SEPTEMBER 16, 2017


illennials get a hard rap. In most cases that rap is deserved but you do have whipper snappers who take inspiration from the music and the wisdom of their elders. This is the case of the ax-wielding, lap-steel playing twenty-year old HEATHER GILLIS. She is a brand new talent but her chops were earned the hard way. She began paying her dues on the road under the tutelage of ALLMAN BROTHERS drummer, the late-BUTCH TRUCKS as part of his band FREIGHT TRAIN. Now she's got a band of her own and at the time of this interview, she was gearing up for her band's tour of the Northeastern of the United States.

ROCKWIRED had a chance to catch up with HEATHER GILLIS before the start of her tour. Here is how the interview went.

You are weeks away from kicking off your tour. What is all going through your head?
I'm really looking forward to it. I moved to Atlanta a couple of months ago and I've got a new band that I'm working with. We've actually been on the road for a little bit already and so far it's been great. I'm looking forward to heading up tot he Northeast and play for the folks up there. We've met a bunch of people and it'll be nice to get up there and see some familiar faces and make some new friends.

And what can people expect from you and your band in the way of music?
There will be some covers here and there but a lot of original stuff as well. I have an album that I put out a couple of years ago and there  will be a couple of songs form that and also some newer stuff that we'll be recording very soon. There is lots of original music. A lot of high energy stuff. My sound incorporates a lot of blues, soul and rock so people can expect a little but of everything.

How did music get started for you? What was the catalyst that got this whole thing going for you?
I didn't grow up in a musical family but I really enjoyed music. I picked up the guitar at a very young age. Then I had heard about JACK WHITE and listened to his music and listening to him took me straight down the blues route. He took me form not knowing anything to knowing who ROBERT JOHNSON was  and who all of these other Delta blues men were. I latched onto the genre. That's where all of the slide playing I do comes from. I started taking up slide guitar in January and I play a little bit of lap steel as well.

And you've had the chance to cut your teeth on the road as a part of the band FREIGHT TRAIN and more importantly, you had BUTCH TRUCKS of THE ALLMAN BROTHERS as a mentor. How did you come up on BUTCH's radar and how did you find your way into his band.
I had just come out to school in Tallahassee. I started a band there and we put out a CD and started playing around. BUTCH went to school in Tallahassee years ago. He went to Florida State. He came to do a lecture one day and at the end of the day he wanted to jam out at a local blues club. He wanted to get together with some local people and play and have some fun. I played at that club often. The club owner called and asked if I would like to be in the house band. I said "Hell yeah!" I went and we played a couple of songs. He and I met and we switched contact information. A couple of weeks later, he was putting together his band FREIGHT TRAIN. This was around the time that the ALLMAN BROTHERS were tying things together and ending things. He called me up and invited me to sit in on the different configurations of this new group of his. He was trying out different guitar players for it. I was always there. There were a couple of circumstances where a guitar player couldn't make it  and I would fill in. One day he hired me on and we went on the road . It was a great experience. He was a great mentor and he taught me so much on how to play.

And in the time that you spent with BUTCH in FREIGHT TRAIN, what was the biggest lesson that he taught you?
The biggest thing that he taught me was jumping off the cliff. When a band is playing a song everyone is listening to each other and when the guitar starts to go somewhere the band starts to blindly follow it. You abandon the road map and kind of go for it. You jump off the cliff together and hope that you land somewhere together and you might not. It could fall apart and you don't know where the song is going. There is no established time signature. There are no instructions. If a song fell apart for BUTCH that was the best part of the night for him. He loved mistakes. If you don't make mistakes you're not trying  anything new. He drove me to be more creative and see where I could take things musically.

It seems to me like the time you spent working with BUTCH has given you the confidence to do this upcoming tour on your own.
Absolutely! I had a band before I met BUTCH but this is the first major tour that I've been in charge of. I've stuck to touring in Georgia, Florida and Alabama and this upcoming tour will be my first time out of the South. I'm just going to figure it out and see how it goes. I'm just going to see what happens. You don't know what's going to happen until you try. As a band we subscribe to the COLONEL BRUCE HAMPTON philosophy toward music. Everyone in the band has toured with HAMPTON. He's taught us a lot about having a no ego attitude toward the music and not worrying. There are no rules and n o worrying. Just listen and play. With some of the shows that we've done gone to some strange places musically and the audience has really been into it. We're not going to play anything the same way twice. Our originals have gone over really well. It's great when people are really into the original stuff.

What songs off of your live set have gotten the crowd going the most so far?
We've got a got song called FIGHT TO WIN. It's a fairly simple song but it's a powerful song. People have really latched onto that one. The other one is GONNA BE A STORM. I play lap steel on that one and because of that I think people really enjoy the song. It really stands out from the rest of our set. The aesthetic is different.

And a new album from you is in the works, right?
I have songs that I have been working on for a couple of years but haven't been able to record yet. I've also got some songs that I've written in the past couple of weeks. When the tour is over we're going to be hammering out about 20 songs and then put out the new album.

I know that it's too early to say, but how do you think this new album will be different from the album you released previously?
I was very young when I put out my first album. I did it all kind of DYI. I think this new album will be more professional. I like for things to happen organically. I like for things to be recorded live with everyone in the studio at once. No mixing, matching or pasting or dragging things into five or six different sessions. I like doing it old school and capturing that energy. I definitely want that to come out in the album.

What would you like for people to come away with after they see and hear you onstage?
When I see a band play, I'm not worried about musicianship or skill level. I care more if the band has high energy and that it's real. I want people to know that we mean what we play. It's not a gimmick. It's not a showboat. There is no strutting around and being this glamorous thing. We're very real about the music . We care a lot about it. That is what I want people to come away with.


http://www.rockwired.com/OrangeRoundPic.jpg BRiAN LUSH (FOUNDER, EDiTOR-iN-CHiEF)
Brian Lush is a music industry professional and entrepreneur. In 2005 he launched the online music site Rockwired.com to help promote new music artists in conjunction with the weekly radio show Rockwired Live which aired on KTSTFM.COM from 2005 - 2009. In 2010 He launched the daily podcast series Rockwired Radio Profiles which features exclusive interviews and music. He has also developed and produced the online radio shows Jazzed and Blue - Profiles in Blues and Jazz, Aboriginal Sounds - A Celebration of American Indian and First Nations Music, The Rockwired Rock N Roll Mixtape Show and The Rockwired Artist of the Month Showcase. In 2012, Brian Lush and his company Rockwired Media LLC launched the monthly digital online publication Rockwired Magazine. The magazine attracts over 75,000 readers a month and shows no signs of stopping. Rockwired Magazine also bares the distinction of being the first American Indian-owned rock magazine. Brian Lush is an enrolled member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe. Brian Lush's background in music journalism, radio and podcast hosting, podcast production, web design, publicity, advertising sales, social media and online marketing, strategic editorial planning and branding have all made Rockwired a name that is trusted and respected throughout the independent music industry.

CONTACT BRiAN LUSH AT: djlush@rockwired.com