Interview of Curtis Salgado, 2010 BMA Soul Blues Male Artist
by Monica Yasher

Posted on 5/12/2010 by Monica Yasher

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Curtis Salgado walked away from the 2010 Blues Music Awards with Soul Blues Male Artist of the Year last week. In the following interview, Curtis discussed his writing of “Clean Getaway”, and what the meaning of the song was intended to be and what it is definitely not. As much as his written album title leads you to believe that Curtis is a man who doesn’t want to be bothered, I found that to be just the contrary. We talked a long time, and I had to cut the original conversation of over 6000 words to the 2300 words you read here.

In all that was said, I can tell you Curtis is not a man who wishes to be alone, though as a traveling musician, which is a tough road to travel at times, leads you to be just that. And, when asked of his influences, he used the word MY before the words father, mother, sister, brother. That simple two letter word said a lot about Curtis and the connection with his family. In interviewing Curtis, he finished up with, “This is all I’ve ever done and that’s ALL I’ve ever done.” I guess that’s a good thing, Curtis. And, congratulations for being awarded for your efforts!

Monica: Curtis, I appreciate you talking with me!

Curtis: Well no problem. I’m always ready to talk about music.

M: Well, I don’t know that I want to talk all about music with you. But, let’s talk about your CD first.

C: Well, that’s music.

M: I know it is. I read about your life and how your life sort of lived the blues. How did your life impact your CD with your music? It looks like the title is sort of a take of your life.

C: The title is a total accident. I wrote that song about four years ago. You are about the fourth person that brought that up. So I knew where you were headed. No disrespect. The title is a complete accident. It’s a “Clean Getaway“. It’s about the government; nosy neighbors. I don’t want to hear one more conversation with people that have no nothin’ and got nothing‘. It’s about somebody who just… like… wants to get the hell out of there, and make a clean getaway. Nothing to do with my cancer. I had written it four years ago, and it finally came together on this record.

I even rehearsed it with a couple of bands, but it didn’t have the flavor I was after. I was after a certain thing, and the thing that I was after was a…I was leaning toward Johnny “Guitar” Watson 1972, 3, 4. You know that ‘Ain’t that a Bitch’ and a ‘Real Mother For Ya‘. Those records. I’m a big Johnny “Guitar” Watson fan, and I had written this song and had a few chords to it, and I usually collaborate. I had the lyrics out, and I rewrote the lyrics and rewrote the lyrics. That’s what it is from. Nothing to do with my cancer.

P9111539 (2)My manager, this happens on every single record.  They look at the title of one of the songs in your set.  And, if you notice, most records are called one of the songs, and that’s how this is. I had written that song four years ago. What it is, is that I’m going to sell all the clothes in my apartment and everything I own and everything that isn’t nailed down put my finger on a map and close my eyes and head in that direction without ever looking back and make a clean getaway. I think the next line is, I think the planet is out of control I’m not so trusting as I was before. I got my eye on the guy and close circuit TV gives me the creeps and the government spies on me. Politicians make promises they never keep and attitude adjustment is what they need. So I’m heading out, I’m heading out on my own! I’m going to play it cool in some laid back zone. Cause I don’t want to hear one more conversation from people who don’t know nothing and don’t got nothing to say. I’m going to make a clean getaway. And, the bridge is, I won’t be lost and I can’t be found I’ll be a lone stranger in some sleepy little town out there somewhere me myself and I .

M: Bridges are really tricky to write! Could you really do that?

C: Do what?

M: Pack everything up?

C: I’ve done it many times.

M: Have you?

C: I’m sure you have done it in your life! At some point. I know sometimes a lot of women, a lot of people, just need to escape. You know, just the whole thing of government and neighbors arguing. At the time that I wrote it, it was the Bush administration and there was all that…That’s why I wrote the lyrics. I Just want to get the f*** out of here! I want to get out of here and make a clean get away. Just disappear. Now I am on the road constantly.

M: Will your writing change with this administration?

C: No.  It changes with whatever the circumstances are. Do I write politically? Not usually. There’s more and more cameras, eye in the sky, and all of those things that that represents. You have to capsulate everything when you are writing lyrics.

M: Oh yes.

C: So that’s what it was, a clean getaway. I guess it does, out of coincidence, make a connection of I just escaped cancer.

M:  But your lyrics do not support that. I agree. Let’s talk about the friends in your life, and I told you that I wasn’t quite sure that I wanted to talk about music. It sounds like friends and people in your life have made a huge impact on you. So musically who inspired you to write and be a performer?  Who do you really look up to for that?

C: That was my mother and my father, my brother, and my sister. My family. My father sang and was really into music. He was a jazz enthusiast. My mother played a little piano. She too was a jazz enthusiast. Music, just basically the arts and entertainment. I don’t mean stuff like…my mother would be the type of person that would go, “That’s Lawrence Olivier, that’s Charles Lawton.” That kind of thing. Or, “Oh, there’s a classic movie on that we must see!” My mother played and my father listened to Count Basie, Jimmie Rushing, a big fan of Fats Waller,…all the piano players.

P9111527 (2)M: Who do you listen to today? 

C: I listen to the same people. That just took me down the path. I have an older brother and an older sister.  And, of course, since they are several generations removed from my mother and father…Count Basie is timeless. Jimmie Rushing is blues. Charlie Parker is blues. So you find that once you get on that path, that just opens up.

Now during the folk area of ‘55, so I was a kid when the Limeliters and the Kingston Trio and all that stuff, there was a TV show called "Hootenanny". The rock show, "Hullaballoo", the Beatles were on there, the Stones, it was a black and white ½ hour television show. It doesn’t matter. The point is my older brother and sister were bringing home blues. They were listening to what was hip at the time. College kids were into Muddy Waters. They brought that stuff home. So Count Basie and Muddy Waters, it all connected together.

M: Ray Charles is in there somewhere.

C: Ray Charles is definitely in there! He’s from Seattle. We lived in Eugene, Oregon. Ray Charles crossed over, and was in a lot of white homes. My dad was a big Ray Charles fan. No doubt about it.

M: He had a lot of influences. All those influences affect your songwriting, correct?

C: EVERYTHING affects my songwriting.

M: How do you go about constructing your songs? The hook…

C: Whatever it takes. I’m kind of everywhere.

M: Talking about friends and people in your life. Naturally there was the John Belushi connection. Obviously you impacted his life. But, did he impact yours?

C: No, he didn’t affect my life in that way. He affected it in a way of the Blues Brothers blowing up and being a part of that. He affected my life . I’ll give you a little story. It’s a long story…the Blues Brothers…but I’ll give you a little part. A couple of very cool things happened. A lot of cool things happened. One of them was that I was at the house they were staying at. They take their star and stick them in a house. And, he was filming “Animal House”. “Animal House” was filmed in Eugene, Oregon. .So Eugene, Oregon is a lumber town slash university town. University of Oregon. Of course, they had seeked out and found the perfect…an old frat house...and that’s where they filmed “Animal House” Eugene, and a couple of small towns in the area.

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Whoever…they stuck Belushi and Judy Jacklin, his wife, in a house, instead of a hotel, and that’s where they spent a few months while they filmed this movie.

So I’m over there at the house. And, it’s about 7 o clock or so at night. I’m sitting there, and how he impacted me was…I’ve been in plays in high school and stuff…and I’m sitting next to a guy who is on top of his game. Watching television.  And, he was watching “Gunsmoke”.  Then after “Gunsmoke” was another ½ hour of a show, something else. A character would come on. A bit character with just a few lines and he would copy it. So let’s say an actor came in and said , “Mail for you Mr. Marshall“. He’d go, “Mail for you Marshall“. It would be one of those character actors you’d see in those things. “Bonanza” was the other one. He’d watch all of these shows, and sat there and would spin into them. He had a lot of charisma, and a lot of energy, and he just sucked things in. That’s what actors do. And to watch it fully in play, he would totally…Judy’s in the kitchen cooking, and he invited me over for dinner, and we watched television, and he would mimic whoever came on the television.
Commercials, “Gunsmoke“, everybody. That was kind of like, this guy is always in his game.

M: So are you saying you learned that you have to be on your game all the time?

C: Just to watch that happen, these guys are always involved in it.

M: But you’re a performer too.

C: They are always thinking. I’ll never forget that. Did I take it and from that point on…I don’t know…maybe so…I just remember the word your looking for, impact, and I never forgot that.

M: This is your passion?

C: It’s the only thing that I know how to do. It’s the only thing I want to do. It’s either this or hard labor. It turns out this is hard labor anyhow. I mean work is work. Nothing…this is work that I love. Of course it’s my passion.

M: It brings joy.

C: Of course, but it’s very hard though.

M: What’s the hard part of it?

C: We’re about to get into a van and drive six hours, and then another eight hours, and night after night after night after night after night. Playing in clubs and sometimes you go, “I’d rather be home than working and playing in front of 30 people“. You muster together, and pull it together, and it always works out. You can feel sick...and I’ve gone up on stage and not feel good...and by the end of the night, it’s gone.

M: Yeah?

C: Yeah. You’re talking about driving, crappy food, a different place, a different bed every night. You know you’re trying to piece can see the band sometimes just like…MAN… you’re playing someplace, and you could be home with your wife, your kids, your girlfriend in the comfort of your house, and your records, and your nice bed, and your home. Instead...a different motel every night.

It goes like this, today we got up and drove seven hours.  Went to the hotel.  At the bar at 5:30...unload and setup.  Go to the hotel and get dressed.  Relax for a little bit.  Do the show.  Reload and put it in the van.  Drive to the hotel.  Get up.  Sleep or not sleep.  It’s a different bed every night.  You don’t sleep well. You get up at 7 am.  You fall asleep at your hotel at 3.

M: You prefer a stage or a bar?

C: Any of them will do.  It doesn’t matter to me. Do this repeatedly.

M: Do you do different songs every night?

C: E V E R Y S I N G L E N I G H T.

M: Do you change your order around, or do you jam to change it up a bit for you?

C: No, it’s rehearsed. But, it’s not…

M: You jam a little bit, right?

C: Always.  When you play this kind of music it’s a mixture. We’re rehearsed.

M: For the people waiting for you to come on, that’s how they relax.  Watching you do what you do. How do you relax?

C: I would be here waiting for the band to start up and not talking to you. Just sitting here.

M: So that’s it? It’s your work, your life. That’s it?

C: This is all I’ve ever done and that’s ALL I’ve ever done.

Here is Curtis Salgado giving it his ALL, at doing all he's ever done, at the 2009 Blues Music Awards.

Read about the 2009 Soul Blues Male Artist, Bobby Rush.

Copyright © 2010 Copyright Monica L. Yasher. All Rights Reserved.
Photograph Copyright © 2010 Maureen Ceidro. All Rights Reserved.

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