by HAP MANSFIELD
It could be argued that Kansas City is the vortex of American music.
It was there that Pete Johnson and Big Joe Turner recorded the “jump blues” which laid the foundation for rhythm and blues and, by extension, rock and roll. You won’t see anyone who transforms these styles into an original amalgam quite like Austin-based troubador Guy Forsyth, appearing at the Texas Music Theater, on Saturday. And his story sort of starts in Kansas City.
If you go…
Guy Forsyth will be at the Texas Music Theater on Nov. 19. Doors open at 8 p.m. Opening band Slowtrain plays at 9 o.m. Forsyth will do two sets, one at 10 p.m. and one at midnight. Cover is $8 at the door. Buy tickets here.
While attending the University of Kansas, Forsyth heard the music of blues legend Robert Johnson on a Kansas City radio station and saw the light. Once he figured out that music was his destiny, he has been playing around the world. His consequent musical travels have taken him from busking in New Orleans, to performing at festivals in Belgium and Denmark to playing on a mountain top in Nepal.
Forsyth comes by his sweet and salty mix of folk, rock, country and blues partially from a gifted musical ear that picks up the melodies in everything from a growl to a whisper. He howls, he cajoles, he thunders with his voice. Forsyth’s music is a soul bending blend of blues, rock and swamp. He can play a variety of instruments: acoustic, electric and slide guitar, harmonica, ukulele and even the singing saw. On his delightful and surprising website, Guyforsyth.com, you can even hear him play Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” (Symphony #9) on a toy xylophone.
Forsyth has won several Austin Music Awards including Best Male Vocalist in 2005 and Best Miscellaneous Instrument player for the singing saw. He has shared the stage with BB King, Ray Charles, Lucinda Williams, Jimmy Vaughn and many others.
Forsyth answered a few questions for the Mercury before he steps onto the stage on Saturday
Mercury: Your website is a marvel. Can you really play the singing saw? How did you learn that?
Forsyth: Yes, I do play the saw, I watched someone on the streets of Amsterdam and was so captivated by it I had to learn. It’s not that hard, if you want go to Youtube and watch people do it. You can learn everything there is to know fast, but the muscle memory takes a bit longer.
Mercury: From Robert Johnson to Nepal to Kansas you’ve got an extraordinary set of influences and geography. How do they inform your songwriting?
Forsyth: I love getting to travel. Music doesn’t pay well but it does get you in some wild doors. Travel is the best education, nothing beats being there.
Mercury: Who are some of your favorite artists?
Forsyth: Favorite artists? Ry Cooder, Tom Waits, Lucinda Williams, Jon Dee Graham, Carolyn Wonderland, Levon Helm, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Blind Willie Johnson. More and more and more.
Mercury: Were you born and raised in Texas?
Forsyth: I was born in Denver, Colorado but lived all over the US while growing up ––my dad worked for TWA, the airline. I moved to Texas 1/10/1990 and have lived in Austin ever since.
Mercury: You play a nice assortment of instruments are there any other instrument you’d like to learn?
Forsyth: I really want to learn the piano and the accordion. I got an accordion, anybody got a piano?
Mercury: Who designed your website? Can you explain a little about the site so that folks will know what they’re in for?
Forsyth: Gtbiz made the website, a cozy place that I spend all my time in, waiting for You to visit me.
Mercury: Could you describe a Guy Forsyth show for those unfamiliar with your work?
Forsyth: What is a Guy Forsyth Show like? I try to share the things I love the most, blues, jazz, work songs, ghost stories, The Late Night Voodoo Drum Sex Ritual. Music has to serve people. I want it to feed your soul, your spirit, your sense of humor, your love of the real world. It should give you the strength to say YES!
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