IndiePulse Music Magazine Exclusive
The Billy Blues Band featuring Michele Eastland and Becky Blake was formed in February of 2017 in the Boise, Idaho area. This refined group of talented musicians features vocalists Michele Eastland and Becky Blake, who control the stage with their presence and energy. Lead guitarist, Dana DeVice, plays with the soul of a blues master with his heartfelt riffs. The band’s organizer/manager, vocalist and rhythm guitarist, Billy Arnold, promotes and espouses a new generation of blues rock, along with the classics in both blues and soul. The eight-piece ensemble also includes alto and baritone sax player, John Paul Crank; solid rhythms by bassist, Terry Jones; drummer, Brian Sweet; and our newest member, Jack Hale, on keyboards.
Indie Pulse Music recently interviewed bandleader Billy Arnold. Here’s how it went.
IPM: The Billy Blues Band is currently an eight-piece, as opposed to the traditional four or five-groups. What do you feel the advantage to your band’s sound is with the larger ensemble?
BA: The most obvious advantage is the great deal of diversity, depth and song variety that this size band can provide. My last band from several years ago in Texas had this number of players and I never got tired of it. With two talented female vocalists, one of whom also plays the trumpet, they provide room for a truly full sound with depth and richness, as well as the ability to perform a variety of songs. Our two female vocalists complement each other and sing backup for each other’s lead vocals. Both have their own style and stage presence that creates a dynamic performance. We have a horn section with sax and trumpet to add style to our songs, as well as keys and an excellent lead guitar player. The male vocalist/rhythm guitarist has backup female vocalists that strengthen his songs and add that extra sound that pushes it a cut above. Balance that out with the rhythm section with the keyboard, bass and drums, and I think we have a great sound with which to listen, dance and entertain. I just don’t see this kind of music being available and feasible for a smaller band. I love it!
IPM: There are various sub-genres with the Blues – traditional, contemporary, classic, swing, blues-rock, et al. How would you describe the Billy Blues Band’s overall sound?
BA: I would say that the band prefers contemporary blues and blues rock.
IPM: How accepting and supportive is the Boise live music scene and venues, with regards to the Blues?
BA: The Boise Blues Society has been supporting live blues in Boise for many years, and continues to do so, bringing in extraordinary regional and nationally known favorites to further support live blues music. With the Boise Blues Society, its Idaho Songwriters Association, and the Idaho Jazz Society active, the live music scene in Boise and surrounding areas has blossomed over the past five to ten years and continues to grow. And finally, the Sapphire Room and the other venues located at the Riverside Hotel have been phenomenal in their support of live music in Boise. Almost all the local venues, and the well-known local music festivals, such as the Treefort Festival, support the local live music scene and have contributed to is rapid growth over the last several years.
IPM: Best gig the band has played to date?
BA: This question is easy. Our debut performance was playing the Mardi Gras Fat Tuesday Benefit for the Boise Blues Society in the wonderful Sapphire Room in the Riverside Hotel in Boise. We played with two other bands to a sellout crowd that was full of energetic dancers and enthusiastic listeners. We had great fun, and so did our audience!
IPM: Tell us a little bit about the backgrounds of each of the band members?
BA: Michele Eastland is an academically-educated and professionally-trained musician who has performed individually, in national choirs, and in other bands over the years. She continues to perform individually, most recently in Lance Lupinsky’s 1950’s show in Boise, singing as one of the Supremes in the Polka Dot Angels trio. Becky Blake was an actress prior to relocating to the Boise Area several years ago, and now also performs with her husband as a popular duet at local venues. I started playing many years ago and was a founding member of a popular 1990’s-era local band in South Texas called “Los Blues Guys.” After a hiatus of several years, which were devoted to my profession as a practicing Psychologist and a university professor, I re-entered music about ten years ago. In early 2017 I began working to develop, organize, and manage the Billy Blues Band featuring Michele Eastland and Becky Blake. Dana DeVice, our lead guitarist, had played for many years in the Denver, Colorado, area in his own band. He relocated to Idaho in 2017 as a software engineer and was immediately (and successfully!) recruited by the Billy Blues Band. John Paul Crank has played alto and baritone sax for many years and took his own hiatus from music while a university professor of criminology in Nebraska prior to relocating to Idaho. He was playing in a local Boise band prior to devoting his full-time energies to the Billy Blues Band. Brian Sweet, our drummer, also played in local bands for many years, and owns a local custom cabinet and carpentry business. Terry Jones, the bass player, has also been playing for years, and is an engineer by trade. Jack Hale, the keyboard player, is the newest member of the Band, and is best known for his own swing band, playing tunes from the 1920’s to the 1940’s, as well as the blues with our Band.
IPM: Many, but not all, bands have a music/business plan. Does the Billy Blues Band have a plan, and if so, what can you share about it?
BA: I would say our band is a group of musicians who have become friends, have fun practicing, playing and entertaining. We do not have a formal business plan, nor do we care for one. We want to be an entertaining, fun band that is known for playing dance music that embraces the best of contemporary blues and blues rock. We want to earn sufficient income at our shows to know that we are genuinely appreciated for our performances. We are interested in playing local upscale venues, concerts and festivals around the Boise and Treasure Valley area. We are not a touring band per se and will stay close to our Boise and Idaho fans…and our families.
IPM: What are the best links for keeping up with the Billy Blues Band (i.e. website, Facebook, etc.)?
BA: Band information, scheduled play dates, and performance videos can be located on the website at www.billybluesband.com. The Billy Blues Band Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/billybluebones/) also provides band-related information.