We recently had the opportunity to sit down with the organiser of the Acoustic, Blues & Roots Weekend at Pocklington Arts Centre, Michael Messer, to chat about the festival and his music. See how we got on below!
By Jane Howkins
Tell us about the Acoustic, Blues & Roots Weekend. What can people expect from the festival, and who were your picks of the weekend?
The Acoustic Blues & Roots Weekend runs from Friday 16th to Sunday 18th November and is an opportunity for guitarists to spend time in the company of the world’s leading players. During the day there are lessons/workshops in a relaxed laid back environment. All levels are welcome.
This year we had virtuoso blues, folk & jazz guitarist, Damir Halilic ‘Hal’, from Croatia, teaching fingerstyle acoustic guitar, and myself teaching acoustic blues, country & hawaiian slide and lap steel guitar.
On the Saturday evening there was an Acoustic Blues House Party! concert with some wonderful special guests. This concert is an ‘unplugged’ type of performance in a relaxed café/bar environment.,
How did the weekend get started and how has it grown and changed over
The weekend was started 16 years ago by the European Blues Association and I was the slide guitar tutor. In 2013 I took over as the director of the event. It has grown and developed from being a hardcore acoustic blues event to being a celebration of all types of blues and roots musical styles. I like to invite tutors that bring the event something different. All the tutors I bring in are recognised as being the finest musicians in the world in their field. This year’s tutor, Hal from Croatia, is no exception. He is quite literally one of the finest players in the world.
Why did you decide to host the weekend at PAC? What does the venue bring
to the festival?
The event was already running at PAC when I took it over. I had been coming to Pocklington for many years and I love the town. The PAC is a fantastic venue and the hospitality and professionalism of the staff is first class. I used to live in North Yorkshire. I lived in Staintondale on the coast just south of Ravenscar for four years, so North Yorkshire is like my second home. I miss Yorkshire, so the weekend at PAC is my annual Yorkshire fix!
Do you have any other festivals or gigs coming up anytime soon? If so,
where and when?
I tour three times a year with my current band, Michael Messer’s Mitra. We are an acoustic blues & indian classical trio. We have Manish Pingle from Mumbai playing Indian slide guitar, Gurdain Singh Rayatt from London playing tabla, and I sing and play blues slide guitar. We have an album out called Call Of The Blues, it has been iTunes No1 Blues album and has been a featured album on radio shows in more than 40 countries. We will be touring in the UK in July 2019.
How does playing/organising at a festival differ from a normal gig? Which festivals do you enjoy the most, either as an organiser/performer or as a punter?
Running a festival, or any type of music event, is a completely different experience to just turning up and doing your show. I like a challenge and I like to do different things, so to run the Pocklington Acoustic Blues & Roots Weekend is an absolute pleasure. Back in the early/mid 1980s I was involved in running festivals. I worked on blues, jazz, classical, folk and world music festivals. I was an organiser and I used to perform at them, so it was good training!
Do you have any new music up for release? If so, what can you tell us about it?
We are currently working towards our next Michael Messer’s Mitra album, which we hope to record in 2019. I am also involved in putting together a box set of my back catalogue. I have been making records for over 30 years and it’s time to see the best of my work all gathered together in one big box. It will consist of the best of my released work, as well as unreleased material, rehearsals, live recordings and radio sessions. I am now in my 60s and as well as looking forward and making new music, I feel it is also time to look back into my past.
What sort of stuff influences you as an artist, and what have you been
listening to recently?
Influences can come from anywhere and everywhere. I am known as a blues musician that brings other types of music into the frame. My influences include many of the great masters of the blues and roots american music, as well as the rock’n’roll bands I grew up on in the 60s and 70s. I have brought all kinds of influences into my music.
Recently I have been listening to the Earls of Leicester from Nashville, they are a classic old school bluegrass band featuring some of the worlds finest players. I have been listening to the amazing young sarod player, Abishek Borkah from India, as well as Ry Cooder’s new album, The Prodigal Son. I listen to all kinds of music, from loud rock bands to ethnic folk from around the world.
Why do you think people should come and see you perform, and what can
people expect from one of your shows?
If you like the blues, folk, country and all things in between. If you like slide guitar and Muddy Waters, virtuoso fingerstyle ragtime rock’n’roll. It’s called GUITAR POWER! and it’s happening at my show.