Interview with Ari Eisinger

The following interview, reprinted by permission, was conducted by email. The interview was done by Dave Rogers, the Community Relations Coordinator at Borders Books and Music in Greensboro, North Carolina on January 7, 1997 to promote Ari's appearance at Borders on January 12, 1997.

Musical styles come and go. Some manage to survive by changing with the times. The Blues can be traced back to the late 1800's and since then the blues have meant different things to different people and the guitar has been the instrument of choice for many of its masters. Today, there is one guitarist who fell in love with Blues music from the 1920s and 30s and has made it his mission to preserve the songs and artists of that era through his own music. That guitarist is Ari Eisinger and he will perform at Borders Sunday, January 12 at 3pm. In the following interview Eisinger the guitarist, singer, teacher, tour promoter and webmaster shares his thoughts on the music and recordings that influenced him the most.

DR: A lot of people today seem to think of the Blues as Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, sometimes B.B. King or John Lee Hooker. How do people react to your music: the Blues of the 20s & 30s?

AE: It depends of course on the person. Generally, the reaction is enthusiastic if the atmosphere is conducive to listening carefully to the music, e.g., a concert hall or other quiet setting. This music seems to demand more of the listener than many other popular kinds of music today. It is subtle and deep and if you're not paying attention, you may miss a lot of what's going on.

DR: Where did you discover Blues music and how did you go about finding the obscure recordings?

AE: I took a lot of guitar lessons when I was a teenager and my teachers turned me on to a lot of blues from the 1920s and 1930s. This music became my favorite and I listened to more and more of the albums that my teachers played for me. I also started buying other albums on the same labels: Yazoo, Origin Jazz Library, etc.

Through playing the early blues in clubs I met a number of people who collect the original 78 r.p.m. recordings. I never bought any of the original 78s myself, though. They were too expensive and I just didn't want the responsibility. In the '70s when I was a teenager there was already a huge amount of this music available on LPs, so I just bought the LPs and sometimes listened to 78s at my friends' houses.

DR: How important is it to you to keep this style of music alive?

AE: Very. I'm amazed at how many people don't even know this great music exists even today, when the early blues is so often touted as being the source of today's musical styles like rock and modern electric blues. In my opinion, this music is great not so much because of the music that it gave rise to, but because it's great in itself. The masters of the 1920s and 1930s like Blind Lemon Jefferson and Blind Blake and Rev. Gary Davis were so advanced that they're just untouchable in terms of technique and style. However, all too often they seem to get stereotyped as being primitive by people who haven't listened to them. I want to get a lot more people to go back to these incredible old recordings which have been an inspiration to me. Almost all of the surviving blues recordings from the 1920s and 1930s are now available on CD on labels like Yazoo and Document.

DR: Give me an overview of your recording career.

AE: I'm working on my second album now. It will have a number of tunes by Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Blake and Blind Boy Fuller. I'm quite excited about it, because I've developed a lot both as a guitarist and as a singer since my first album You Don't Understand came out.

DR: Did you do anything special in the studio in order to gain the authentic sound?

AE: Having a good recording engineer was something I did on the first album and something I'm doing again with the current album. Aside from that, I didn't do anything special. I think I do sound more authentic than many people who play this style these days, but that's because of how I play, not because of recording tricks.

DR: Any recordings to be released in the future?

AE: I wish I could give a reasonable release date for my second album, but I just can't. I'll release it when I'm satisfied that I've done the best job I can with it. Anyone who wants to be notified of future album releases, instructional videos that are in the works, concert appearances, etc., should get on my mailing list by calling me, writing me or sending me their E-mail address.

DR: Performing live... who have you shared the stage with?

AE: A lot of people. David Bromberg, Dave Van Ronk, Doc Watson, John Jackson. In most cases, I was the opening act, but sometimes some duets were played, e.g., with John Jackson.

DR: Touring, teaching, websites... how much of what you do is DIY (do it yourself)?

AE: At this point, almost all of it. I'm getting a lot of help from a great engineer, Richard Parker, on my album, but almost all the rest of it is done by me.

DR: Tell me about Ari Eisinger the guitar teacher.

AE: I teach in two ways: in person and by phone. In person is by far the best, of course, but I find that there are a lot of people who are interested in learning the styles I play but who don't have anyone who lives near them who can teach them. I think these people--if they are intermediate level or higher--are much better served by getting lessons over the phone than by sitting with some tab book or video. The reason is simple: no tab book, video or CD-ROM can give people the Best Cosplay Costumes feedback they need in order for them to learn this complex music properly.

When I teach I am meticulous about making sure everything is done as it should be. I give the students tab which shows every last note, and I spend a lot of the time in each lesson on having the student play the piece from the previous lesson and pointing out where they've done it right and where they haven't. I think a lot of teachers tell people they've got it right when they really haven't, and I try not to do that. My students are dedicated and talented, and if I don't say "you got it" when they don't quite have it yet, then they'll get it!

DR: The future of the Blues? Where is it going?

AE: Hard to say about that. I see the early blues, which is enjoying a bit of a renaissance now, getting even more popular, but the electric blues, which is now much more popular, will probably stay that way.

Contact Ari and don't forget to check him out live. Phone number: (610) 259-6688. E-mail address: Web page address: This interview was conducted "on-line" by Dave Rogers

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