What’s Up Interview: GA-20’s Matthew Stubbs performing at the Narrows Center on Saturday, October 2


A few large groups are heading to the Narrows Center on Saturday night, October 2sd for an old-fashioned blues show. Boston-born GA-20, named after a revered Gibson guitar amp, will be joined by Nashville-based but Chicago-born JD Simo for what is sure to be a high-energy gig.

I spoke to GA-20 co-founder Matthew Stubbs earlier this month as the band prepared for a massive 60+ date tour, one that will take them through January 2022.

“It’s going to be busy,” Stubbs remarked. “Most weeks we do six nights, one night off. We start on September 28e and go until February.

GA-20 was formed by Stubbs and Pat Faherty in Boston in 2018 with drummer Tim Carman a year later. The band came together to celebrate traditional blues, R&B and rock & roll of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Their sound, influenced by artists like Earl Hooker, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, delivers a contemporary twist to traditional blues.

The last outing of the group, GA-20 does Hound Dog Taylor received rave reviews and reached the top of the blues charts, while earning 4 stars in magazines like Rolling Stone, Mojo and American songwriter. This is an impressive accomplishment for the relatively new group.

How did he get to # 1 on the Billboard Blues charts? Well, it’s a blues tribute album that doesn’t slow down. But the group also had the backing of two record companies, the famous Alligator label and the lesser known Coalmine Records.

Stubbs explains, “It was kind of a joint effort between record companies, advertising, radio and print media and a good booking agent. Most of the time it can be hard to get press, you just have to keep pushing, building, touring. Sometimes a new record comes out, it makes a lot of noise for a few weeks, and then it kind of goes away. So we hammer the sidewalk a lot.

“Our first record, Lonely soul was released by Coalmine in 2018, and then we did a live EP that came out during the pandemic, ”Stubbs continued. “When the pandemic hit we decided not to release anything, then in July 2020 Bruce from Alligator Records contacted me. It was the anniversary of Hound Dog (Taylor) ‘s first record. We thought about it… and decided to do a co-release with Alligator and Coalmine. We’re lucky he was able to come together.

Although the group is relatively new, Stubbs are a veteran of the blues scene. He spent over a decade as the guitarist of harmonica legend Charlie Musselwhite. He has also toured and supported blues greats John Hammond, James Cotton and Junior Watson.

So how do you prepare for a record # 1 during a pandemic, I asked.

“We never really set out to do a tribute album, we write our own music for the most part… so it was a fun challenge in a tough time. The group lives in Boston, I live in Providence, so they would come down. We worked on the songs we wanted to do outside on my patio, all from a distance for about three months. I also built a home studio during all of this… we actually recorded it in my house.

“We were all Hound Dog fans, but we didn’t know every song or part inside and out. The idea was to capture the spirit of those first two Hound Dog records. To get that live party excitement that he has on all of his records. We tried to recreate that feeling in the studio, to capture the spirit, we were all in a room, it was very much alive. We did it all in a day and a half in the basement, ”he added.

Stubbs shared some thoughts on the future of the blues genre, a style widely admired but not as commercially successful as other forms of popular music.

“The public relations behind the word blues have changed over the past 20 to 25 years… when people hear blues now, their minds turn to certain artists, what I would consider blues-rock, or even just rock. classic but under the aegis of the blues ”Stubbs explained. “A lot of people don’t know what the traditional blues sounds like, they can hear it in a movie and even not know its blues.”

“My dad played guitar and I grew up listening to Chicago blues and early rock and roll. My mind doesn’t go to Clapton or Jimmy Page when I think of the blues, I think of Guitar Slim, the early Ike Turner, Earl Hooker.

“A lot of other genres like traditional country and soul have had these revivals lately, the blues really hasn’t had that in a long time. GA-20, we do that by trying to release records that we want to hear. There aren’t a lot of bands that release records in this style anymore. At least not many younger bands do.

Stubbs is looking forward to the Narrows Center show on Saturday … “We streamed at The Narrows during the pandemic,” he recalled. “It’s one of our favorite places, we love the whole team there.”

For tickets and more for the Narrows Center show, click here.

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