Posted On 20 Nov 2017
Celebrating 33 successful years of entertaining blues, funk and jazz fans throughout the US and Europe, Chris Daniels and the Kings with Freddi Gowdy are proud to announce the release of the Kings’ 15th album, Blues with Horns (Moon Voyage Records). Described as “John Hiatt meets Tower of Power” and “Keb Mo with horns,” the seven-piece band presents their latest collection of horn-driven blues, R&B, funk, and rock n’ roll in this new 10-track body of work that includes both originals and some of the best horn-drenched classics from the likes of Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Walter “Wolfman” Washington and Bobby Blue Bland. Blues with Horns is now available on CD Baby,Amazon, and Spotify.
Since playing his first Kings show in 1984, Grammy-nominee and Colorado Music Hall of Famer Chris Daniels has led his seven-piece band through three decades of commercial and international success. The band has performed for millions of fans across the US and Europe and has been featured on Dutch national radio TROS 3 Live, Paris MTV, and Brussels 1. Other international TV appearances include Much Music/Canada, Nippon TV/Japan, and Swing TV in Buenos Aires.
After signing with the blues/rock Netherlands label, Provogue Records (who also house Joe Bonamassa and Gov’t Mule), the band toured Europe 21 times, headlining many European festivals, including Europe’s famous Parkpop Rock Festival for 450,000 and for the Queen of Holland at the 50th Year VE Day Celebration. Their music hit number one on Holland’s popular rock show, Countdown Café, and they were featured on the covers of De Telegraphand De Standard in Amsterdam and Brussels. They continued to headline international festivals, like the Ribs & Blues Festival, Marktrock, Berchem Blues, and the Lokeren festivals in Belgium. The Kings have also served as the back-up band for Garth Brooks, Vince Gill & Amy Grant, John Oates, Sonny Landreth, Bo Diddley, Dutch guitarist Jan Rijbroek, Bonnie Raitt and members of Little Feat.
In the US, Chris Daniels and the Kings have shared stages with the likes of Cracker, B.B. King, Uncle Cracker, Blues Traveler, The Neville Brothers, Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, Ziggy Marley, and The Fixx. Starting in 2012, Daniels was joined by Freddi Gowdy (former Reprise recording artist and lead singer of the Freddi Henchi Band). In 2015, Chris produced their first collaboration album Funky to the Bone. Today, Daniels and The Kings continue to play 100+ festivals and concert dates per year, most recently being The Down Home Blues Festival in South Carolina.
Starting as a 17 year old songwriter and guitarist back in the 70s when he played with David Johansen, (before the New York Dolls) and later with Russell Smith (after The Rhythm Aces), Chris Daniels has performed thousands of shows, touring with his current band Chris Daniels & the Kings for 33 years. He has worked making records and performing with some of the most respected musicians in the business including Sonny Landreth, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, David Bromberg, Al Kooper, Bill Payne, and Don Was to name only a few. He was the founder of the Telluride After Hours Jam playing that festival on and off for ten years beginning in 1975. For the past 4 years he’s served as the festival MC. Daniels is also an Assistant Professor at the College of Arts & Media, University of Colorado Denver campus teaching music business.
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Learn more about Chris Daniels in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! Where does this interview find you? Is there music playing in the background? If so, what is it?
Getting ready to fly to California for a gig. Yes, listening to JohnnySwim at the moment. They are a great duo out of LA (I think).
What music gets you instantly out of a bad mood? What is a song you are loving these days?
That’s a great question – for me it’s an old guy – James Taylor. Right now, I am loving “Home”, by JohnnySwim. It’s a great track
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall your earliest musical memory?
No, I lived in Minnesota, I just wanted a good furnace. I started playing guitar at 10 but it wasn’t until I turned 18 and I was playing a lot for friends that I thought I might have a shot. I left home at 18 to follow that dream – dropped out of high school… Martha’s Vineyard, then New York, then San Francisco and finally Colorado.
Yes, my Uncle David Daniels in Carnival the musical — he was on Broadway and toured with John Raitt (Bonnie’s father) all over the US.
Was there a time where you thought of doing something completely different?
This morning? – No, I’m kidding. Music is a hard life. It’s hard on the body, hard on relationships, and even hard on the feeling of self-worth. I teach at the University of Colorado Denver campus and I teach music business. Why? To try and help young artists, music business students and audio students ways to maximize their return on this incredible love they have for playing music. It’s my way of giving back to something that has been good to me.
Overall, how do you think 2017 has been for you and music career?
Woof .. this was a good year for me musically. I produced three albums including the new Kings album BLUES WITH HORNS, I served as the music director and bandleader when The Kings backed Garth Brooks, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, John Oates and others at a 18,000 seat venue in August – that show will be on Sound Stage (PBS) in February. The band I played with in the 1970s was the subject of a documentary film produced by Lee Aronsohn (Co-creator of Two And A Half Men and The Big Bang Theory), BLUES WITH HORNS went to #1 on the RMR Top 50 National Contemporary Blues Singles Chart, BWH made it to the entry round of the Grammys. So, it was kind of a wonderful year … especially when you consider that 7 years ago I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia with a 5% to 25% survival rate for 5 years.
What are you most excited about for in 2018?
Working with a new booking agent to get me Freddi and the Kings to festivals around the US… and Volume 2 for BWH.
I always like to ask artists about where they came from and how that city or town has influenced them as an artist now. So how do you think your hometown and current home has affected you and your music today?
Early years were Minnesota and South Carolina. Minnesota was Bob Dylan, The Extemp Coffee House and Koerner Ray and Glover. South Carolina was spirituals inside an old black Methodist church that I would sit and listen to.
Colorado — 300 days of sun a year, so the blues here has a “glass half full” quality to it. I mean it would be totally false for me to be singing and writing about the horrible things going on in the world from a State that legalized pot. So there is a lot of “party” and a lot of “joy” in the music.
What did it feel like releasing your 15th album, “Blues with Horns” recently?
Honestly, I feel like I’m doing my best work so far. I’m producing the best record I’ve ever done for the Kings project, my guitar playing and voice is the best it’s ever been and the stage show is hotter than ever. We are to the point where we don’t use a set list … we walk on stage knowing the 1st tune we are going to do – and that’s if – from there was are “calling audibles” — just to see how far we can take the audience.
Is it hard to believe that you have put out that much music?
It goes by fast. But as I said before – I think we are doing our very best work — not that the albums before were not good, we have worked with the best, Al Kooper produced one of our albums – it’s fantastic, but this record feels like our best work … so far. More to come I hope 🙂
Were there any unexpected challenges or surprises when it came to putting this collection together?
A wonderful surprise … recording in my home studio gave us the freedom to take our time and get the sounds and parts and groove we wanted … and not be watching a clock. We did it fast. We recorded and mastered it in 8 weeks — but there was a relaxed “let’s make this right” feeling – and then have Clay, Doug, John, Sonny, Hazel and Coco come in and add that magic — and then Greg’s “out of the park” concept for the package — it was pretty cool.
Good question. I have that great guitar lick. But the first lyrics were just not happening. And I really struggled with it until I was driving home and heard “Lay Down Sally” and it has the same rhythm — but the lyric cadence floats over the top of the chords – and that was the breakthrough moment. I went home and just started humming a melody over the chords that was not broken up by the chords – that floated over the top. The words came from an image I remembered when we played Memphis – a guy in big convertible — might have been a Caddy – with the beautiful suntanned woman beside him – that was it – she is in charge – even though the guy thinks he’s in charge — she’s the boss — and she ROCKS his world. And then Sonny Landreth was the cherry on top of the whole thing.
Why did you choose it to be the lead single of this album?
It was between that and Fried Food/Hard Liquor –– but that tune is over 5 min long – and radio is not real friendly to that length of a track — so we went with Sweet Memphis — and the funny part is that they have both been competing for the #1 slot on the RMR chart.
Do you think that what motivates you to be a musician today has changed a lot over the years?
No, I’ve been incredibly lucky – I’ve known this is what I want to do – it’s a focus – it’s my “bliss” as Joe Campbell would say … and it’s taken me all over the world – 21 European tours – festivals from Arizona to Alaska – and I even love the business side of it — well most of it — I hate booking — I have to do it to keep the band together – but lawdy lawdy send me an agent that can take this off my shoulders
We are living in a crazy and at times rough world right now so I am curious how you think being a musician gives you the most joy in life today?
Well, I’m an old believer in the collective good. I loved Obama as President and I will not comment on the current office holder other than to say he’s not brought the country together. But there are bands and artists whose music is well suited to addressing the issues of race, poverty, religion, war, immigration, healthcare and all of it. I’m alive because I could get health insurance with a serious preexisting condition. But the way our music address that is by celebrating each day that we get on this planet. So on the last album we did a song called “Joy” and every night I introduce it I say, “Freddi and I are both cancer survivors – and what you learn is that each day we get is special … so our job is to bring some of that joy to you.” And that is our way. I wish I could write about the political things that effect us all — but our music is joyful. It’s like the old blues line, “Gonna lay my head on some lonesome railroad track, and when the train comes along, I’m gonna snatch my damn head back.” That is our job – like swing music in the 1930s – you come to our music because you don’t want to hear about another damn “tweet” from he who shall not be named.
How do you think that new music being created today is going to reflect these difficult times?
There is a lot pf pain and truth in the hip hop I listen to that gets right to it – especially the relationship between institutional racism and how that is visited upon the community. But there will also be great songs written about the devastation of the planet, or of the crushing sorrow of a family effected by gun violence. These are songs that music be written – and if we are lucky – a few will be outstanding – like Strange Fruit – or “Deportee” or “Master’s of War”
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music?
Little Feat – I got back to them — The Band — Tower of Power – Gatemouth Brown – Blind Lemon Jefferson but also new artists like JohnnySwim or Chris Thile or Sarah Jarosz — I love it all.
What musicians would you absolutely still love to work with in the future?
I’d love to work with Mac MacAnally -great producer and songwriter. I’d also love to work with Keb Mo.
What do you hope your fans take away from your music?
That’s easy – joy. I had one fan leave me a message that she loved to vacuum the house with our music cranked up on the stereo — I love that.
Well that gets a little deep — but if the Universe has a voice – it is the paintings of Van Gogh or the voice of Diane Reeves or the sound of Bill Murray doing his rap on eternal life “Gunga La Gunga” — and I think our music is part of the voice of the Universe coming through – it’s the feeling every songwriter gets when he or she sits down and the song just ‘flows” out, no thinking, it just seems to write itself — that to me is the Universe speaking — I love those moments. But like I said that’s way too deep. “Choke me in the shallow water…”
What advice would you give to a young person who is thinking about becoming a musician one day?
I teach 4 courses at the University of Colorado’s College of Arts & Media on that. Breaking it down into a one or two sentence summation is impossible – every young musician will have to find their own way – and because of the collapse of the revenue stream from the sale of recordings – they are going to have to more creative and innovative than ever to make a life in music. And if you’re lucky – you will keep growing – keep developing your talent everyday you get. That is what makes a great artist – not just a one-hit wonder. You have to keep working to become better at your craft – your art.
Would you like to share anything else about yourself or your music with our readers?
I was a journalist once – I’d like to apologize to the entire profession for my AP article on a Minnesota Senator who tried to make drum machines illegal. It was a brave fight – but he lost – and I should have understood that the loss would mean the downfall of Western Civilization.
OK, the real thing that IS important to understand — BLUES WITH HORNS – the packaging — in and of itself — is a collectors dream. 20 years from now they will sell it on eBay for $300 each. That is not a joke — you have to see it.
Ok really really this is the big one….the key to understanding my music and BWH is my idol, Louis Armstrong. His biggest hit came out when he was 64 years old. He knocked the Beatles off the charts! This album is a result of that inspiration – more than anything else. Thanks Louis!