves this type of music so much. “You can say a lot while actually saying very little. I think that’s quite appealing to me.”
 
The Robert J Hunter Band’s debut album Songs for the Weary is raw, gritty, and full of seductively slick guitar riffs. This first album garnered an impressive amount of rave reviews upon its release, with its debut single, Demons, reaching number one in the UK Itunes Blues Chart.
 
Their most recent album, Before the Dawn, has been a labour of love for the band, with many of the songs having been in the pipeline for quite some time. Speaking about Before the Dawn, RJH describes how the band’s two albums differ despite retaining that same dirty blues feel: “My first album was very much Robert J Hunter with a group of other people that had got involved to help me out with it, whereas with this album, we knew when we went in the studio that we were a three-piece band and we knew exactly how each other worked. So we really found our niche with this record.” And, in true blues fashion, RJH draws upon his own experiences and memories as inspiration for the songs’ lyrics.


Image Credit: Rogue Levels

Although Robert J Hunter’s main musical focus is performing with his two bandmates as part of The Robert J Hunter Band, the lead singer also performs a number of solo gigs too. Despite travelling on the road and performing in a wide range of venues across the country, the band loves performing in London and have their favourite spots that they hold dear to their hearts. “We’re really quite attached to The George Tavern in East London”, reveals RJH, “which is a venue that’s struggling against developers to stay open. But it has a great vibe, great people, and you always get a good crowd in there, so I think as a band, that’s one of our favourite venues.”

When performing his solo material, however, Hunter prefers a more intimate space: “There’s the Spiritual Bar in Camden which, if you haven’t been there, is a truly unique venue. You can probably fit forty people in there, but you can play a show to an absolutely packed room and it’ll be deadly silent, so I think that’s my personal favourite.”

If you’re a fan of up-and-coming music, RJH staunchly encourages you to back your local music scene, emphasising how important it is to show support for unsigned musicians: “I think people should try and go see a gig as often as they can and support these dying live venues and struggling bands.”
 
So what’s next for the band? Well, as far as Hunter is concerned, America’s the next hurdle to tackle. “We’re really pushing to get ourselves over there. And I think that’s our big goal at the moment.” As well as working on their plans of international music domination, the band is currently working hard to get their new album done and dusted for a release date later this year: “We’re a few tracks away from our next Robert J Hunter Band album. I’m also working on a solo Robert J Hunter album, so hopefully there will be something in one way, shape, or form out by the end of the year.”
 
The Robert J Hunter Band will be performing in London on August 29th 2016 as part of Spiritual Festival at The Monarch in Camden, 40-42 Chalk Farm Road Camden London NW1 8BG. For information about tickets, click here.
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