Tonight: Matt Schofield brings the blues to Hard Rock Cafe


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Let's just put it right out there: Matt Schofield, the Guitarist of the Year in 2010, 2011 and 2012 at the British Blues Awards, is playing at the Hard Rock Cafe at Station Square tonight.

A native of Manchester, Mr. Schofield, 35, was spun in the direction of the blues thanks to his father's record collection. Taking up the guitar, he played with a couple of different bands before striking out on his own about 10 years ago.

Well, not exactly his own. He's been out front in a variety of configurations with an assortment of artists. Tonight, it's the Matt Schofield Trio with keyboardist Jonny Henderson and Jordan John on drums.

"Even just a different player playing the same instrument brings out different things," Mr. Schofield said this afternoon on the tour bus headed to Pittsburgh. "Everybody feels time a little bit differently.

"Especially the kind of music that we play, and how we play it. It's so dependent on the players -- even more so when you get down to a trio. Three guys means everybody's got a big role to play and there's nowhere to hide for anyone.

"I like having my band, but I also like playing with lots of other people. It's easy to get stale and locked into the same thing when it's the same few guys. So it's good to mix things up, keep the creative juices flowing."

For Mr. Schofield, being a blues artist means being true to the geniuses who came before him.

"There's a handful of guys I never get tired of. I can listen to over and over again," he said. "But it's only a handful. Hendrix and Albert King and BB King. Stevie Ray Vaughn, Oscar Peterson. They're a part of me. Like members of my family."

Like so many blues players, Mr. Schofield started out trying to emulate his heroes, identifying what made each one special and trying to squeeze that sound out of his own guitar. Eventually, he developed his own sound.

"It's an ongoing thing, which sometimes means taking things out. Editing," he said. "I used to do stuff that was fairly signature of other great players of the past. Then I reached the point where I'd think to myself, 'I've got to not play that anymore, because it's too signature of someone else.'

"I feel like I'm getting there. Funny thing is I hear myself sometimes in younger players who have been influenced by what we've been doing. And I listen and I go, 'Oh that's one of mine.' Which is OK, because that's the way blues carries on.

"I always wanted my own sound. It's a bit scary to embrace your own sound. You love your heroes so much and you try to play like they did. When it starts coming out differently you stop and wonder 'Oh, this is coming from me. Is it any good?' I wanted it and I just had to embrace it."

He and his bandmates play funky New Orleans clubs and festivals in Canada. They've spread the gospel of the blues all around the world.

"They love it," he said of fans in the farthest reaches. "And they haven't been brought up with it the way, in America, you can hear blues music in a beer commercial. It's sort of in the fabric of the society here."

Touring is an important part of keeping the music alive. Mr. Schofield believes it is "timeless."

"It seems to be hanging in there despite virtually no mainstream media coverage. So there's something about it," he said. "I guess because it's the root of all modern music. But sometimes I think it's struggling in the U.K. and perhaps a little in the U.S. to reach newer, younger folks. But it never goes away.

"I'm always proud of being a British blues guitarist because we've got a good long history of good guitar players."

Mr. Schofield will be at the Hard Rock Cafe, 230 W. Station Square Drive, at 7:30 p.m. Cover is $17.

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If you have a suggestion for something to do some evening, let us know about it and we'll see if we can get some of our friends to join you. Contact Dan Majors at dmajors@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1456. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/


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