BORN INTO THE blues
It wasn’t an easy road for blues artist Kent Burnside, but the trials and tribulations he endured
as a young man growing up in Mississippi proved no barrier in his journey to success.
The eldest grandson of blues legend R.L. Burnside, Kent was born into a household of talent.
“I’ve been doing it (music) all my life.
It’s all I know. My family is musically inclined. My grandfather, he showed me a lot of stuff, but a lot I did on my own. He told me, ‘just stay focussed, and drive it’”, he says.
“He inspired me to just play music. I used to watch the people love what he was doing and how respected he was. I thought, if I get just half of what he had, I’ll be alright.”
Kent can recall many nights going to bed hungry when he was a child.
A family of farmers, the Burnsides ate what they grew.
But despite the hardships, there was one saving grace – music.
“At the beginning R.L. was very poor. He always worked and played music but only came up near the end of his life,” says Kent.
“On the weekends, R.L. would have parties on the farm and play music. I made and sold the sandwiches to help out. It was $2 to get in, sometimes a dollar if it was a slow night, but it just got bigger and bigger slowly, and he started to get recognised for his music.”
Kent says when he was growing up, a lot of musicians advised him “the blues ain’t nothin’ but a good man feelin’ bad”.
Years later, those words still ring true. “I mean, some days when I’m not feeling so good, and I pick up the guitar,
the guitar helps me… it heals me,” says Kent, who recently won the 2019 Blues Challenge in Iowa.
This November, Kent will journey to Australia for the first time as part of the Queenscliff Music Festival.
Playing about 100 shows across the U.S. and Europe annually, Kent says he’s most excited to get up close and personal with Australia’s wildlife, particularly the famous kangaroo.
“I just want to see the kangaroos. I look forward to seeing a totally different world,” Kent says.
“I love playing at festivals because the people, they love what you’re doing. It gives me that energy. I don’t drink or smoke, so that’s my high – the stage and the people.”
Kent will also tour the east coast with Melbourne-based duo The New Savages who he met after a show in his hometown last year.
“Those guys (The New Savages) are wonderful. I like different styles of music, it’s more ammunition for me,” says Kent.
The 23rd annual Queenscliff Music Festival will be held from November 22- 24. For more information, head to qmf.net.au.