Review Fix chats with singer/songwriter 8 Ball Aitken, who discusses his new album, “Swamp Blues 2” and more.
Review Fix: How did you get involved in music?
8 Ball Aitken: I’m one of eleven kids. We all sang or played something growing up. Our father was a very good fingerpicker, and he sang us off to sleep as kids. We grew up jamming together. When I was 13, I glued up an old guitar that I’d found in the garage. I learned the basic chords pretty quickly and I just strummed that thing for hours upon hours. I found out about blues music a few months later and never looked back. I’m from Australia and in the 1990’s it was not cool to be into blues. My friends liked Nirvana and rap music but I only cared for blues by about grade 10. I just loved it so much. I spent my afternoons and evenings after school just playing blues and listening to BB King, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy and many more cassettes and CDs. My first real guitar hero concert I went to see was BB King. I was fifteen years old. That is the day that I got completely obsessed with dedicating my life to playing blues guitar. I started my first band pretty much straight after that.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
8 Ball Aitken: I write a lot of songs. Whether I’m on a plane, in my shed out back, in a hotel room, and especially whilst driving, my mind is always working overtime. I have written songs in my sleep. The song “Apple Tree” from my Swamp Blues album came to me in a dream as a fully formed song. When people thank me for writing that one I say, “Don’t thank me. I was asleep the whole time.” It’s nice when it happens that way. These days, I love doing a lot of co-writing. Writing with others makes the songwriting process less lonely and more like hanging out with friends. And you get to create something that neither of you would have achieved alone.
Review Fix: What inspires you?
8 Ball Aitken: I’m inspired by conversations a lot. I just hear words, stories, jokes, imagery or something, and when it captures my attention, I store ideas away. I also get inspired by walking. I get a lot of my best ideas when I’m distracted walking or exercising. When I’m home in Nashville and I need to come up with other parts to songs, I spend time outside in my shed. It’s a special place for me where I can work a lot of things out. When I’m on the road, I find beaches, parks and other places where I can connect to nature and animals. I’ve always worked better when I’m recharged by nature. I’m not the sort of guy to want to sit and write in a cafe when you can be outdoors.
Review Fix: How do Strength, Struggle, Romance, and Resilience play a part in your songwriting?
8 Ball Aitken: I write a lot of songs for my girlfriend, Lindy Loo. Many are romantic. We’ve spent so much time traveling on tour together over the last four years. She sells the merch. On the long drives, she often gives me song titles as a challenge. I have written about so many topics over the 11 albums that I have made and countless other co-writes. I write about struggles and resilience, but the more that life goes on I find the ones that resonate are the songs that come from the heart.
Review Fix: How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you?
8 Ball Aitken: My music is Americana and swamp blues. That’s why I’ve called my last two album releases, Swamp Blues and Swamp Blues 2. I’m not divulging the album title for the next record that I’m working on yet. Many of my fans are asking for Swamp Blues 3, but I don’t want to be too predictable. I am not the strictest purveyor of the genre and I have Americana leanings. I don’t feel like I need to be limited to one kind of style. I play blues but hardly ever play a 12-bar format song.
Review Fix: How are your live shows different from your studio work?
8 Ball Aitken: My live shows are interactive. I got really bored just playing songs at a crowd. I crave much more human interaction to keep things interesting. To me, a good performance needs plenty of heart and soul, plus some humor. I want the audience to feel the warm and fuzzies, and to also let go and laugh. I think it’s important to be genuine and real so that people can honestly understand what you are all about. My studio recordings are not that different. They leave a lot of space sonically and hopefully take the listener on a journey.
Review Fix: What inspired your latest single?
8 Ball Aitken: My latest single and music video is “Week Man.” I wanted to write a song to let my lady know that I‘m available 24/7. It’s all about being available and putting her first. It’s a love song with a double entendre week man/weak man theme. It’s also an excuse to play some groovy blues guitar.
Review Fix: What are your goals for 2020?
8 Ball Aitken: I was touring in Ireland and the UK when COVID-19 hit. I was lucky to get out and get back to Nashville. I’m just working on new music, staying fit, healthy, vibrant and happy. I’ll get back on the road and continue my music mission as soon as I can. In the meantime, I’ll just write, record and keep building my community online.
Review Fix: What’s next?
8 Ball Aitken: I’m playing online gigs twice a week every Wednesday and Saturday 7pm CDT Nashville time.
Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?
8 Ball Aitken: I have a lot of new merchandise on my website including bandanas for face masks.