Gear up for this awesome Northern Michigan event! Thursday, August 4, Paul Nelson will perform in Cadillac at the Rotary Performing Arts Pavilion. MyNorth Media entertainment writer Ross Boissoneau gives a look into the Nelson’s start as well as more details about the upcoming performance.
When blues master Johnny Winter passed away two years ago, the music world lost an icon. Paul Nelson lost a close friend and mentor. He’d produced and performed with Winter for years. The two won a Grammy Award for Best Blues Album for Step Back in February 2015, seven months after Winter’s death.
Nelson, who performs with his own band in Cadillac August 4, said Winter wouldn’t have been surprised. “Behind the scenes, when we were in studio listening to the mixes and I played them for him, he leaned over and whispered in my ear, ‘If you and I don’t get a Grammy for this, they’re nuts!’ I was proud to be a part of that. I was proud that he had me produce it and play on it. I was proud to be his friend,” Nelson told Niagara Frontier Publications.
Following Winter’s death, rather than simply following along in his mentor’s path, Nelson struck out on a musical adventure of his own. Influenced by Winter and the blues for sure, but perhaps more so by the likes of classic 70s rock by Aerosmith, Steve Miller, Led Zeppelin and the like. “Johnny was a big supporter of my music,” said Nelson from the road while on tour. “He told me, ‘I’m glad you’re playing the blues with me, (but) concentrate on your stuff.’”
Nelson’s “stuff” is formed from the music that inspired him in the 70s. “My first inspirations were Led Zeppelin and Jimmy Page, early Aerosmith, ZZ Topp, the rhythm and lead playing,” he said.
To bring the songs to life, Nelson called on vocalist Morton Fredheim. He’d first heard Fredheim years earlier in Europe (Fredheim is from Norway) and kept him in mind for a future project. “I wanted to showcase a band with a front man,” said Nelson.
Fredheim was stunned and only too happy to participate. “I met Paul years ago,” he said, when he was in a band that Nelson was going to produce. Things fell apart and the project never happened. Fast forward a few years, and out of the blue Fredheim—who in the meantime had come in second in the European edition of The Voice—got a call from Nelson. “He said ‘I want to start a band. Do you want to be the singer?’ I was blown away, and said ‘Of course.’ I came over and we started working and getting reacquainted.”
The result was Bad Ass Generation, a dozen songs recalling the heyday of 70s guitar rock with a current edge to them. Nelson, Fredheim, bassist Chris Redan and drummer Chris Alexander wrote the songs in the studio. “We just locked ourselves in the studio and started writing,” said Nelson. What came out was a mix of classic and current rock, inspired by the above and others like Boston, the Allman Brothers, Free, and Bad Company. Nelson said patterning his music after the guitar gods of the 70s was very deliberate. “It was almost like homework, very thought out. We wanted to reproduce (the sound), we’d study the feel and production of the guitars, the drum sounds.”
The recording touches on a number of styles, including country, blues, metal, even singer/songwriter as on “Please Come Home,” which opens with acoustic guitar. Nelson said he and Fredheim wrote it late at night after the other two had left the studio. “We stayed up till three, just put it all together,” he said. Nelson said he also took pains to make sure the tracks all flowed logically from one to the next, and he said the result has been accepted by most music fans. “People who listen to Led Zeppelin like it, people who like the blues—the record’s hitting with a broad batch of fans.”
Guitarist Paul Nelson and his band
How He Got His Start
Nelson was inspired by the music he heard as a youth, and started playing guitar at an early age. He also took up drums and bass, but his heart was in guitar. He became proficient enough to attend Berklee College of Music, where he became one of guitar hero Steve Vai’s first students.
Classic guitar rock, blues rock
Influences and Inspirations
Johnny Winter, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Boston, Aerosmith
“Love this album—the sound and the energy. Gorgeous, searing guitar work. Like a blow torch!” – Wall Street Journal
“An A-List guitar player. One of the most technically dazzling players around today.” – Guitar Magazine
Rotary Performing Arts Pavilion, Cadillac
Date & Time
Thursday, August 4 at 7 p.m.
The Paul Nelson concert is free, donations accepted
#2016 #Wexford_County #Cadillac #Music_&_Art