Exclusive Interview with Greg Izor

Greg Izor How did you discover the bluesharp ?
~ I was playing trumpet and listening to jazz and r&b, and then eventually got into folk music. I started playing guitar and harmonica together. That led me into the blues and blowing harp.

If everything would be possible (waking the dead included) , which bluesharp player would you invite for a jam session?
~ That's a tough one- I love them all- I guess Big Walter!

What is your favorite bluesharp brand / type and tell us why?
~ I play 1896 Marine Bands out of the box. I like how they play and how they sound- natural wood tone, and they can handle heavy blowing.

What are the most important tips you can give to someone who wants to learn to play the bluesharp?
~ Learn all the shit- every recording, but then leave it all behind you and play across the structure, rather than lick-by-lick.

Tongue blocking or lip pursing, what do you prefer and tell us why.
~ I first learned pursing, then tongue block after. I think it's important to be able to do both. I tongue block everything, but I have pursing at my disposal if I want that sound. I think that technique is only a tool to facilitate expression- I'm rarely impressed by technique- but the more tools you have at your disposal, the more options you have for expressing yourself.

Give us the 3 most important albums every (beginning) bluesharp player must buy.
~ I think it depends on what you like- I think whatever albums will stimulate your interest. With compilations it's a little easier now- maybe Big Walter "Blues Harmonica Giant", Complete Little Walter on Chess, and Johnny Sansone "Watermelon Patch" - of course Sonny Boy I and II are crucial, and Cotton, and Junior, and Carey, and DeLay, and George Smith...

How do you clean your harps?
~ I don't- I just try to not get them dirty. I drink water while playing and if I have anything else, I rinse my mouth a little with water.

What is the question interviewers never seem to ask you and...you wish they would? (Please provide your answer as well.)
~ They never ask me about my approach to playing. I don't play licks, or play to the form- I play across the song, rather than to the chords.

Describe the ultimate recording studio (not the technique but the facilities)
~ My house. Analog- but not trying to reproduce "vintage" sounds.

Are you still nervous before going on stage and if so, do you use any "rituals" to calm you nerves?
~ Nervous isn't my nature- I may get excited and feel my energy come up, but being on stage is natural for me. I like it! As far as pre-gig rituals- I like to have a shower, have a coffee, and be kind of quiet. In Spain, I like to EAT!!!!

What was the most memorable day in your musical career?
~ I've had many- but meeting Johnny Sansone has been the most important.

Greg Izor

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Answers given on May 27, 2016