Well, it’s that time of year again when blues lovers flock to Rockland for the North Atlantic Blues Festival. This year marks it’s 21st anniversary and the Public Landing in that seaside town will be packed for two days as some of the finest performers hit the main stage from 11am on both days. On the first day, one of the newer acts will be performing: Jarekus (say “juh-REE-kus”) Singleton, who’s Alligator Records debut “Refuse To Lose” was recently released. On June 20, he called from the road to chat about his unique style of blues and his upcoming performance.

Q: You’re coming up to the 21st Annual North Atlantic Blues Festival in a couple of weeks, correct?

Singleton: I am.

Q: Have you ever performed in our state?

Singleton: No, I’ve never been to Maine before, no. I’m ecstatic to be coming there. I’m glad to be touring, glad to be pushing my record forward, and just happy to be on the road and performing, man.

Q: Have you been out for a long time?

Singleton: Well, we’ve been out since last Tuesday and it’s been really good. People have been really receptive, but the air (conditioning) went out of my van which kind of put a strain on things, if you know what I mean.

Q: Indeed I do! Where are you calling from now?

Singleton: Well, I pulled over and went into a Best Buy where it’s cool — but I’m on my way to Georgia. I’m playing at Blind Willie’s tonight and I’m about 20 miles from Atlanta. I’m trying to get there so I won’t be stuck in traffic.

Q: Who do you have with you in your backing band?

Singleton: I have Sam Brady on keyboards, I have my cousin Ben (Sterling) on bass, and I have (Michael) “Tony” Lawson on drums.

Q: Sounds like you’ve got a real tight section there.

Singleton: Yeah, man, these guys they work really hard — I’m blessed to have guys like this with me and I’m glad to be on the road with (them) … it’s always good and we have fun on stage. We work hard and try to play the music responsibly for the people who are there for the music. We try to keep it tight for them.

Q: How long have you guys been playing together?

Singleton: We all grew up together — everybody except for Sam Brady. He’s an older guy and he’s toured with other guys so he’s a very seasoned veteran. I started my band in 2010 but me and my cousin, Ben, grew up in church playing together and it’s a tight-knit thing … things are going great.

Q: And what you’re doing musically is great, as well, in my opinion. I’ve never heard anything quite like what you do by blending together elements of rock, R&B and rap with traditional and modern-day blues, not to mention hip-hop wordplay … it’s fresh and truly unique.

Singleton: Well, Lucky, it’s very humbling and honoring to hear that coming from anybody, and that’s the response I’ve been getting from that album so I’m really happy it worked out that way. I just try to write and make the music that’s in my heart, try to inspire people, and approach the music scene responsibly by conveying the things I really want to say through the music. I’m just being Jarekus, that’s all I know how to be.

Q: Do you think that’s the future for the blues — to evolve and take on elements of what’s happening nowadays? Is that a good thing for this genre?

Singleton: Umm, well, I have my approach to it and the guys before me did such a good job with their approach — guys like B.B. and Muddy and Freddie King and Albert King and Albert Collins — those guys perfected and really made their mark with it. I can’t do that better than those guys. When I’m covering one of their songs, I’m just not good enough, but when I’m playing my own stuff that’s when I’m in my own zone and all I’m doing — like I said — is writing and singing what’s in my heart.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the readers of this article — especially seeing this is your debut performance in Maine?

Singleton: Yeah, I’ve never been to Maine and I’m really excited about coming. This has been a great thing for me thus far, Alligator Records has really done a great job of promoting and marketing…they’re phenomenal people, unbelievable — I’m glad a part of it. Oh, and I’m ready to come to Maine and make you happy!

Lucky Clark has spent forty-five years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.


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