Jimi Hendrix died 30 years before Nick Earle and Joe Coffin were born, but the guitar legend’s words still hold true for the young local musicians.
“Blues is easy to play, but hard to feel,” Hendrix was once quoted as saying.
Nick and Joe, both 16, get it.
“I just think blues is one of the most important genres of music out there,” Joe explains. “You look way back into history with slavery and gospel music and it relieved sadness. It sprawled from that. Blues has got feeling behind it, and it’s got meaning. There’s something coming from it that is just so powerful.”
Young musicians with an old sound
Nick and Joe began playing the blues individually at young ages: Nick was inspired by a Stevie Ray Vaughan DVD he saw in a store while shopping with his parents when he was nine, while Joe grew up listening to his parents’ classic rock songs and took a liking to Eric Clapton. Researching their musical idol’s influences brought them to old blues tunes, which caught their interest.
The pair first met in 2013 at a MusicNL conference.
“I had a solo set at the MusicNL brunch and Joseph was there because he had won a MusicNL competition,” Nick said. “I saw him play and when I met him, it was like, ‘Oh, you play some blues stuff? I’m interested in blues too, why don’t we jam?’ Then I brought him up for the showcase I had the next day and that’s pretty much how it started.”
Along with Jacob Cherwick on drums and Nick Bendzsa on bass, the teenagers formed Stompbox NL, and have earned musical credibility performing at the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival, at St. John’s IceCaps games and as participants in the Galaxie Young Performers Program at the Winnipeg Folk Festival.
Though Stompbox is still very much alive, playing as a duo is something Nick and Joe have always had on the back burner.
“Ever since that showcase, it was always in our mind that we could do things together. We’ve always had that bond,” Joe explained.
The pair played to a packed room at Lewisporte’s Citadel House last August, and venue owner/musician/audio engineer Dean Stairs offered to record it, just for fun. They listened to the recording and were so pleased with it, they decided to pick their favourite songs from the show and release them as a live album, called “Nick Earle and Joe Coffin Live at Citadel House.”
“We’re getting to the point of doing some original stuff, but this album is basically us playing our favourites, a lot of old blues material,” Nick said. “You could almost classify it as a blues revival album, music of a genre that isn’t always out on the front lines.”
The album is varied, with music ranging from Muddy Waters’ “Can’t Be Satisfied” to B.B. King’s “3 O’Clock Blues.” Nick and Joe’s guitar skills are exceptional, and their vocals are rich.
They liken their live performances — like the one on the album — to a conversation.
“I think of it as a conversation between the two of us and then to the audience,” Joe said.
“A lot of the music we play, we trade off into, too,” added Nick. “It’s a transfer back and forth with each other. You can take music that was probably someone’s relief from sadness at one point and share it with others, and have a good time doing so.”
After selling out a CD release show set for tonight at the Masonic Temple in St. John’s, Nick and Joe have added a second show at the same venue Friday night. Tickets are $10 in advance and are available by emailing email@example.com, or $15 at the door. Showtime is 8 p.m. Copies of the CD will be available at the show and at Fred’s Records as of Friday.
Nick and Joe recently visited The Telegram — go to www.thetelegram.com to see a video of them performing “Eagle Ridin’ Papa” from the new album.