Kenny Wayne Shepherd • Born to Blaze New Musical Trails for the Blues

Five-Time Grammy Nominee Brings Unique Blend of Blues Rock to Midland Center for the Arts April 26th

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, ,   From Issue 928   By: Robert E Martin

07th April, 2022     0

As the idiom of American Blues Music has evolved over the past few decades - most notably through exponential artists such as Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughn; and most recently through contemporaries such as Joe Bonamassa and Larry McCray - one guitar hero known for creating a unique sound that seamlessly blends the genres of Blues and Rock whom has truly distinguished himself is Kenny Wayne Shepherd.

In a 25-year recording career that began when he was just 16, Shepherd has established himself as an immensely popular recording artist, a consistently in-demand live act and an influential force in a worldwide resurgence of interest in the blues. He continues to create genre-defining blues-infused rock n' roll with notable hits like, “Blue on Black,” “True Lies,” “Dark Side of Love,” and many more.

And now this award-winning artist will be spreading his immense talents throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region with a much-anticipated live performance at Midland Center for the Arts on Tuesday, April 26 at 7:30 p.m.

Shepherd has sold millions of albums worldwide, received five GRAMMY® nominations, two Billboard Music Awards, as well as a pair of Orville H. Gibson awards, the Blues Foundation's Keeping The Blues Alive award and two Blues Music awards. He's had seven #1 blues albums and a string of #1 mainstream rock singles.

From television performances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Late Show with David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel Live and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, to features in Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Maxim Magazine, Blender, Spin, USA Today and more, Kenny’s  musical career has been nothing short of phenomenal.

Recently I had the pleasure of sitting down with an Shepherd to discuss the arc of his musical career, what audiences can expect on his current 25th Anniversary Tour, and how he spent his time during the Lockdowns.

REVIEW: At what point did you decide you wanted to pursue music as a lifelong career? I understand that your father was a DJ with a vast record collection and that you got your first plastic Green Stamp guitar from your grandmother at the age 3 or 4, and by the age of 11 you were already flying your fingers around the fretboard.  But at what point did you really decide to attempt to forge a distinct voice in the realm of popular music and pursue this as a full time career?

Shepherd:  My career point came into focus when my first recording contract showed up because that’s when it all became very real. And even then uncertainty existed because at that point it became a question of whether or not I was going to make a record that was going to connect with people. I put my first band together at the age of fifteen, so had been playing live on a regular basis and making a little bit of money here and then, but not really that much at all.

REVIEW: You’ve managed to secure five Grammy Awards and two Billboard Awards, which is no small feat. Can you tell me what that experience was like when you received your first one; and what do you feel are the attributes and qualities of your music that register so strongly with both critics and the public-at-large?

Shepherd:  While I think awards are great and that to be nominated by your peers is a gratifying experience to have, a lot of times those things can be frustrating, too, because I’ve seen a lot of great albums over the years get passed up. So ultimately, at the end of the day, while I value the appreciation that comes with receiving an award, I didn’t pick up the guitar in order to one receive this recognition.

As far as my music goes, I’ve always tried to write timeless music that is somewhat innovative as well. I’m trying to hear something in my material that’s fresh but will also sound good for decades that’s not trapped in a period of time like a lot of Pop Music. We’ve always tried to make music that would sound good over an expanse of time.

REVIEW: You’ve become an accomplished recording artist that has broken new ground fusing Rock & Blues into something fresh an vital, I’m just curious, what for you are the biggest challenges and differences working in the studio as opposed to performing before a live audience?

Shepherd: Well, the two experiences are totally different completely. In the studio you have no audience and you get to play a song over and over until you get it right. When we make a record and when I write songs I do very basic demos and then let the creative process happen in the studio. The limit in the studio is your imagination.

I spent the same amount of time writing my second album as I did my first and the minute I got signed I got to work, knowing that I had to write an album’s worth of material. Once I had the songs that I needed I went in and recorded them and that’s been the process ever since.

Playing live I always try to commit and challenge myself as a musician. This is something that I did back when I was a teenager and on tour and had a moment of epiphany one night when I realized that I was playing every single song note for note the way I had played it the night before.  I realized that if I kept doing this I was never going to grow, so at that point I made a conscious decision to not play the same things exactly the same way every night, because that was the only way the band was going to grow.

REVIEW:  Back in 2013 you formed a supergroup of sorts with Stephan Stills and keyboardist Barry Goldberg called ‘The Rides’ and recorded a couple of albums in 2013 and 2016. Are you still working with them and what was it like working with Stephan Stills?

Shepherd:  We actually were discussing opportunities to get together and write a new record and then COVID happened, so we haven’t had a chance to hook-up. Once things re-opened I had to get back out here on the road with my own band, but we’re all still very friendly and waiting for the right opportunity with everybody’s schedules.  Stills is a great dude to work with - a musical genius.

REVIEW: How did you spend your time during the lockdowns?

Shepherd: We had actually finished recording a brand new record when everything shut down, so we’ve been holding on to that and are going to release it early next year.  My wife and I have a lot of kids and a pretty big family, so during the lockdowns I was creating memories for them. We went to see the Grand Canyon and went camping in the Smokey Mountains - cool things like that.

REVIEW: What do you think is the biggest challenge for an artist to evolve their music, as opposed to repeating themselves by rewriting what’s worked for them in the past?

Shepherd: It’s important not to repeat yourself, especially in a genre as the Blues. That’s why from day one I always tried to mix this whole Blues and Rock thing together, because that opens up a few more doors of creativity, so you’re not stuck within the confines of 3-chords and 12-bar blues and all that stuff.  I love playing traditional Blues all day long, but when it comes to developing new ideas and not repeating what’s already been done, approaching the music the way we have opens more opportunities to do that.

REVIEW: What can audiences expect on your latest outing?

Shepherd:  Well it’s the 25th anniversary of the Trouble Is album, which was huge for me, so we’ll be performing the whole record and then come out with an encore of more current material.  We have lots of things coming out there year for the 25th anniversary of Trouble Is and will be releasing a concert DVD film later this year; and like I mentioned earlier, next year we’ll be releasing an album of entirely new material.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd will be performing at the Midland Center for the Arts on Tuesday, April 26th.  

Tickets are now on sale at or by calling the Ticket Office at 989-631-8250.


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