Australian blues musician Travis Taylor shares his thoughts and experiences about playing music in Qingdao. Special thanks to Conan and Karyn at The Australia China Development Company for their help with this interview.
Do you have any upcoming gigs in Qingdao?
I just returned from Hong Kong and Zhuhai after playing 4 gigs in 3 days and during March I will playing at The Copthorne Hotel in the Lobby Lounge and some private shows. We are hoping our Premier of South Australia will visit Qingdao during April as part of the 25th Anniversary of Sister State Relations between Shandong Province and South Australia and there is talk that I may again perform at the Government Gala Dinner. Qingdao and Adelaide (my hown town) have a Friendly Cooperative City relationship which we hope to upgrade to full sister city status this year during the 25th Anniversary year.
Now that I am back in Qingdao I am doing some gigs around the Qingdao bars as well as some private functions. I was supposed to leave China in early February and just visit to prepare for a summer tour but now due to the interest in the blues and jazz scene I will stay until mid-April. I will be returning to Qingdao again in August to play during the Qingdao International Beer Festival and this time I am planning to return with my support band. I would really like to show my friends here the full show. I have also sat in regularly with the bands at Club New York bar and Intercontinental Hotel during my stay and hope to continue doing this as it is very enjoyable and have made some firm friends through these impromptu jams.
What is your impression of Chinese music fans? Have they responded to your music in similar ways as Australian fans?
Chinese music fans have been very responsive to the music I have been performing. They have a very good understanding of the energy (Qi) required to perform in front of many people which is not always the case back in Australia. In 2008 when I last toured China with Conan Fahey and The Australia China Development Company I was concerned with the language barrier but my concerns dissipated very quickly after a couple of performances. It seems the Chinese audiences respond to the emotional content of the songs rather than the lyrics in particular. This has made it very enjoyable and personal for me because the blues is all about emotion and depth of feeling.
Do you play with any Chinese musicians?
Not yet but I would like perform ‘Chinese” versions of the blues and would certainly like to meet and play with any Chinese jazz or blues musicians. I would like to play and jam with any Chinese musicians I meet from Reggae to Hip-Hop. My goal is to collaborate with a wide variety of musicians and performers, music is a universal language and a great “Healer”.
Why do you like the blues?
I like the blues because I feel it is honest music, direct from the heart. I like all types of music but as a performer I feel most comfortable in the blues genre. As a songwriter/producer I have written and recorded music for film and television, jazz, Latin, country and even children’s music. I have performed as a sideman in bands of all types including reggae, folk and even heavy metal. When it comes to performing, the blues is what I feel I do best. Since I arrived in China I have added some Chinese songs to my repertoire which is appreciated and well received. It has certainly added to the little Chinese I know. I intend to keep expanding my Chinese set list and would like to perform a number of blues duets.
You have recorded many CDs over the past 20+ years. Any plans to record in China?
Whilst in China this time I intend to press a CD for the Chinese market that I recorded last year in my home studio. I have no immediate plans to record in China though I have been writing and recording songs with my mobile studio whilst here. I would dearly love to record or produce some music with any Chinese bands or solo artists. I am interested in producing a music video that can incorporate the attractions of Qingdao and the vibrant music and club scenes.
Which Chinese bands have impressed you most?
I did a support gig for a great Chinese band, Free The Birds, at Redstar magazine’s HQ in January and was very impressed with their high energy performance. I think they could play anywhere in the world and get a favorable reaction. I was particularly impressed with their drummer who I found out later had only just joined the band. He certainly drove the band with great groove and precision. I thought they had great original songs and their delivery was very polished.
How does Qingdao compare to other venues for music?
I have found the venues I have performed at in Qingdao all very well equipped. They have have good production and PA equipment and very helpful technicians. They all have been well set up for live music which is not always the case elsewhere in the world as music is sometimes secondary to other forms of entertainment. For example in Australia many venues now are full of poker machines and gambling facilities which causes music to be relegated to a form of secondary entertainment. I am not the only musician to have noticed these changes in the last few years.
What is your most memorable experience while performing in China?
My most memorable experience was the first time I performed a Chinese song at a government function for the Qingdao CCPIT. I was very worried that my pronunciation would leave the Chinese audience wondering what I was singing. They recognized the song and told me my pronunciation was spot on. I put this down to having a very good and patient teacher (thank you Rose). The song was Yue Liang Dai Biao Wo De Xin (The Moon Represents My Heart), a very famous and romantic old song.
What do you see as the future of music (and specifically the blues) in China, in Qingdao?
I see music in China expanding very rapidly. With very responsive and appreciative audiences, great technicians and equally good production and PA equipment. Venues hold a high regard for live performance values and thus set up their venues to cater for this. It is my belief that many more musicians will make the trip to China for this reason. Once China is exposed to more blues music I know the people who find it to their liking will do research on the blues long and deep history. This will very quickly make them a very discerning audience and I look forward to being a part of this future growth. I haven’t been in Qingdao for the summer yet but I know that sunshine, sand and sea make a good setting for a party atmosphere and this is when blues music steps to the fore.