For a man who commands the guitar like an extra appendage, who collects major awards for fun, it’s hard to believe some aspects of music remain largely foreign to the great Lloyd Spiegel.
Over the past decade the freakishly skilled 30-year-old has made a habit of raiding the Victorian Blues Awards of its silverware, across song, band, male artist and producer categories.
But Spiegel happily admits there is still much in music that goes beyond even his powers.
“Music is still a mystery to me,” he says. “I have very little knowledge of the theory behind it and when I’ve tried to learn it I’ve been instantly lost.”
The blues however was all intuition.
“Blues always came naturally to be though,” he says. “Strange to think there is a difference but I connect with that music and found it easy to transfer that connection to sound.”
Spiegel was also fortunate to have some pretty hip parents who moved in influential circles.
“My parents believe music is extremely important,” he says. “Dad is one of those guys who desperately wished he had learned an instrument so I was encouraged. There was always an unused guitar laying about, so around six I started fooling around with it.
“They took me to blues gigs most weekends and after a few years they were part of the founding group of the Melbourne Blues Appreciation Society.”
Spiegel enjoyed direct access to his idols.
“I was lucky as a kid to have heroes I could call on the phone for advice. Geoff Achison, Dutch Tilders, Fiona Boyes,” he says.
“Honestly it’s an endless list of the who’s who of Melbourne blues and I felt like the luckiest kid on earth. They might as well have been the Beatles to me and they were sitting with me showing me riffs.”
And now with eight albums and countless awards behind him (“I don’t concern myself with them much. They’re lovely to get but I try not to rate myself according to that stuff”) Spiegel has become one of Australia’s best in the genre, sharing bills with some of the biggest names, from Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, to Bob Dylan.
“They all leave an impression in their own way,” Spiegel says.
“Luther Allison taught me true appreciation of fans to the point that it was what fed his music. That was one of the great lessons to learn.
“Brownie McGhee showed me that blues lyrics can have more depth and the Australian blues legends all taught me that giving back what you get out of performing is the key to enjoying it.”
Giving back has become a Spiegel trait. He’s not only a mentor for many Australian young up and comers, but as a 20-year-old he taught at the prestigious Blues in the Schools program, giving American kids an education on the importance of blues within the national culture, and providing practical skills for those who couldn’t afford to have music in their lives.
“The key I try to get across to young players is that whether they play blues or not in the future, it is a fundamental stepping stone to all other music that came after and a grounding in it is essential,” he says.
“The end result would be a large percentage of them loving blues for the rest of their life.”
Could he have been a school teacher if his music skills weren’t so damn good?
“Ha! I think I would’ve had to do something else that made me the center of attention,” he laughs.
Does his own musical taste go beyond the blues?
“I like any music that’s done well and has guts about it,” he says. “I listen to rap a lot for that reason but really, if it’s honest and grooves it’s got me.”
Latest album Tangled Brew is an honest account of life on the road.
“1.2 million kilometres in two cars and I can’t remember how many flights give you a lot of time to think I guess,” he says.
“Touring is what you make it. I love meeting new people all the time and if you’re open to experiences you’ll find people in the crowd can lead you on great adventures. But, it also means you have everyone you care about in one place at the same time.”
Lloyd Spiegel plays the third Bendigo Blues & Roots Music Festival showcase at The Rifle Brigade Sunday May 26.