He’ll compete in International Blues Challenge for 3rd year
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — March Madness may be a couple months away, but Jeremy Short is preparing to compete and try to level up for his own bracket of world-class competition.
Go ahead and call it Memphis Madness as Short, the ace handlebar-mustached guitar slayer and singer, is readying for a third trip to compete against about 300 blues acts in the 35th International Blues Challenge that takes place Jan. 22-26 on Beale Street in Memphis.
Short, who fronts the regionally touring act Short and Company, will be competing solo in the IBC, trying to win the competition after making it to the semi-finals (the top 32 out of 300) in 2016 and 2017.
To help propel him back to Beale Street, The Huntington Blues Society, which is sponsoring his trip, is hosting a fundraiser at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16 at the V Club, 741 6th Ave., as part of its monthly blues jam and showcase. Cover is $1, but donations are being taken up to help pay Short’s travel expenses to Memphis.
Short, a well-honed slide guitarist and fingerpicker who released a stellar new record “Lost In A Spin” with his band in 2018, said that first trip to Memphis was overwhelming to take in the competition which has about a dozen bands a night playing in bars up and down Beale Street for two nights before the finals move to the Orpheum Theatre.
“Going to Memphis was overwhelming at first but then you get down there and you start realizing where all of these rhythms and songs that you love come from,” Short said after winning the Huntington contest back in September. “You start understanding that aspect of it, seeing the history of it, and seeing it up close and in person. ”
Short said the contest, which is packed into often rowdy bars up and down Beale Street, can test your mettle.
“Everybody might be talking over you, and the Garth Brooks concert is just letting out, and you have fight through it no matter what the situation is. You got to roll with it. Don’t get mad at anything, and just rise above it,” Short said.
Although he made it to the semi-finals both years he has competed, Memphis sure hasn’t been easy on him. In fact, one of the songs from his latest record was written about a mishap he and his guitar had the night before his second year of competition in 2017: “I took her down to Memphis, across the streets of Beale/She played I sang and before we quit She swung and chipped my grill,” the song goes.
“It was at Club Handy, this tiny place where the walls are just big garage doors with windows,” Short said. “There’s so many people trying to fit in that they roll up all the doors, and let the music and people just spill out into the street. I was sitting in with the house band, had just finished playing, and went to stand up. Somehow, I smacked myself in the face with my guitar, and when I went to open my mouth, a chunk of my front tooth fell onto the stage floor. Not the thing you want to happen the night before a big gig.”
Short said performing in the competition under the IBC’s strict set-time rules (quarter-final bands get 25 minutes, semi-finals get 30, and finals 20) under the hot glare of the judges has helped him sharpen his stage game.
“You get straight to the point and you learn how to say what you need to say and you have to do it well,” Short said of the time. “It really keeps you on your toes and on top of your game.”
Short said it has been insightful to hear what judges from around the country had written about his performances.
“It lets you know what eyes are upon you and how they are viewing you, which is something I don’t ever think about. Any good musician should be thinking about how an audience is perceiving what they are doing, but I never thought about that until I started getting some of these scorecards back from these judges and started reading the comments. There is some real insightful stuff there, like ‘Look more comfortable. Wear a nice pair of jeans. Lose the jorts and sandals and socks - bad look,’” Short said laughing. “But no, it has been very helpful and insightful.”
Short’s girlfriend Dani Brown, who has been with him on both trips, said it has been really cool to see how the love of American blues music has spread around the world.
Last year, they got to meet blues musicians from Belgium, France and even Iran.
“There’s bands from every country you can think of - we saw an Iranian blues band play and as they played you had no idea what country they were from ... it sounded like American blues to me - to hear them talking between songs, it was entirely different,” Brown said. ” I don’t know how they get the accents right. That is the most mind-blowing thing to me.”
Short grew up in Jackson, Kentucky, on a steady diet of country, bluegrass and gospel, and said in elementary school he found out about the blues through the late and great B.B. King.
“My grandfather worked as a general at a radio station for Kentucky Mountain Bible College and so I grew up hearing up hearing those beautiful pristine harmonies and mandolin and fiddle licks,” Short said. “Then when I was in about fourth grade we had one of those Columbia Record club deals and I remember putting one of those BB King stamp on there and sending it out, and that’s when I feel in love with that sound. He has stayed with me every since then. He was my idol for a long time, and from him you kind of dig around and see what else is out there.”
Short, a genre-blurring artist who has played guitar in such well-known projects as Sasha Colette and the Magnolias and Downtown King before breaking out with his own Short and Company, said it’s been fun to explore further back into the roots of the blues because of the competition.
“I think jazz and blues are always going to be hand in hand with each other,” Short said. “If you go back far enough you can’t hardly tell where one starts and the other began. They both stem from each other and are flowing from the same fountain. It is a pretty big fountain too, and you get in there and do what everybody else has done, then you find what suits you want to do with the sounds that make you the happiest.”
These days, it hasn’t been hard to find some happy notes. Short, picked up last year by the Huntington-based Whizzbang BAM (Booking and Management) has continued to widen his live performance circle. In 2018, he played the mega festival Bonnaroo, released a new album and and played further out in cities such as Charlottesville and Virginia Beach. In the past few months teaming up with fellow Kentucky singer/songwriter Chelsea Nolan, playing in her band and having her play in Short and Company, which also includes fellow Kentucky songwriters Josh Nolan and John Clay.
This year’s festival season is also getting booked up. Short plays the large Tumbleweed Festival (that Alabama headlines) in Kansas City, then turns around and hustles back to the area where he is booked again at the Mountain Music Fest at ACE Adventure Resort in Oak Hill, West Virginia.
Short said it has been a blast singing and playing with the soulful Nolan.
“We do help each other out and I love Chelsea and I love singing with Chelsea,” Short said. “I hope to keep doing it, and hope she is kind enough to keep singing with me in my band and lending her unique spirit to it.”
If You Go:
WHAT: The Huntington Blues Society is hosting a fundraiser for Jeremy Short to help pay for his expenses to compete in the 35th International Blues Challenge that takes place Jan. 22-26 on Beale Street in Memphis. Short was the winner of the fourth annual Huntington Blues Challenge in September and will be competing in the solo/duo competition. Three’s Company Blues out of Charleston won the Challenge’s band competition and will be competing in Memphis as a band.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16
WHERE: The V Club, 741 6th Ave., Huntington.
HOW MUCH: Cover is $1, but donations are being taken up to help pay Short’s travel expenses to Memphis.
MORE ABOUT SHORT: Find out more about Jeremy Short online at https://shortandcompanymusic.com
MORE ABOUT THE BLUES SOCIETY: The Huntington Blues Society puts on a monthly jam every third Wednesday of the month at the V Club. The jam includes a spotlight band doing a 45-minute set followed by an open stage jam. Bring an instrument and jam. In 2019, they will present the fifth annual Huntington Blues Challenge.
ON THE RADIO: At 3 p.m. on the third Monday of every month, listen to WMUL-FM, 88.1 as the Huntington Blues Society presents the Diamond Duck Blues Hour. Go online at www.marshall.edu/wmul to listen to it streaming.
More information can be found at www.huntingtonbluessociety.com
Information from: The Herald-Dispatch, http://www.herald-dispatch.com