Soul with Emily Ann: A glimpse into the {soul} of Jay White & the Blues Commanders

Emily Ann

Jay White & the Blues Commanders are a group of seasoned musicians who know, live, and love the blues. They really know how to bring it when they’re on stage with one another and their album Jaywalkin’ will have you jammin’! I got the chance to sit down and talk with Jay White and here’s what he had to say:

kw1Emily: So, let’s just take it back to the start. When did you first pursue music?

Jay: It goes way, way back. When I was two years old my parents would dress me up like a cowboy with chaps, a holster, cowboy hat and they gave me a little Mickey Mouse guitar. I would jump up and down and play that Mickey Mouse guitar and shout “Cotton Eyed Joe, Cotton Eyed Joe!” over and over. They just thought it was adorable, but I was playing music. I remember singing myself for years growing up. I’d sing myself to sleep every night, rolling my head back and forth.

My first stage experience was in the first grade. Our school buses were late because of the weather, so we were all in the cafeteria. One of the teachers had this bright idea to ask if anyone could sing.  I don’t know why but I shot up and said, “Yeah, I can sing!” So, I sang a song I had learned in Vacation Bible School and did all of the motions with it. When I finished singing the song, it sounded to me like the house erupted in thunderous applause. Now, there were maybe 150-200 people there, but it sounded like this roar of applause and from that moment on I was hooked.

 I didn’t really start playing guitar until I was ten, but I remember visiting my grandad. He played a lot of Jimmie Rodgers on his guitar with a little band. We went out there and I remember to this day, he sat his old, arch-top, Gibson guitar up against a chair.  And I remember being a little boy and striking the strings. My mom tried to stop me, but my grandad said I couldn’t hurt anything and he let me play. Now, I actually have that guitar in my collection. It is so priceless to me.

Emily: Who are your biggest musical inspirations?

Jay: There are so many great songwriters out there. When I was fourteen, the Beatles were it. When they came out, they turned music upside down. And I love all types of music and have played all types of music. One of my favorite songwriters is Rodney Crowell, he’s a brilliant songwriter and is a very talented man. As far as blues go, I was first introduced to Jimmie Reed.  And Hank Williams, he is a blues singer. That man lived the blues and he was the blues, he just had on a cowboy hat.

I had just gotten a guitar and was learning how to play it and my neighbor was just learning to play and had a really cool silver-toned electric guitar. It had a guitar case with it and an amplifier built in. He would start banging out the Jimmie Reed music. It was heavy to me; it was really good. With the harmonica, bass, and back beat of the drum. I learned a lot through Jimmie Reed. Then the Beatles, the Rolling Stones started playing the blues and it really grew into rock and roll. It all has inspired me.

 

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Emily: I was talking to your wife about your schedule and she told me you usually play shows throughout the weekend and go home to lead worship at church. What is it like balancing all of that with late nights and early mornings?jw

Jay: It can be difficult sometimes. My whole thing is that I was questioning God four or five years ago. I was playing in a worship band, leading worship at church, and had just recorded a CD with a Christian Rock group. After we finished the CD, the lead singer in the band decided to quit because he felt that he was worshipping the band more than he was worshipping God. I was crying out to the Lord, we had gotten into private business and I had put music aside. We were getting into serious financial trouble and I could see the writing on the wall. Bad things were headed our way. We lost our business, we lost our home, and we lost absolutely everything that we had except for the clothes on our back, our family, and my guitar. All I could say is, “What can I do?” and God revealed to me that He was going to shake me, it’s going to hurt, because you won’t let go. He told me to go where He tells me to go and do what He tells me to do. So anyway, we decided to move back to central Texas and fixed up my mom’s old house that was in an unlivable condition. In that process, I was doing some soul searching on if I should play guitar in the secular world and make money at it and the answer was an overwhelming yes. I joined a band with good, Christian people and would have gigs in bars and some of the bars were pretty rough.

I was really hesitant about that at first because there were some very spiritually dark places I was going into, and I asked God, “are you sure about this?” and I just kept hearing, “Just be exactly who you are on stage as you are in church, in your family, behind the wheel of your car, just be who you are. Go where I tell you to go, do what I tell you to do and say what I tell you to say. Haven’t I always sustained you?”

So, I said okay. I’m through questioning and I did what God told me to do. People in church don’t always agree with what I do, but there are some people in the places that I play that would never set foot in a church. The only way they’re going to get any word from God is if we go out and tell them. I feel like I’m doing what I am meant to do and I am so glad that I surrendered and have made it here despite all of the pain.

Emily: Wow, that’s incredible. What’s it like working with the Blues Commanders?

Jay: We are, most definitely, a blues band. We all come from different backgrounds, some country and some rock but we all play the blues. It’s not about the money, it’s about the music and if you take care of the music everything else will follow. That’s kind of what drives this band. Each song is just like having another member in the band, no matter what song you’re doing; it belongs to the band each time you perform. That song has everything to say about how it gets played. What’s unique about this group of musicians is we all realize that, so we all relate to each song. We’re of one heartbeat when we’re on stage together and intertwined with the song. This band gets it.

 

{peace.love.soul}

 

EmilyWelcome to Soul with Emily Ann!

Emily is the intern here at Texas Music Pickers // part time picker & full time grinner. She is a senior at Sam Houston State University {eat ‘em up, kats!} majoring in Mass Communications with an emphasis in Public Relations. She loves Texas music with all of her heart & soul.

Follow her as she meets with Texas artists & venue owners, sharing the soul behind the music they create & share with us all.Emily Ann

 

 

 

Author: Emily Acker

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