Sebastian Lane Talks About His Debut Album, Working With Eric Gales, And His Grandfather Jimmy Rogers

"It’s really been about watching and absorbing things since I was a kid."

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Sebastian Lane Walkin'+By+Myself+Album+CoverSince birth, Sebastian Lane has been surrounded by the blues. As the grandson of Chicago blues legend Jimmy Rogers and the son of contemporary Chicago blues hotshot Jimmy D Lane, there was practically no escaping life in the genre. Fast forward 25 years, a few guitar tips from dad, and hundreds of shows, and the third-generation bluesman has released his debut album Walkin’ By Myself.

The album, featuring Eric Gales, and Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, was recorded, produced, mixed and mastered in only six days by Rick Carson and his team at Make Believe studios in Omaha, Nebraska. The nine-track LP is a throwback to the soulful blues-rock of the 90s and confirms that Lane has been blessed with the musical abilities of the great men before him.

I caught up with Lane to discuss the making of his first record, life lessons from grandpa, dad, and Robert Randolph, Eric Gales trying to buy his song, and how his grandfather’s death inspired him to become a doctor.

Chloe Kay Richardson for American Blues Scene:

You just released your debut album Walkin’ By Myself. It features a few blues standards, as well as some very personal original songs. What’s your favorite track on the album and why?

I would say I have two favorites; My favorite song is probably “Momma” because it’s the realest, deepest track. When I wrote that song it was coming from experience, so it was even therapeutic in a sense for me, as it’s something that I don’t really talk about a lot, but I always knew I wanted to write about. It’s also one of the prettier songs, I think.

Then the other favorite is probably “Jezebel” because I recorded that song with Eric Gales. Four years ago I wouldn’t have thought that I’d be recording my first album with Eric. He actually wanted to buy that song from me. When we were recording he was like “Dude, if you want to sell that song to me I’ll take it for my next album.” I wanted to but I was like “This song has to be on my record now!”

Awesome. The sound of the album is very reminiscent of the 90s blues. Was that intentional? What kind of sound were you going for with the record?

It actually wasn’t intentional. For me it’s just who I am, and the kind of the music I play, I don’t want to overthink it, or try to write like someone else, or be like anyone else, or try too hard to do things that someone has already done, I just want to bring something different.

Obviously, though I take influence from different people I grew up listening to whether it’s Gary Clark Jr, and John Mayer, Kenny Wayne, Doyle Bramhall II, Jonny Lang, and that kind of 90s style.

When I was writing, it I didn’t just want to make a 12 bar blues record. There’s lots of that out there, and I love it, and that’s where I come from, organic old-school blues, but I didn’t want to make an old-school blues record because I’m not an old school blues player.

You’re the grandson of Chicago blues legend Jimmy Rogers, and your dad Jimmy D Lane is incredible in his own right, even recording an album with Double Trouble at his peak. You’re following in the footsteps of two very talented and loved bluesman. What have they taught you about being a musician?

I’ve learned a lot. I grew up in the same house as my grandpa, so when I was little I was always around music and always surrounded by really talented musicians, and so you kind of learn the humility behind it all. Being surrounded by all these amazing, talented people that the world knows, you see that they are really just regular human beings, normal guys doing their own thing, and dealing with their own problems. Another good lesson I learned from him, growing up in the South he didn’t know how to read and write very well, and he ended up getting screwed over a little.

Back in the day, the music industry would do a really good job of baiting all the poorer guys for what they were worth. He would say “Make sure you get a good lawyer, make sure you read all your contracts and don’t sign anything.” Even now if I think about it, we don’t get very much of anything from the Muddy Water’s stuff that he was involved with or any of his stuff, we don’t see any of it, and it’s interesting.

Music-wise, I guess more of the influence came from my dad. He didn’t want me not to be a musician, but he definitely wanted me to stay in school. Music obviously isn’t the easiest career, especially if you want to have a family, it’s very difficult, but he taught me about hard work and what it takes to be good at anything; you just have to put in the time. So for me with music, it’s practicing every day. I’ve never taken a guitar lesson but I would listen to dad play, and if I picked up his guitar and started messing around with it he would say “Try this.” It’s really been about watching and absorbing things since I was a kid.

Sebastian Lane photo by Gage Hanson

Can we hope to see a collaboration between you and your dad anytime soon?

Yes, that’s probably on the horizon. When you put your first album out into the world you never know what’s going to happen, and it can be hit or miss, you never know. Then if the album’s received well, the expectation is to follow it up with something good, so I’m just holding off until I’m ready, until the point where I’m with my dad and the feel is right. We’ll see, but the next album will probably have a little Jimmy D Lane on it.

That’s really impressive. Aside from being a musician, you’re also studying to be a surgeon. Is it true that it was your grandfather’s death that inspired you to pursue that career path?

That’s true. So basically when I was young, five years old, we were all living together so we were really, really close, as close as you could be. Then he got sick, and during the whole process I was confused and didn’t know what was going on, then when he passed away I felt lost, and didn’t know what to do, my dad felt that way too whether he’ll admit it or not.

We ended up moving the next year, and started to focus on school, and I grew a passion for science, and that kind of area of study because my grandpa actually passed away from cancer, and so I was intrigued about what it was, and why it took grandpa away. Then throughout high school I learned how complex it is, and I tried to figure out what kind of profession I could go into where I would be able to learn something about it, and ultimately do something about it. No one in my family has actually gone to college or anything; I was the first person to eventually do that. So yeah, he was the inspiration behind that and the music.

That’s great. You’ve been lucky enough to support Jimmie Vaughan, Robert Randolph and a number of other legends. Have any of them given you some words of wisdom?

Yeah, most recently we ended up hanging out backstage for a couple of hours with Robert Randolph. We were chatting about music he said “Dude, you’ve got it but you’ve just got to treat it like a business. When I was your age, that’s when I first started too.” He was in a family band, and they went to a Gospel retreat or whatnot and then a label heard them play, and wanted to turn them into a blues-rock group. Before that he didn’t even know who Hendrix was, or any of those people, he was a Southern Gospel guy and he got turned onto all of that stuff.

But yeah, he was just telling me to be smart about it and treat it like a business; basically telling me that if I want to make it work I have to be able to sacrifice and invest in myself. He said “You can make it work if that’s what you want to do, you guys have it,” which was humbling to have him tell me that.

Eric is in my corner too, but his advice was to keep my head levelled because he’s gone through addictions and things like that, and it’s a real thing especially in music. Everyone has their vices, and it’s easy to get caught up in all of that being on the road, fans, and that. Just staying humble, and grounded, that’s the biggest thing; also staying true to your music too. People know when you’re not being real.

Sebastian Lane

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