Music Q&A: Errol Linton

_DSC0478-1Brixton-based musician Errol Linton, three-time winner of Best Harmonica Player of the Year, knows a thing or two about the blues, writes Laura Burgoine…

How did you get started with the harmonica?
When I was in my late teens a friend of mine passed it onto me and I went on to learn it a bit. That was when I discovered the blues. Although there’s harmonica in Stevie Wonder and reggae music, when I heard Sonny Boy Williamson playing harmonica I discovered a whole new world.

What other instruments do you play?
I play a bit of piano with double bass, a bit of Boogie Woogie, I play guitar but that’s more for song-writing. I’m self-taught but having a basis in harmonica helps with other instruments because you use what you know and you develop an ear for hearing the right notes.

Your parents are Jamaican but you were raised in Brixton; what kind of music did you grow up with?
A bit of everything really, mostly Capital FM radio: Pop, reggae, not really blues, a little bit of Louis Jordan, bit of rock and soul. Later I discovered the new sounds of American blues, that Mississippi and New Orleans blues.

How long have you been in the industry?
Probably since my early 20s; I’m 46 now. I’ve done three albums and released them on my own.

Is it true you mainly finance your records and earn a living from busking?
Yes, I busk at the undergrounds, mainly down on the West End. I like it for performing though it can be a bit tough but you gotta eat. You can get by with busking, though obviously you make better money performing. It’s fun though, people interact with you. If they like your music they’ll tell you, if they don’t they’ll definitely tell you; you can get some abuse. Busking is good though, it breaks up the atmosphere and if you can get a burst of live music even for 50 seconds on your way to work it can really liven up your day.

Where are your favourite places to listen to music in Brixton?
Brixton has a good scene. South London in general has always been strong in live music. The Effra Hall Tavern has great jazz and Rhythm and Blues on Thursdays. For the big places there’s the Hootenanny, the Ritzy, the O2 Academy and then there’s a few pubs dotted around like the Windmill.

Errol performed at the Brunel Museum with Jean-Pierre Lampe last month; his album Mama Said is available online and on iTunes.

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