You'll never find anyone with a bad word to say about Walter Trout. A true blues survivor with nearly 50 years of professional musicianship under his belt, Walter has played the blues with everyone. And on We're All In This Together, a whole bunch of friends have chipped in to make what could well be the album of his career. Guests on We're All In This Together [Mascot] include Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Sonny Landreth, Charlie Musselwhite, Robben Ford, Eric Gales, Edgar Winter, Warren Haynes, Joe Louis Walker, John Mayall, Joe Bonamassa Randy Bachman and more. But it's not about the 'who' so much as the 'why.' And that 'why' is 'the blues.'
Australian Guitar: The record speaks a lot about the respect you have in the industry that you have so many friends coming in to lend a hand.
Walter Trout: Yeah, actually it was quite moving to me, the response I got when I was talking to people. I didn’t set out with this in mind, but I went and had dinner in LA with Warren Haynes and Robben Ford, and I just said ‘Hey man, I’d like to record something with you, Warren’ and he said ‘Well we did The Sky Is Crying at the New Orleans Jazz Fest, you wanna do that?’ Yeah man. Robben, you wanna record something? ‘Yeah man, let’s record!’ So I thought that was cool, I’d got those guys. Then I went and played Carnegie Hall with Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Edgar Winter. We were sitting around in the dressing room and I brought it up. A couple of weeks later I played in Toronto with Sonny Landreth at the Jeff Healy Memorial concert. It all just fell into place, really.
AG: What it makes me think about is that the blues is such a communal thing. I know for me when I was about 20 I started going to these blues jam nights and I realised it’s something that you pass down. It works best when you share it with other people.
WT: Yeah! Y’know, the blues is a pretty tight-knit community, and it’s not just the musicians. It’s the fans also. I found that out when I got ill, and because of the American healthcare system we had to ask for financial help. My wife went on Facebook and my wife said ‘Walter needs a transplant and we need financial help.’ And the response was overwhelming. And then there were musicians all over the world getting together and doing benefits for me. There was a benefit in London at Shepherds Bush Empire and 45 great musicians turned out. It is a community, and it’s a beautiful thing, man. And I love - love - being a part of it.
AG: So what guitars are you using at the moment?
WT: I use the same guitar all the time. I’m sort of a one-guitar man. I like to establish a relationship with an instrument and get to know every nuance of that instrument. I like to know every string on every fret, what kind of sound I’m going to get out of it. Where it’s going to be easier to get harmonics, where it’s going to be easier to bend. So I have a guitar that I’ve been using on the road for a while. The old Strat that I have, the one that’s been on the cover of a lot of my records, and it’s on the cover of this one too - I bought it in ’73 and it was blazing white, and now it’s almost dark brown and half the finish has worn off. But I retired that from the road some years ago because it was too stressful. If I were to give you an example, if we had a night off and we were sitting in a hotel and we decided ‘Hey, let’s go to the movies,’ I would take the thing to the movies with me. I wouldn’t leave it at the hotel. And if we stopped on the road for lunch I would take it into the restaurant. It was really stressful, and if somebody stole that thing, it’s like one of my children, y’know? It’s been with me through addictions, alcoholism, divorce, homelessness, and it’s been with me through so much. And I even wrote a song about that guitar, called Song For My Guitar. I was sitting looking at it one night thinking what has happened in my life since I bought that thing, and how many hours I have on that thing. And I just broke down and wrote this song with tears coming down my face. But to get to what I’m using now, I retired that guitar because of the stress. I just wanted to lock it up, to be honest. Give it to my kids when I croak, y’know?
So there’s a guitar builder in San Diego and he built a body for me, and he built it to be very light because that old one is incredibly heavy. It’s heavier than a Les Paul, and I was really having problems with my left arm for a while, going numb and losing feeling in my fingers. So he built this body, and I took the neck off of another Strat that I had laying around. I liked the neck.
And then Seymour Duncan, who’s a friend of mine, called me and said ‘I hear you’re gonna retire your old Strat.’ I said ‘Yeah, I am,’ and he said ‘Well I know your sound, so I’m going to build you some pickups that will sound just like it.’ He built these pickups and sent them to me and I put them on this thing probably eight years ago. And if you do an A/B, if I set up my stage rig in the garage and go back and forth between them it’s very hard to tell. The older one, I would say, may be a touch warmer on the neck pickup, but the newer one has more balls on the bridge pickup. It’s a good guitar, man, and it’s what I use on the road and that’s what I use on all of this record.”