Big Shot Reub is a blues guitarist from San Diego whose debut album has been nominated for best blues album at the San Diego Music Awards. By phone, he discussed the sound and the creation of his album Roundhouse Blues (available now on Amazon and CD Universe).
Describe the sound of the new album for someone who hasn’t heard it.
The sound I was going for was at the end of the night, most of the time it was at a place called Patrick’s in the Gaslamp. It’s the end of the night, the patrons have been asked to leave, the doors have been locked, they’re sweeping and collecting empties, getting ready for the next day and the band wants to keep playing. Kind of an intimate performance. As you know, the life of a musician…oftentimes the performance is the reward. The monetary part of it is usually not that good. Just to satisfy that you’ve been in a good group all night and you don’t want to let it go for at least another song or two. That’s what I was going for. With regards to the individual songs, I’ve been playing since I was 10, but I’ve only been playing out live for the last six years. There’s been a lot going on at a rapid pace. In the time that I’ve been playing, I’ve had some influences like BB King, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton. As I started playing around town, I picked up some Muddy Waters, Junior Watson, Kid Ramos, Hollywood Fats. I guess I’ve been covering a lot of styles. I don’t know if that comes out in the recording.
A lot of things come through, like swing and it was before they were calling it rock and roll, but it’s still rock and roll.
Yeah. When you’re playing, it’s a balancing act. It’s a rite of passage. You’ve got to have the flavor to get in and once you’re in the clubs, you have to get them dancing. The album is kind of a snapshot of the kind of styles that we play to get people to stay and dance. The other is what it takes as far as abilities to perform a few times a week. You have to be at a certain level to keep playing.
How does this album compare to previous work?
This is my first recording. I have a friend that I contacted through Facebook. He was on the road for 20 years with The Dickies. His name is Glenn Laughlin. He has a business called Roundhouse Recordings and plays in a band called Cherry Bluestorms. I contacted him on Facebook about starting my own brand. An important part of that is to do an album. In August 2010 we went into the studio. By Thanksgiving it was mixed and signed off by me. It was mastered by Charlie Watts. Then it was released in January 2011. It’s the very first project but I had the help of people that have been doing it for a very long time. My album was nominated for best blues album in the San Diego Music Awards.
Aside from working with all these experienced guys, how did you find the recording process?
It was awfully easy. It was scary easy, like you were waiting for something to go wrong. There are 10 original songs on the album, including one acoustic instrumental solo. I got together with Jodie (Hill, bass) and we spent two hours together practicing. A couple days later I got together with Jodie and Ric (Lee, drums) and spent another two hours practicing. We went into the studio and three and a half hours later, we had laid down the flat tracks for the nine songs that required their instruments. It was all first take. The only time there’s any kind of editing is on amplitude levels when the voice was too strong. Jodie and Ric left the studio and I stayed on overnight at Glenn’s studio and put down the vocal tracks. The following morning, I started laying down the other guitar tracks. It was about 1 or 1:30 in the morning and I was on my way back to San Diego with a mixed recording of what we had done. It was all really easy. Then everything else happened. Between August and November, Glenn got the final mix and the final graphics package was completed at the same time. I was very lucky. I stopped by Glenn’s around Thanksgiving and got the final mix. I came back through LA on my way to San Diego and signed off on it. We immediately went over to Watts Mixers and Charlie mastered the album right then and there. Normally, the expectation is that when you take it to be mastered, you have all the levels set and really during the mastering, they gain between the songs so there is not too much contrast. And the timing of the tunes is set. I was fortunate enough to have Charlie add his touch to the album. Not much, because it was already in great shape when Glenn finished it, but Charlie added his touch. Charlie is a great guy. He’s very quiet. At the end of the night he handed me my masters and said, “I like your music.” I don’t know if you know much about him. He’s won multiple Grammys. He was one of the engineers who mastered Rumours by Fleetwood Mac and Jose Feliciano’s 45s when he was getting started. There are a lot of places I could have gone with guys that have recorded excellent albums. But I wanted Glenn’s touch or spin on it from a pop perspective. Given his experience with The Dickies and a lot of the stuff he’s done. He’s done stuff for CSI. I was fortunate enough to go into Roundhouse Recording studios and have that experience. At Roundhouse, they have everything there: mics, cables, drums, guitar amps, all this vintage stuff. You basically just walk in, sit down, and do it. It’s a great experience. Very easy.
What do other musicians say when they tell you how easy your recording process was?
It’s hard for a lot of people to grasp. It’s hard for me to grasp as well. I’ve worked as a sideman mostly in my career. I’ve heard people pay six to 10 times what I did for their final product. They didn’t have the kind of benefits I had going in. It helps that I can arrange. And then I partnered with the best that I could find. My approach was, I’m good at what I do. I play guitar. I’ve got some tunes that mean something to me. I was fortunate enough to have some friends that when I asked them, they said yes without hesitation. I partnered with Glenn and he introduced me to the people he used for his stuff. What I knew was that I’m not good at everything. I wanted to let the experts do what they do. I would tell them go do it and they would let me know where they were with progress checks. Most of the time I was blown away by what they were able to do. It worked out. Sometimes people like to hold the reins too tight and not get the most out of the skill sets of their partners. That’s just part of it. The other part is what happens to the final product once you’ve released it. That’s a whole different story. That’s continuing. I took my little knowledge of having my own band and found ReverbNation. It just looked right. I took a look around and saw people I recognized from around town in the blues category. I started a page and a DJ from Kansas City Online Radio asked me to send him a CD so he could play it on the station. It wasn’t too much time after that, maybe a month or so that he introduced me to (publicist) Doug Deutsch. Doug and I agreed to work together. He’s really done a great job of publicizing me, getting me reviews and interviews. He never stops working and never stops making me feel like he’s fighting for me. Right now I feel so confident that the promotional part of it is in good hands. I have some leads on agents. Now it’s time for me to start playing again. I have a gig on the 17th of next month at the Coyote Bar and Grill in Carlsbad. It’s a nice place, but it’s also a historic place for blues players like James Harman, Junior Watson. It’s just a great place. I played there for five years with a band. Now I’ll be going back to play in what I hope is a soon-upcoming second album. People are writing songs for me and my producer is already picking out some covers for me to do. I’m getting a lot of help and I’m very grateful for all of it.
What would you be doing if you weren’t making music?
I’ve done banking until recently. It’s so hard in this economy. I’ve done some sales and some technology stuff. For a while I was a submarine sailor in the navy. It’s a pretty wide range of stuff. I would love to get on the festival circuit. That would be the ultimate for me. I currently have a couple guys that have championed my cause: Gut Bucket Bo and Dan McDowell. They’ve taken a liking to me and started booking gigs for me. There is a trio doing the songs from the album and also covers…rock, blues, and soul. The name of the effort is Bigshot Reub and the Reloaders “UNPLUGGED.”