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Blue Highways - Interview

  by Julie Cruickshank

published: 5 / 12 / 2023

Blue Highways - Interview

The Blue Highways, a trio of brothers from London, have been building a reputation as a formidable live act, channelling the heartland rock of Bruce Springsteen. Their second album 'Out on the Line' has been gathering favourable reviews. Pennyblackmusic spoke to the band's songwriter Callum Lury about their theatrical British flair and blasting Springsteen around the streets of Harrow. PB: How did the band develop; as brothers the dynamic must be somewhat different to most bands formed out of friendships and recommendations. Were you making music together from a young age? And do you feel that being siblings brings a closer understanding between you musically - for example is it easier to discuss any points of musical difference? CALLUM LURY: The earliest memory I have of us playing together is me and Jack working on the opening to ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze Out’, and the ending to ‘Jungleland’ - me on piano and Jack on saxophone (in the days before hentook up the guitar). A couple of years after that, when Theo had taken up the drums, we added him in and had our own miniature E Street Band going on. I suppose that while that’s just one memory it really is how we ended up playing together, it was just jamming tracks around the house when we were teenagers, learning bits of songs we loved and seeing if we could make them sound any good just the three of us. As for closer understanding - we do tend to have quite an intuitive idea of what each other are doing musically onstage. But I’m not sure we think there’s some secret sauce to that beyond the fact that we’ve played together for such a long time now, and maybe at such a young age which does create something that maybe feels like a natural understanding. But is actually just a result of hours of practising and playing together and shouting at each other until everyone sort of knew instinctively what everyone else was going to be doing at any given moment. PB: ‘Out on the Line’ is a fine album, and many songs have a feel of a Bruce Springsteen epic. Do you admire his work, and which songs/albums in particular? CL: It will come as a surprise to no-one that we are big Bruce fans. We were brought up listening to Springsteen in the car, Saturday mornings on the way to football practice, ‘Born In The USA’ up as loud as it could go driving through the streets of Harrow. ‘Born To Run’ as a song, and an album, is particularly important to us I think, It’s a sound and a feel as much as anything, that resonates and is so heavily bound up with a nostalgia that it’s hard to imagine it not meaning a great deal to us. PB: Tell us about your instruments - which brands you favour and how you all came to decide who plays what within the band. Did this fall into place naturally or was there some changing around before you settled on the current group set-up? CL: I’m a piano player by trade, and play the keys on the records -usually recorded on a Boston Grand piano which are just brilliant instruments, not too tinny but still bright, really thick and warm mids, and lush and just a little bit of an aggressive low end. Live I play a Danelectro ’59 Divine which is a great rock’n’roll guitar, thrashy, bright, super light and easy to play. Jack is a Fender man. He’s got a couple teles but his strat gets the most playtime live. It’s a Reclaimed Old Growth model, made using old Redwood reclaimed wood from a decommissioned bridge in California. I couldn’t say much about how it plays because Jack won’t let me near it, but it’s a good looking instrument! As for Theo, he’s never been a huge one for kit. He’s a big believer in, if it looks like a drum kit and sounds like an drum kit then it’ll do the job, with maybe the exception of his DW snare, which he got a few years back to match the iconic sound of a certain Max Weinberg. PB: How does a song evolve once it has been written by Callum - is it changed around within the band or does it pretty much remain as originally conceived? CL: It has changed quite a lot with different albums and songs really. On the first album and earlier work we did as The Blue Highways, I tended to have not much more than a chord sheet and some lyrics, and then the song would be built up as a band, everyone developing the song as a whole. With the latest album it was somewhat more particular, I demo’d all the songs much more extensively, and had pretty solid arrangements of the songs when I first went to the band with them. That said, a lot of changes do still happen once Theo and Jack get involved. Drum parts in particular tend to be more specifically worked out when I’m working with Theo in person. They also have no issue with telling me that they think I’ve gone completely the wrong way with something and pushing for it to develop in a different direction. PB: Your sound is very strongly American - as Londoners are there any British influences you incorporate into your music? CL: Yeah definitely. Every time I answer this sort of question I think I name a whole bunch of different musicians - really we grew up listening to anything that fell within pop/rock/r&b/blues/jazz, so there are influences popping up across the board. CL: Harrow which is where we grew up is about 10 minutes from where Elton John did in Pinner, just down the road from where our grandma still lives, and alongside Roy Bittan and Billy Joel, he has a big influence on my piano playing, and that in turn has a massive influence on how Iwrite music because I mostly write at a keyboard. Thinking about it now maybe I get a lot of the theatrical elements of the music from British artists, because the other artists that springs to mind are Queen and Peter Gabriel. The tight harmonies, the multi-sectional pieces, the elaborate keyboard parts and over the top guitar solos, it’s very much musically where we sit a lot of the time. PB: What’s next for The Blue Highways - any plans to tour in the US? CL: Honestly we’d love to go out to the US but the cost of the visas just make it unviable at the moment. But hopefully one day! For now, we’re in the process of organising some dates in Europe early in 2024, and starting to get some new music together which we’re hoping to get recorded over the next couple of months. PB: Thank you.

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Blue Highways - Interview

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Callum Lury from London-based America trio The Blue Highways, which comprises of three brothers, speaks to Julie Cruickshank about their progress to date and their Bruce Springsteen-influenced second album, ‘Out on The Line’.



Out on the Line (2023)
Thoughtful album of Americana with a British edge from band of brothers The Blue Highway.

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