Britain has produced great guitarists: think Eric Clapton and Peter Green. Now there’s another, in a new generation named Matt Schofield. Guitar and Bass Magazine rates him in the Top 10 of British blues guitarists of all time and the Los Angeles Daily News calls him “the best blues guitarist from any country in decades.”
That’s heady stuff for the 43-year-old who grew up in the English countryside watching a B.B. King video his father gave him. Later videos introduced him to Albert Collins and Stevie Ray Vaughan. “It was like, ‘I’ve got to do this,’” Schofield said. “There’s something about the way the three of them were jamming. B.B. really was majestic. As an 11-or-12-year-old watching him, I was mesmerized but didn’t think there was any way I could ever do that. It was too special. When I saw Stevie Ray Vaughan playing with him, I thought maybe I could. Stevie made it seem accessible to people. I taught myself, working through my dad’s great blues record collection. I did my first gig at 13, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
At 18, Schofield moved to London and worked as a sideman, honing his skills playing for artists of the British blues scene and touring American performers. “This enabled me to stay close to my roots while learning my trade and exploring a variety of musical frontiers,” he said. “By age 25, I was starting to explore my own band projects. Although my formative guitar influences are largely the old school blues players, I never wanted my own music to be constrained by a rigid formula or even genre. I just wanted to play ‘Matt Schofield music.’ Classic jazz, funk, soul, rock and all the music I love have all found their way into it. The process of writing and singing has become increasingly important to me, and I feel it’s those other aspects of creativity that helped define my own voice on the guitar.”
After five studio albums and some 10 years touring with his own band, Schofield has more that he wants to explore. “Remaining open to where the music might take me while maintaining the excitement that improvising and collaborating with talented musicians is key to me,” he said. “My inspiration and goals come from many places, my influences, old and new, include musicians I have wanted to collaborate with for years. There are things I still feel I hadn’t realized on previous albums and I have a need to keep pushing myself. It all meets at the place where I’m heading now. I’m always aiming to go as far as possible to capture the same connection with the listener that I aim to make at a live show or record. That’s the goal: capturing that special moment.”
Schofield has achieved success he never imagined, but he remains in awe of those who showed him the way. “I remain a music lover, first and foremost,” he said. “The recognition I’ve received from both fans and peers is humbling and inspiring and those ‘pinch me’ moments where I found myself trading licks with heroes like Robben Ford and Buddy Guy are still the greatest thrill.”
If you haven’t heard Matt Schofield, your thrill is still to come.