Claude Bourbon is set to bring his impeccably rendered, wholly unique sound to the Bullfrog Brewery, 229 W. Fourth St., at 8 p.m. Monday.
Visit www.claudebourbon.org for a preview. He provided this interview via email.
APRIL LINE: Would you talk about how being from Switzerland and France shapes your musicianship?
Claude Bourbon will perform at 8 p.m. Monday at the Bullfrog Brewery, 229 W. Fourth St.
CLAUDE BOURBON: I was born east of France, in a little town called Pontarlier, in the Jura. It's not far from the Swiss border, about a 20-minute drive. My father was French but my mother is Swiss, so we moved to Switzerland when I was little to a place called Payerne. Both countries are beautiful, with, of course, the cliches: chocolate, watches [and] banks for Switzerland, as well as some beautiful scenery with the Alps and mountain lakes. France, to me, is all about food and wine and holidays. [It's] a good, relaxing time.
Musically speaking, both countries have never had anything to offer for the kind of music I play, or even for rock. I think that it's John Lennon who said "French rock tastes like English wine!" So, I don't think that Switzerland or France have shaped my musicianship.
AL: Why did you move to the United Kingdom? Could you talk about your eclectic list of influences that includes Monty Python?
CB: I moved in the UK only because of the music. That was 11 years ago. At that time, live music was in nearly every pub and there were lots of folk clubs, blues clubs, etc., so, plenty of work.
I began by learning classical guitar in Switzerland. Later, I played electric guitar with a few blues and rock bands. It was in the '70s and I was very much into English rock bands, such as Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, etc. I still love them all and listen to them quite a lot, in particular when driving - they keep me awake! But with the years, I have also developed tastes for all kinds of music: classical, of course, Spanish guitar, flamenco guitar - I saw Paco de Lucia a few months ago in London - Eastern folk music, etc. All those different kinds of music have made me what I am now. Yes, I love Monty Python. I think they've been an influence in forging my character, humour, self-derision, etc. and you need that when you are touring. "Always look on the bright side of life!"
AL: The term "classically trained" ignites all kinds of antagonism and awe from different crowds, for many of whom your sound is pleasing. Do you feel like there's a stigma attached to being classically trained, but having a really eclectic, improvisational aesthetic?
CB: I think that to begin by learning classical guitar helped me to learn and understand and develop all sort of music. Classical music is the foundation. The most beautiful melodies come from classical music.
AL: Do you tour all year, every year? What's your favorite country or venue? With whom do you travel?
CB: Yes, I tour a lot, both in Europe and USA, every year. I suppose it will be like that as long as I'll be able to and as long as there is an audience that wants to listen to me! I usually travel alone, that's the difficulty of it. I miss my son and my family. I think the States are really my favourite country to tour: large roads, motels everywhere, nice audience, lots of enthusiasm; it's exciting. I've got plenty of favourite venues - all the venues where the promoters have become friends and where I feel welcome. When you are on tour, I think it's important to feel that people care.
AL: Is Claude Bourbon your real name?
CB: Yes, Claude Bourbon is my real name.
AL: Would you talk a bit about your songwriting or album development process?
CB: I am working on a new CD, it's almost complete. It will be only made of instrumental guitar pieces, mostly of medieval based music. It should be out next year.
I play every day. Sometimes new material develops just by playing, improvising. When I've got something, I just go record it in my studio and then work on it. My music is a mixture of instrumental guitar pieces and songs. Most of the lyrics of my songs are written by Tim Leaning. I've got a little studio in my house and that's where I record. That's the best way for me, I can take my time. No pressure.
AL: Who are Tim Leaning and Zachary Bourbon? These two have something to do with all of your songs.
CB: Tim Leaning is a very good friend of mine. He lives in Grimsby, northeast of England, and writes most of the lyrics. Zachary is my 13-year-old son. He wrote "It's the End of the World," which is the first song of my latest CD, and "We'll Meet Again." I think he was 11 when he wrote it. I can't say it was a collaboration, to be honest. I just found his text on his desk, took it and put some music on it. He is very good in writing texts, lots of imagination, but I am afraid it was just a one-off [a one-time-thing]! I am trying to push him to do it again, but without success so far. Anyway, I am very proud of him and I am very happy to have his song on the CD.
AL: What languages do you speak? Do you write songs in other languages, too?
CB: I speak French and English. I learned a bit of German at school, but it was a long time ago. Most of my songs now are in English. My first CD "Des Jours Gris" is all in French. On every one of my CDs I record a couple of songs in French.
AL: What kind of guitar do you prefer to play? Why?
CB: For a guitarist, his favorite guitar is the one that suits him best. For me it's my Gibson J45. She's been with me for these last eight years, everywhere I go, on stage and at home.