A conversation with Bluesman Shawn Pittman
On Monday, Aug. 10, at 7:30 p.m., Shawn Pittman will be bringing his unique styles of Blues to the Calumet Theatre.
This is Pittman’s second time to the U.P., having been to Marquette last year for the Marquette Area Blues Fest.
“This [Calumet] is definitely setting my record for being the farthest north,” the man from Oklahoma said.
Pittman’s blues does not have just the Texas sound he is most heavily associated with, despite Texas being his musical roots.
“My playing philosophy is to draw back on some of the more obscure guys, but at the same time keep it moving forward,” he said.
His style draws more from his heroes than from where he sets his guitar case.
Most people might describe Mr. Pittman’s style as “blues rock,” but, he said, “I don’t like that term.”
“When people talk about Blues rock it’s usually more rock than blues. There’s not usually that much blues,” he said.
Pittman is about the blues.
“I think I’d best describe my style as retro-progressive,” he explained, using notes from his heroes but always adding something new, his own spin which he has developed over his career.
Pittman’s ability to include subtle jazz inserts with light horn, to shredding guitar licks and being able to slow it down for a soulful solo keeps the listener’s attention for the whole album.
At the Calumet Theatre, the audience can expect songs from his newest album, “Make It Right,” as well as “some of my older stuff, you, know? My favorites from throughout the years,” Pittman said.
“With ‘Make it right,’ I guess I was just trying to do just that, make it right,” he said. “I’ve made some mistakes, like we all have. ‘Make it Right’ is just me owning up to that. It’s only my fault and I’m owning that.”
“The way to make it right is by helping people. It’s like therapy to me.”
When people watch Pittman, they expect influences from some of the classics like “Jimmy Vaughn, even some Stevie Vaughn, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, of course.”
Pittman’s style is also his own. He pulls his influences over the years together and ads what he’s learned himself into a “musical chemistry set,” he said.
“You know, with like test tubes,” Pittman said, “sometimes it explodes, sometimes it burns a little and sizzles. What I do is really an experiment.”
With a formulated blend of influences and styles, and lyrics all his own, Pittman is a one-of-a-kind experience and sound only he can produce.
He is not a young man with a guitar and no life experiences.
“I’ve been playing guitar since I was 14, and I got my first record deal when I was in my early 20s, so… gosh, I’ve been at it for 30 years,” Pittman said with a laugh.
“I’ve been told [in the past that] I’m too young to play the blues, I’m too pretty, I don’t have the life experience.”
“I don’t have that problem anymore,” he said.
Pittman will have a trio onstage, comprised of him and two other talents from Chicago that he has known and played with for 10 years.
“I like my guys to do their homework, you know? I like my guys to practice what we’re doing and then come to rehearsal. Those are the guys that know what they’re doing. They show up and we work,” Pittman explained.
Outside of experience and a smart, solid work ethic, Pittman brings a real working class feeling to the stage and his music.
Pittman wears a shirt and jeans like his working audience.
“I try to be real. I don’t want people to have an average, stereotypical blues experience,” Pittman said.
With COVID-19 canceling a lot of acts, Pittman said, “just playing is a victory. Even if it’s 50% capacity or whatever, I’m glad to be out playing.”
When asked about rehearsals during COVID-19, he said, “ah, man, it’s non-existent. It hasn’t been able to happen.”
Pittman having an experienced crew he has worked with before, who do their homework and know their jobs, makes him confident that it will be a real, intimate show that will have have the audience more than satisfied.
“I might be a little bit rusty, but whatever happens out there, it’ll be good.”
Anyone who finds their way to the Calumet Theatre Monday, should be ready for a good quality show and a great time with Shawn Pittman, a down-to-earth, honest and hard-working bluesman.