Exclusive Interview with Mickael Mazaleyrat

Mickael Mazaleyrat How did you discover the bluesharp ?
~ I was 18 when I met Marco (a guitarist) who has offered me my first bluesharp. We've been playing on scene together for almost 10 years.

If everything would be possible (waking the dead included) , which bluesharp player would you invite for a jam session?
~ Alive: James Cotton, Jason Ricci, Carlos del Junco.
To bring back: Walter Horton, Lee Brilleaux, Paul Butterfield.

What is your favorite blues harp brand / type and tell us why?
~ The Golden Melody, my first love, and what a love! We belong to each other for almost 25 years. First, it is beautiful. Thanks to its roundness, it fits easily in the hand or the mouth. The attack is good and the sound is warm: It fits perfectly for powerful playing. The plastic base is ideal for a nearly perfect hygiene.
Finally, it is very cheap for all its qualities. I recommend it to my students and all the musiciens, amateur or professional.

What are the most important tips you can give to someone who wants to learn to play the bluesharp?
~ Always have a bluesharp with you (even showering)! Play at least 15 min everyday, more if it's possible. Listen a CD a day. Try to play what you hear (bluesharp part, of course, but also others : bass, drum, guitar, brass, voice... ).
Above all, have fun learning to love to practice.

Tongue blocking or lip pursing, what do you prefer and tell us why.
~ All the techniques are important. Nothing should be overlooked!

Give us the 3 most important albums every (beginning) blues harp player must buy.
~ James Cotton "Live in Chicago" / Weeping Widows Band, the two albums / Walter Horton "Best Of".

How do you clean your harps?
~ I disassemble them and soak them in white vinegar during 5 minutes. Then, I brush them with a toothbrush, use a hair drier and re-assemble them.

What is the question interviewers never seem to ask you and...you wish they would? (Please provide your answer as well.)
~ Usually, if I have something to say to the journalists, apart from their questions, I told them.

Describe the ultimate recording studio (not the technique but the facilities)
~ I think the live recording is closer to the musical essence and the energy of a band. You can not cheat on stage!

Are you still nervous before going on stage and if so, do you use any "rituals" to calm you nerves?
~ Yes, I'm still nervous and I love this. I warm up my neck, my breath and my voice and I focus on the songs of the set I will play. 10 minutes before the beginning of the show, I go to pee (at least twice, because of the stress). Once I'm on stage, the stress becomes energy and feeling that I spread all along the show.

What was the most memorable day in your musical career?
~ When Arnaud Vasset (Hohner's Chief Executive) asked me to be an ambassador of the brand. It was such a recognition of my work on the instrument, my music and my artistic style. For 25 ans, I've played a thousand shows, I've recorded a dozen of my bands albums or friends' ones. I'm so proud of all this but I keep my feet on the ground and go on working because I realize that "the more I learn, the less I know. The learning never stops."

Mickael Mazaleyrat

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Answers given on August 18, 2016
Photos by Pauline Leboulanger