By Michael Lello
Most musicians shy away from labeling their music, but Eddie Turner is especially averse to genre tags.
“I call it all music,” he said in a recent phone interview, previewing his headlining slot at this year’s Briggs Farm Blues Festival. “I got caught in labeling stuff, and for me it just didn’t work out because I heard too much stuff and wanted to learn too much stuff and it all kind of morphed together into what I just call ‘Eddie Music,’ where it starts bluesy and who knows where it will go?
“I guess that’s the hangover from the ’60s, where people would start out and it would go all kind of places.”
Turner himself has been “all kind of places,” both literally and from a musical standpoint. He was born in Cuba, left one month after he was born, was raised in the blues hotbed of Chicago and moved to Colorado in the 1970s, where he has been since. In the Rockies, he played with several outfits, including Zephyr, which featured Tommy Bolin – who later formed The James Gang and played in Deep Purple.
In 1995, Turner joined the Otis Taylor Band, playing on five albums and touring the world.
However, despite Turner’s obvious talents and experience, he did not release an album under his own name until 2005’s “Rise.” And he’s very candid about why the time was right.
“I got fired,” Turner said with a laugh, referring to the Otis Taylor gig. “And so I was going to go back to being a realtor. And the record label that I was on with Otis called me up, because they had been trying to get to me to do a solo record. They called, and the same week (bassist and producer) Kenny (Passarelli) called and said, ‘Let’s do a record,’ and I said OK.”
For his efforts, Turner was named Best New Artist in the Blues Music Awards, “which took me completely by surprise.”
“It’s a feather in your cap that people thought enough about what I did to nominate me for that prestigious award,” he said. “That means a lot.”
Turner went on to win the Independent Music Awards Vox Pop award for his subsequent album “The Turner Diaries.” Additionally, his song “Mr. Blues” was nominated for Independent Music Awards Blues Song of the Year, and three years ago the song “Miracles and Demons” was up for an Independent Music Award.
“Miracles and Demons” was also the name of his most recent album, released in 2010. A new album is in the works, he shared.
“I probably have about 15, 20 songs, and I think I have a producer, but you know how it is. Right now I don’t have a label, so most likely I’ll probably end up doing it on my own, and that kind of tends to be how things are going in the recording world at the time,” Turner said.
Although Turner’s family left Cuba when he was a baby, the country and its music have had an impact on him. When Turner was a child, he “asked a lot of questions to find out who my relatives were in Cuba. And met quite a few of them. It’s an entire wild little grouping of Cubans,” he said, laughing.
In Chicago, his parents would take him to “little Cuban parties on the weekends. You’d hear music, you’d do the whole drill; it was great. I kind of learned musically just by listening, not by planning that ‘this is Cuban music.’”
Turner, who plays the main stage at Briggs on Saturday, July 12, said he doesn’t approach a gig differently depending on the time slot or how he’s billed – headliner, opener, etc.
“No I don’t, because I play any slot I have like it’s the most important slot at the festival. So no, if that’s the particular spot, I give it the same particular attention.”
We also had to ask Turner if he planned on sitting in with or checking out any other artists while he’s at Briggs Farm.
“Oh, absolutely,” he enthused. “I’ll hopefully try to get there on Friday, because I want to see Eric Gales. I really like the way he plays. So yeah, just because you’re a performer doesn’t mean you can’t be a fan.”