Blues Traveler opens up about returning to Maine for a performance at the Waterville Opera House
It’s time to celebrate the return of concerts at the Waterville Opera House, and what better way to do it than with a performance by Blues Traveler. I had the pleasure of interviewing them when they appeared at Colby College in the early 90s while they were touring to support their second CD, “Travelers & Thieves”, so when I heard they were returning to Waterville to support their new album, “Traveler’s Blues”, I asked to chat with a member and had the opportunity to chat with Ben Wilson, the keyboardist and new member of this popular band. I started with ask him when he joined the group?
Wilson: I joined the band in 2000. The original bassist had passed away in the summer of 1999 and they obviously wanted the band to continue. They wanted, in a way, to honor the original bassist by adding a keyboardist. So they did a little modest research. I saw it online, answered it and sent the guys music and the next thing I knew I was on a plane trying for them, and they hired me there – it was really amazing.
Q: It’s a bit of a fluke there.
Wilson: Oh, I really love serendipity, it’s just fantastic, I’m very lucky. So you figure things out for a while and then it started to get good guns. It’s been a hell of a ride and I’m enjoying the shit!
Q: And if you can find something that you love and can make some money, you can take your calling and make it a vacation real quick.
Wilson: It’s true, it’s really true.
Q: Now the new album, when is it coming out?
Wilson: July 30. I think that’s when it comes out.
Q: Oh, so when you get to the opera then you’ll be on tour to support it.
Wilson: Oh, yeah, I guess yeah, we will. We’re sort of on tour already to support it, but that would be the most official type of “tour to support it” deal. So yes, you are right.
Q: It must be nice to get back on the road after this prolonged and forced break.
Wilson: COVID sucked at being a musician, obviously, from a personal and selfish standpoint. We travel so usually that for the first little while it was nice to be home with the family – my teenager and my wife, of course. When you look at the issues that everyone was going through, my issues were minimal in the grand scheme of things, but still, if you look at yourself personally, it sucks.
Q: I totally understand. Just out of curiosity, since joining Blues Traveler, have you ever played here in Maine?
Wilson: Ah, we have. I remember being over there in Portland, Maine a few times, we actually did a rehearsal there in one of the theaters in Portland. There was a great outdoor show in Freeport that we did once, yes we went quite a bit.
Q: Were you a fan of the band before you joined?
Wilson: I had been a fan in college in the late 80s and early 90s when they were just coming in and doing more of the college circuit, I really dug those early stuff . Then I lost touch with them a bit, I changed course by playing in a swing blues group, a little more roots. But then you couldn’t get away from it for a while when “Run-around” hit. I always knew they were a great band, I was kinda fed up with hearing this song on the radio all the time, but now that I’m in the band I’m sure there is a song like this that we can play these people love and it makes them want to see us play a little more (laughs), so that role is kinda cool.
Q: I can imagine!
Wilson: I wasn’t sure what to expect after I arrived, in terms of vibe, but this is exactly the kind of band that I would have been a part of my whole life at a much higher level, obviously, and playing with. a guy like John Popper who is a generational talent in many ways. It’s just that kind of thrilling live band that also has that kind of unforced aesthetic to write songs that are more “song-y” as opposed to a lot of jam bands or live bands that are basically just doing it. ‘write the same kind of thing they play on stage. Not that there is anything wrong with it, but my personal taste has always been to write songs and when we go on stage, let’s find ways to stretch them if we want it or what we want.
Q: What can people expect from the show in Waterville?
Wilson: The Blues Traveler show, man, we’re going out and you’re gonna hear the hits but you’re gonna hear some scrambling too, we’re gonna jam from song A to song B to song C and then there’s gonna be a little solo section for it. one of the instruments. There will be a lot of energy and a lot of fun, we take the people who come to our concerts and have fun seriously, that’s important to us so we pay attention to that stuff. We’ll be playing songs from the new album, but we’ll also make sure to cover other things that everyone is eager to hear. I’ve heard people say it’s just fun, going to a Blues Traveler show is fun, and I mean it’s definitely fun for us, and quadruple so given the last 18 months without being able to do anything . Thank goodness it’s over!
Q: Is there anything, Ben, that you would like me to pass on to people reading this article?
Wilson: “Get out there and come to the show – the world is a safer place now, so get your shot, get out there and have fun! It feels good, man, it feels like real life the way it was, and we’re just having a good time!
Lucky Clark has spent over 50 years writing about great music and the people who make it. He can be contacted at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.