One of the most difficult tasks in music is summing up what your artist is and what you’ll hear and see if you buy their recorded music or see them live.
It is also one of the most important tasks. A base summary text is vital to use in the artists website and presentations in both PR and bookings.
Why is it so hard? Well, music is an art, not a science. It is hard to analyse and pin down. Yes, there are genres to refer to, but they keep changing. Once upon a time garage was where you kept your car and grime was something to be cleaned off. I’ve heard it said genres were invented by record companies to help them sell more music. These days, genre tags are as likely to put people off as open them up to listening to music, a conversation I was having with a Prog festival promoter this morning. Every genre has its die-hard fans who won’t listen to anything else. I once interviewed Canadian comic actor, Blues harmonica player and vocalist Dan Aykroyd of The Blues Brothers (name-drop). He told me a band shouldn’t say what it performs is in the title, so no ‘Saiichi Sugiyama Soul Band’ for example. Interesting point, though ironic from a Blues Brother. So, here goes, I have to define the indefinable and use genre hooks that could put people off. Easy task? Forget about it.
This task is a little easier, however, as it is describing Saiichi’s solo performance and music. He’s going out more as a singer-songwriter, guitarist and vocalist, and I don’t need to cover the band side again, as I did in my second managers blog.
I’ve seen Saiichi play solo several times: some of them when his band goes off stage and leaves him to play alone; once in a session for Ridge Radio. Also when Saiichi supported Josh Smith (USA) and Ariel Posen (Canada) playing solo acoustic on tour, including at London’s Under The Bridge venue. Also on a chair in a recording studio canteen in London, but more significantly I made it to a packed night in Whitstable in Kent on the recent Smith-Posen-Sugiyama tour, and at times the chemistry and connection between the man with an acoustic guitar and the audience was palpable. The queue that formed for his emailing list at Under the Bridge bore witness to that connection.
So, here is what you get with Saiichi Sugiyama solo. A man and his heart, definitely his own personal heartas what Saiichi plays are the songs that he’s written or internalised. He patently owns them. They can be ballads, light and sometimes wistful, or brisk, walking-tempo numbers, ground out with brisk guitar and vocal ferocity. The singer-songwriter tag/genre is a most apt one in Saiichi’s case, as it doesn’t indicate a particular musical field, but there are traces of Classic Rock,Folk, Blues, Soul, Jazz, Americana and more among the threads that make up a Saiichi Sugiyama solo show. There is certainly a nostalgia to be found, with those threads traceable to artists such as Robert Johnson with Saiichi’s gripping cover of Crossroads. Saiichi has said that he leans on the musical heritage of, among others, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and the Beatles – Paul McCartney or George Harrison, and that is evident. There is also a ballad of war and longing yet to be widely heard, ‘Bitter Ground’, as it is likely to be one of the singles from Saiichi’s upcoming new band album. This is one of the live songs that suits itself very well to acoustic treatment and it does appear in his live shows. The Delta Blues-inspired’Blue Moon Rising’ is another noteworthy song. It is a personal opinion, but for me, the songs that features his blues ferocity makes Saiichi stand out the most in this format. Though where there is yin, there is yang, and so I would also recommend the dreamy psychedelic folk of ‘Seagull’ with words by Pete Brown.
So, while it remains impossible to truly define any artist, that is my immediate take on capturing Saiichi’s solo artistic fire in my descriptive bottle.
Saiichi Sugiyama Management