Exclusive Interview with Nedra Russ
How did you discover the bluesharp ?
~ In reflection of my life the sound of the harmonica no matter what type of music it was in turned me on, I just love it. The first rock blue that really got me was Led Zeppelin but they were influence by the real hearts of the blues Little Walter, Muddy Waters, Skip James & Howlin' Wolf. For me the first time I saw Norton Buffalo live I was forever hooked on a groove he just plain blew me away! I went to see him live every chance I got and he even would come visit at the bar a bit afterwards super nice man and a true Master of the harmonica.
If everything would be possible (waking the dead included) , which bluesharp player would you invite for a jam session?
~ Norton Buffalo
What is your favorite bluesharp brand / type and tell us why?
~ I have always played Hohner Harmonicas and in Sept 2014 I became a Hohner authorized rep with my product line The Harmonica Lady. As such I have the opportunity to learn about all of what they offer Harmonica wise I truly love the new Thunderbirds low tuned harmonicas they are so deep and expressive and for out of the box Diatonic the crossovers are quit fine. I have a full set of Joe Spiers tuned marine bands as my starter set. They have lots of special tunings as well country and minors so really every thing I need and could every want.
What are the most important tips you can give to someone who wants to learn to play the bluesharp?
~ Realize it takes time to learn, it is not as easy as it looks, listen to the best music, and find a good mentor you trust.
Tongue blocking or lip pursing, what do you prefer and tell us why.
~ I started out just playing with not much help and I was what they call a U blocker that was what was natural to me and posibly genetic ( "U-blocking on the harmonica is where air travels down the center of the tongue... commonly where the left side of the tongue blocks the hole to the left and the right side of the tongue blocks the hole to the right most players will have their lips over three holes when doing this, e.g., when playing hole 2 your tongue would block holes 1 and 3. The tongue is either curled in a very evident "U" shape.) Then as I studied I learned to tongue block and lip purse. Now I use all 3. I feel that gives me a huge array of sound and style that is mine alone.
Give us the 3 most important albums every (beginning) bluesharp player must buy.
~ Little Walter The complete Chess Masters (1950-1967)
The Best of Sonny Boy Willamson II 1997
Jason Ricci acoustic Dirty Memory 2015
How do you clean your harps?
~ I have a video up on Youtube where I do a demo with a Kendal Large Digital Ultrasonic Cleaner for Jewelry Watch DVD with 750ml tank 3818 and I also take them apart and use a harmonica tool kit to scrape were needed. I also have a nice case I keep them in when not in use.
What is the question interviewers never seem to ask you and...you wish they would? (Please provide your answer as well.)
~ Hmmm lets see well maybe.. how do you feel when you play? I close my eyes and feel like I am free and like I am riding a wild pony or a harley with the wind in my face I feel like I am in heaven on earth and when I open my eyes I am happy to see I made a few other people feel it too.
Describe the ultimate recording studio (not the technique but the facilities)
~ I record all of our music here in my studio and I love my studio but I am not sure that is what you are asking me So the coolest place has to be Muscle Shoals the history, the stories, the place, all mixed together to create a sound like no other. My dad's family were sharecroppers in the south and the sound of the gospel music and the blues rings like no other place..
Are you still nervous before going on stage and if so, do you use any "rituals" to calm you nerves?
~ Yes But it all fades when we play. The most nervous I ever got was back in 2010 I took a performance train class with David Barrett one of the last Masterclasses in San Jose. I had to perform for some real masters like Joe Falsko, Gary Smith, Mark Hummel and the list goes on I was beyond nervous my stomach was doing summersaults but after it was over and it was received well it really helped me grow and get more confidence in myself .
What was the most memorable day in your musical career?
~ The day I meet my husband Julio we have a connection musically, he can help me compose my songs, he can understand what I hear and help me to lay it out in the recording process and also live as well.
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Answers given on June 1, 2016