It was announced this week that Mike Zito would be leaving the seminal blues-steeped Royal Southern Brotherhood, with Bart Walker taking up the coveted empty position. We sat down with Walker to talk about this big transition, making music with his new band mates, and stepping in to try and fill Zito’s larger than life shoes.
First things first, congratulations on the big Royal Southern Brotherhood gig!
Thanks man, yeah I’m excited about it. It’ll be a lot of fun.
how did it come together anyways?
It started at the first of the year, sometime in January or so, Reuben [RSB’s manager] hit me up because Mike had been talking about leaving for a few months at that point. They were trying to find who would be the right fit and reuben finally settled on his idea of me being in it, but he hadn’t sold the idea to anybody else yet.
So he contacted me to see if I would be interested in doing it and I was like, “heck yeah man!” I freaking love those guys, as musicians. Cyril and Yonrico especially have been two dudes that I’ve listened to for a long time. So I was excited about it and I was, “yeah, man!”
Months and months went by, talking a lot, trying to figure out when I was going to do what, and if my band was going to go out and open for them, you know, so it’s been going on since the first of the year. And then I guess a few months ago, around March, April timeframe was when it was solidified.
Have you guys got to play together much?
No, we played a show together in Nashville, they came and did a tribute, a benefit for Walter Trout at the Exit/In, so we got to play a few songs together and did a soundcheck together. Stuff like that. And we all musically, chemistry-wise, hit it off like crazy immediately. It was great.
So how is it going to be, you coming to the table with a lot of these guys that have kind of worked together for a while. What kind of challenges do you think you’re going to face with that?
Well, just natural expected challenges is all I really expect. I honestly don’t feel that there will be very many challenges at all. I know with the fan base, that’s always an issue, losing an original member, which is no reflection on me so I can’t take any of it personally.
And then, just creating the new story and the new tunes and the new sound and all of that, because it will be a shift, musically. But I don’t really perceive many challenges, as far as that goes. All of the guys are really cool, I’ve hung out and talked to a lot of them, everybody’s pretty excited to be playing together.
For sure. I remember seeing you at King Biscuit and you just had a killer, fun, high energy blue set, so it seems like y’alls sound should really mesh together.
Totally! It’s the whole “southern” thing, I think, and it’s very ballsy. Both of us, I think, will fit really good together. I’ve always liked guitar players that play like they were fighting, you know? (laughs) and that’s the way, all of them play like that. Everybody digs in really hard and goes for it for the whole show. So I think it’s going to work out quite well.
How’s it going to be playing with some of these guys that you’ve known and really looked up to for a while?
That’s gonna be sick! Especially Yonrico, I was a very very big Derek Trucks Band fan so I’ve watched Yonrico forever and ever. And then a long time ago, we played a show, it was for Blue Star Connection, John Catt’s thing, and we did a show down at the Rock N’ Bowl in New Orleans together for that, and we were playing a set right before Royal Southern Brotherhood’s first show, and Yonrico came out in front of the stage and was taking pictures of me and I about flipped out because I was like “what the heck, what is goign on here? Am I in the twilight zone?! Why is Yonrico Scott looking at me!?”
So it’s really hip, and you know, gettin’ to work with Cyril is amazing as well. We’ve started writing tunes together, throwing it around, the whole band, and getting into the sound that we were kind of going for. It’s all just really working out great, and it already feels like a brotherhood, as cliche’d as that might be.
And you’re already writing songs together. When are you going to start getting out there?
Live or recording? Live will be October! The Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise, me and Mike will both be on. And that’s kind of the passing of the torch, and when we come off the boat, me and the guys fly to France and Zito heads out with The Wheel.
Since you mentioned it, do you have plans for an album coming up?
There’s talk about doing that at the end of the year, December-ish we plan to record a new record.
That’s a fairly tight schedule since Heartsoulbleed just came out.
Sure. It won’t be released until April, May, middle of the year. As far as tour schedule gues, you’ve got to fit the studio time in when it’s a little slower and that’s normally in the winter time, you know?
So is this going to be your main gig now? Are you going to continue the Bart Walker Band?
It’s definitely going to continue. I’ve always been a huge fan of Warren Haynes, and not only the fact that he’s one of my favorite guitar players alive right now, but his career is pretty stellar and I think that it’s just the greatest idea to just be able to do the Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead, and the Warren Haynes Band and the Gov’t Mule… you know what I’m saying?
That’s what I want to do. I play with a guy named Mike Farris from the Screamin’ Cheeta Wheelies and he’s got some tour dates coming up, and the Bart Walker Band and RSB, and that’s really how I want to work it is just being able to make as much music as possible.
Very cool, man. You’ll never go wrong following Warren somewhere.
Absolutely. He’s an amazing dude.
I’m excited to see how this goes!
Oh yeah! I’m really excited, this is a big step up, even if… I’ve been telling everybody, everybody’s asking me, what’s that gonna do for YOU and your CAREER?” well it’s gonna be fun, it’s going to be great music and a lot of touring. But if you just look at my 3300 facebook likes and their 30,000 facebook likes, it’s quite a step up in the arena of eyeballs. I’m definitely very blessed to be a part of something so much bigger.
How do you feel about filling the big shoes that are Mike Zito?
I always call Mike Zito my big brother, because he is. Between sobriety and music and Delaney Guitars and Category Five amps and just all kinds of stuff. I really feel it’s almost nostalgic being able to come in behind my big brother in life and, you know, him to be moving on and me to be taking his spot is very meaningful to me as well.