Cover photo © Austin Britt
Born in a small town near Atlanta, Brooks Mason has been hard at work in the music business for the last decade. At one point, he felt it was time to embrace the music that he loved. With the change in musical directions came a new persona, Eddie 9V, a singer and guitarist with roots running deep into the classic blues and soul sounds.
In 2019, Eddie was living with his grandparents. He was using an old typewriter to write letters to send to record labels, figuring an old-school letter might attract more attention than one more e-mail message. Two of the letters sent, one to Bruce Iglauer at Alligator Records, and the other to Ruf Records, eventually yielded some results.
“I figured they were two of the biggest labels, so why not! Bruce did not like my first release, Left My Soul In Memphis, because the sound was too dirty. Thomas Ruf didn’t want to put that album out either, but he was interested in coning to see me live. So in March, 2020, he flew in to see us at Blind Willie’s Blues Club in Atlanta. He enjoyed the show, saw we were a good blues band. The next day we were talking about a record deal. That is how we met.
“So far, the relationship has been good. There are some things I would do differently. I like to work on the basis that I release a lot of music. These days people seem to have a short attention span. My goal is to have an EP and an album out every year. Thomas is more old-school, looking for an album every two years.”
The second album, Little Black Flies, certainly lives up to the promise Ruf saw that night at Blind Willie’s. The album captures Eddie 9V’s captivating synthesis of blues and soul music, and all points in-between. It helped him get a nomination for a 2021 Blues Blast Music Award in the Sean Costello Rising Star category, along with another nomination for a 2022 Blues Music Award in the Traditional Blues Album category. It also hit #5 on the Billboard Blues chart.
“It’s funny, the week Little Black Flies came out, I was pissed because the Black Keys also released their new album, their first blues in ten years. I was bummed that they threw off the charts, but I was impressed that my record went that high. It was great to start getting text messages from some of my heroes like Luther Dickinson, Kirk Fletcher, and Joe Bonamassa.”
Like many musicians, Eddie started his musical career at a young age, getting his first guitar at the age of six, with the help of his father.
“My Dad actually open tuned it, not knowing that is what the old blues players used to do. It was a lot easier to learn to play the instrument when you just have to move one finger around to change chords. I didn’t get serious about the guitar until I was 13 years old. I had been a drummer in a couple of bands by then, playing rock & roll and metal. My buddy hit me up about an opportunity to open for his dad’s band at a diner in Georgia. I had about a week to learn to play five songs on guitar, “Jailhouse Rock” by Elvis Presley, some Creedence Clearwater Revival tunes.
“The place was packed, probably more than 150 people. It was one of the greatest feelings I have ever had, of having that microphone in front of me, getting to talk to people, and seeing what a guitar solo does to a crowd. From that point, I was hooked on being an entertainer, making people happy by playing the guitar and singing. The club was called Chevy’s, and had a checkerboard floor.
img border=”0″ src=”http://www.bluesblastmagazine.com/images2022/coverphotos/eddie9v/IMG_3449.jpg” width=”294″ height=”300″ alt=”image” align=”right” hspace=”12″ vspace=”6″>“That’s where I learned to play. My uncle taught me how to talk in front of people at our family parties down on the farm my grandparents had, where I eventually moved. Then I did open mic nights and other things you have to do to get started. Eventually we got a manager who impressed upon us the wisdom of moving beyond being a cover band, encouraging us to write original material.
“Originally we were called the Georgia Flood. Then we found out there was a Canadian actress named Georgia Flood, so we changed our name to PREACHERVAN, slowly morphing into an Indy Alternative Rock band, touring the country. We were about as successful as a small independent band can be. But I starting getting burned out, making $50 a night for the band, playing original music in clubs for the door.”
So Eddie decided to come back to the blues, always knowing that if the Indy rock career didn’t pan out, he could go back to the music he had always loved. His first effort, the Brooks Mason Blues Band, came about as a side project to make some extra cash when he was not out touring. Surprisingly, the band quickly was packing clubs in the greater Atlanta area.
“That was around the time my first album came out. I kept pursuing it because I knew it would get more traction than the other band. It was kind of funny, that my manager at the time was very upset that I was focusing on blues music. That was when I decided to change my name to Eddie 9V. We were driving on our tours, we would kiddingly try to come up with mobster-like names for each other. The guys called me Eddie. Then I thought about the batteries that get used in guitar pedals, and that is how I came up with Eddie 9V. In my opinion, that name rung a bit better than the Brooks Mason one.
“The first important mentor I had was Tinsley Ellis. He loved the first record, and tried to help me get in touch with Bruce Iglauer, because Tinsley records for Alligator Records. I owe him a lot for all of the coaching he gave me. He really wanted me to keep the Brooks Mason Blues Band name, which does have a nice ring to it. I feel you need to have a name that sticks out. And I didn’t want to categorize myself as just as blues band, because I am influenced by the classic soul music from the 1950s through the 1970s era.
“Now we are just making music. I’ve got a bad-ass booking agent, Crossover Touring, that books artists like Billy Strings and Amy Helm. He is getting us bookings all over the country, like the San Diego Blues Festival and Suwannee Rising. It’s been a hell of a climb in the last year.”
When it comes to influences on his guitar style, Eddie is quick to mention legends like Otis Rush and Albert Collins. But there is another player that captured his imagination, an influential guitarist who is often overlooked.
“Michael Bloomfield was my first guitar idol. I grew up listening to Metallica, and whatever was on Top 40 Classic radio. I was also a huge fan of the Beatles, who taught me a lot about harmony. The great thing was I grew up in the YouTube era. I was watching the Beatles videos, which lead me to the Dirty Mac, doing “Yer Blues,” from the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus. The next suggestion on the video was Howlin’ Wolf at the Newport Folk Festival. So I just kept digging deeper.
“Eventually I got to the Paul Butterfield Blues Band at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. I don’t know why, but Bloomfield was the first guitarist whose playing knocked me out, especially the stuff he did with the Electric Flag. I went ape shit over him. One of the first vinyl albums I ever bought was Super Session, that had Bloomfield with Al Kooper and Stephen Stills. He is very underrated, and had a very sad life. There’s a biography by David Dann, Guitar King, that is amazing. He was a killer player with a style unlike anyone else. If he didn’t have battles with the demons in his head, and had gone on tour with Bob Dylan, he would have been more recognized.
“He is the reason that I bought a Gibson Le Paul Gold Top guitar. There is a great video of him playing one on YouTube. No one put that kind of passion into a guitar, and propelled the guitar as much as Bloomfield did in America. Before Eric Clapton, everybody was talking about Bloomfield. My idols are always changing, but the first ones that helped me develop my sound and style interestingly all played Gold Top guitars with P-90 pick-ups. One was Sean Costello from Atlanta, Bloomfield, and early Freddie King. They were what I listened to in my wood-shedding years of learning to play guitar. There’s no denying it, I was probably into Sean a hair more than Bloomfield. But I have studied both of them, watching every video I could find.”
When he hit the road, Eddie typically took four guitars and a host of effect pedals. But he has come around to a different approach to playing live.
“I got hooked up with the Custom Shop at Fender Guitars. They gave me a Custom Esquire. I had an awesome Stratocaster, and been through several Telecasters. Not many people have a cool Esquire! It plays and sounds amazing. So now I take two guitars on the road. The other one is a Strat for playing the Elmore James style slide stuff, like “She’s Got Some Money,” which gives me a sound like Ry Cooder on slide. Then I use an old Music Man amplifier that one of my first fans gave me, a cable, and a guitar pick. That is it. I don’t use pedals these days, unless I need one to get a 50 watt amplifier to break up.”
As a songwriter, Eddie often takes a free-flowing approach to coming up with new material. In large part, his latest record was done on the fly in the studio. It takes real talent to create such riveting material off the cuff.
“The three songs that were really thought out were “Little Black Flies,” “3AM In Chicago,” and “Puttin’ The Kids To Bed”. For “Miss James.” which is a cover, I had some of the lyrics and made up the rest on the spot. It all goes back to my Uncle Brian playing guitar in the family band on my grandparents farm. He would make up lyrics to all of these songs, and playing these four hour blues gigs where I didn’t know the lyrics to all of these songs, so I would make them up.
“We used to play this joint called Fat Matt’s Rib Shack in Atlanta. We would be there on Wednesday nights, a 4 ½ hour gig. You can only play so many shuffles. So I made up lyrics, even going as far as asking the audience to give a topic to sing about. These days, with our booking agency stepping up the game, we are doing 45 minute shows, maybe an hour max, and the shows are more structured. So you have to get up there, crushing it, and get as many fans as you can in a 45 minute window. I’ve noticed that our best shows are about an hour long. The band can give it’s all, give 100%, and have an amazing set.”
Eddie wants to be clear that he doesn’t consider his music to be straight blues. As mentioned, there is plenty of soul in his music, as well as some New Orleans-style sounds.
“There was a guy who saw us at Suwannee who described us as Otis Redding soul-filled funk. While we jam, I definitely don’t want to be labeled as a jam band. There is quite a difference. So we just throw it all together and call our music retro soul. When people come to our shows, we want them to leave saying those guys play good, old fashion great music. We recently did a show n Savannah, Georgia opening for Cedric Burnside. It was the closing party for a festival with all of the elite society people were there for a sit down show. The festival had run for sixteen days. The sound guys told us that during that time, they had not seen people get up and dance like they did at our show. They had to move tables and chairs away from the front of the stage. There had to be 80-100 people dancing. Our music is easy to understand and dance to.”
As you might expect, Eddie listens to a lot of music every day, especially since his girlfriend gifted him with a pair of Beats for his birthday. He still listens to favorites like Howlin’ Wolf live at Alice’s Revisited, but other sounds are holding his interest these days.
“Lately I have been entrenched in the older soul music, like the stuff from Muscle Shoals and the Hi Studio in Memphis. It would be great to take some of those great songwriting and horn arrangements, and add a touch of blues to it. So I am listening to O.V. Wright, Otis Clay, Syl Johnson, James Carr, Don Covay and Lou Rawls. If they are from Memphis, I’m already going to like them.”
Already a touring veteran, Eddie is grateful for the changes that he has experienced since he signed with Crossover Touring.
“Morale certainly has gone up. And we now get free beer. I have been in bands where we had one couch and the floor, where we slept in a triangle with everybody’s feet touching. Now we are getting better gigs and nicer hotels. Being on the road is our bread and butter, I have been doing it since I was 15 years old. We still have to make some long hauls from one gig to the next, but things have definitely improved.”
The members of the current band include Eddie 9V on vocals along with Lane Kelly on bass, who is Eddie’s brother. He also produces and mixes the records. Handling the drums is Seef Anam, the latest in a long line of drummers. Noah Sills is on saxophone and an integral part of the band, Chad Mason, on keyboards.
The bookings keep coming in, so the focus will remain on touring on the strength of Little Black Flies for the foreseeable future. But when the timing is right, Eddie will be ready for his next project.
“I can’t lie to you. I have probably 30 songs on my Dropbox that I could put out right now. We also just got new management, 7S Management, that also handles Galactic, the Allman Betts Band, and Nathaniel Rateliff, among others. We are listening to them about the process and when we should put something out.
“My advice to people is simple – don’t sleep on the new talent, whether it is blues, roots music, or Americana. I see complaints from people saying nobody plays good music any more. Get on YouTube or go down to the local club to find the new artists trying to preserve the music. People like Gabe Stillman, Jon Hay from John Nemeth’s band, Ben Levin, and Max Kaplan, they have a lot on their shoulders and are creating great music. I have only been alive for 25 years, but I have never seen so many young folks making a splash at the same time.”
Visit Eddie’s website at https://www.eddie9volt.com