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    An Interview with Stacy Mitchhart
    Nashville's Ole Blue Eyes: Stacy Mitchhart
    by Janet Hansen - October, 2013


Like most of Nashville's music melting pot, Stacy Mitchhart is a domestic import. A native of Ohio, Stacy moved to Music City in 1996 and has become a fixture in the blues scene, most notably as the leader of Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar's house band. Tucked in historic Printer's Alley and touted as one of the best blues clubs in the country, Bourbon Street draws audiences from all over the world.

Often called NashVegas, Nashville ticks with live entertainment just about 24/7. With access to a global fan base and a reputation for calling the shots the way he sees it, Mitchhart wears many hats. He's the band leader, the lead guitarist and vocalist. He's a recording artist, a touring musician. In the contemporary sense, he's a do-it-yourself kinda guy. But much like the legends of Las Vegas with long standing club gigs, there's a certain moxie behind the signature style right down to the style hat the music represents.

Here's an off-the-cuff chat with Stacy shooting from the hip and calling it like he sees it.

Just to get the obvious question out of the way, how many hats do you own?

Seventy six altogether. About 40 are ball caps and the rest are Brims and Kangol style.

The urban myth of Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil to become a successful guitarist at the Crossroads is legendary as the ultimate sacrifice. What have you sacrificed, if anything, to gain your reputation?

Two marriages, family, holidays, vacations, sleep, brain cells -- but only the bad ones -- lol -- need I go on? The sacrifices were worth it. I am a musician. It's what I do, and my total being. I really don't consider them as sacrifices-- they were choices that I made voluntarily.

Of all the venues you've played, which is the most memorable?

There have been so many -- I've played in every type of venue from the Amsterdam Arena in Holland for 45,000 people, to a grocery store in front of 30 people, to juke joints in Mississippi to black tie events at the Ritz Carlton. The bottom line is they are all gigs and you treat them all with the same respect and effort.

But, there was a theater in Red Key, Indiana, called The Key Palace Theater. The town had a population of 1300 or so. The guy that owned it, Charley Noble, came and told me that he was going to open a blues place in the middle of Indiana. I thought he was crazy, but he did it. I played there twice a year for 20 years and sold out almost every show at $20 a ticket. The crowds were always great with loyal fans. Charley died about 2 years ago, but the family just couldn't keep it going.

He used to send us to the one restaurant in town to eat and they had a lady named Billie playing the organ. It turned out that she used to play the organ in the Theater for the silent movies. Wow what a history!


Stacy Michhart


Being on the road so much gives way to great stories. What is your favorite story from the road?

That I can tell you! There are the typical stories of not getting paid and having to find creative ways to extort our money from the owner. Plenty of "we got drunk and did stupid stuff" stories. But I think the one thing I can tell you is that wherever we go, we meet genuinely nice people. There have been numerous occasions where we broke down and someone was there to help us out. One time we were on our way to headline a festival near Columbus, Ohio traveling in an old airport shuttle bus that I had somewhat customized. We broke down in Washington Courthouse, Ohio about an hour and a half from the gig.

We found a guy that was able to fix the problem, but it would take a few days. There were no rental cars available and we had to get us and our gear to the concert. He let us use his old pickup truck with mismatched doors and an old Saturn sedan so we could make the gig. He just trusted us with his vehicles.

When we pulled up to the festival I know people and the promoter were looking at us like "what the hell?" It was funny. The botton line is that we made the show on time and there was a good samaritan to help us out.

All styles of music are cyclic and most of the time it's a cultural reflection of what our society is going through. Do you see The Blues returning to a prominent position in the music business?

Prominent? Not really, unfortunately. As much as I would like it, Blues music will just never get the commercial radio push to be anything other than a niche market. It's not that people don't like it, it's just that the people who need to sell advertising in order to stay in business don't think that the 40 and over audience will spend enough money to attract their clients.

It's business, I get it. But every single night I have people of all ages and demographics come up to me and say "I didn't know I liked Blues until I saw you!" They just don't get exposed to it.

There's a big difference between a recording artist and a performing artist. What advice can you give to the uninitiated about the difference and what are the benefits of each?

When you record you are striving to make art. Striving to make it as perfect as possible and make that moment memorable for all time. When you are performing you are entertaining and trying to create a memorable moment. It's a different approach. The studio is hard. You don't get instant feedback. Live music is my real passion. I want to see the reaction. I want the spontaneity and creativity of the moment.

Music has become a glorified trophy case in every way possible. It seems the music business is more interested in spending money on award ceremonies and trophies than seeking higher levels of art. What is your take on this?

I agree! As a musician, we don't look at music as a competition. The people that vote on the awards are not musicians most of the time so maybe they don't understand that. Don't get me wrong, we like the acknowledgment for our work. It feels good. Obviously we can use awards to bring more attention to us and what we do. But, how can you judge what music is better than something else? Music is personal to the listener. If you like a song, and I don't -- does that make it bad or good? I don't think so. Awards shows are just another tactic of marketing and promotion.

The Blues is one of the strongest roots in American music as an art form and has gone through many evolutions. The Americana genre has fully embraced The Blues alongside country music, blurring the lines of what The Blues really mean and where it originated. What's your opinion on that subject?

If including Blues music in the Americana genre helps expose it to more people, then I'm all for it. All music evolves over time. It's supposed to. The artists listen to a lot of influences while they are developing their own voices. Those influences can't help but affect the end result. If you and I both listened to "I Can't Be Satisfied" by Muddy Waters, then I listened to Carlos Santana and George Benson while you listened to Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix, when we play the Muddy Waters song our own way it's going to sound markedly different. That's the evolution of the music. It's okay. It's as it should be.

For more information please visit http://stacymitchhart.com

2013 marks the 29th year of Janet Hansen's career as a music marketing specialist. With three Grammy award-winning campaigns to her credit, Hansen has also contributed to the legacy of two of history's most popular songs. "Classical Gas" by Mason Williams is the most-broadcast instrumental tune in history; and "Louie, Louie" by The Fabulous Wailers is the most-recorded rock song in history. In 2009 Hansen launched the global music platform http://scout66com.wordpress.com/ to encourage reviews of live shows from the ticket-buying public.

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