If the coronavirus crisis has emphasized one thing in particular, it is the existence of two very different Americas—with sometimes clear geographic divisions. Fortunately, culture has a way of crossing these divides, at least occasionally, and rising above the disunity.
Quinn DeVeaux is a Bay Area musician who makes music with roots firmly planted in the American south. His signature sound has actually come to be known as “blue beat soul”—yet is too full of surprises to be contained in a single three-word description. (Though many have rightly compared him to Leon Bridges.) His new and fourth album, the decisively titled Book of Soul, has just been released; and though recorded in Nashville, was actually the result of a creative burst that came just on the other side of a month-long, 2019 Russian tour.
“When we got back from Russia the band was feeling good,” he explains, “and we decided to record some of the songs from tour. ‘All I Need’ turned out fun, and it’s no surprise, ’cause that song was always a favorite when we played it live. I’ve always loved vocal breakdowns, and I don’t think they are done enough.”
Here, BlackBook premieres a new live video of the track, also recorded at Sanctuary in Nashville. It is raw but utterly exuberant, with unstoppable hooks and DeVeaux’s soulful yet gritty vocal performance. Though he does have one stylistic regret about the shoot.
He recalls, “I had gone out to get a new suit for the video cause, ya know, that’s what you do. But when I got to the suit spot the sale I was counting on had ended the day before; and the one I wanted was out of range. Luckily I had brought back up gear; but the next video, I’m a have that suit.”
And since most of us are still stuck in quarantine conditions, we asked DeVeaux to create a playlist of his favorite classic soul tracks—because if there’s one thing we need right now, it’s a little bit, or maybe a lot of soul.
What have you been doing during quarantine?
Writing! Working on the next Quinn DeVeaux record, as well as my solo project Flamingo Dores. It’s been tremendous to have the time to stretch out with words and songs and craft it out. Times like these make me look back at my life and try and answer old questions. I’ve also been doing some hikes, a lot of cooking, and a bit of gardening. But I would love to get back on the road again.
What are things like in Nashville right now?
I am a songwriter and I meet Nashville writers everywhere; and it’s inspiring to have so many minds working on the same thing. I learn so much in this environment. Seeing people outdo themselves gives me motivation to see how far I can go. I also love the musicians down here. It’s a certain grounded sound that produces my favorite grooves. The storms and tornadoes have not been fun. Then there was the deaths of Bill Withers and John Prine. All of this weighs on me, but I guess we get by.
You refer to your music as “Blue Beat Soul”—can you describe what that means?
Having access to all of recorded history means that there are so many influences, so much good music to pick from. So Blue Beat has come to mean my influences all mashed up into a song that might be part R&B, country, soul…then trying to fit myself in there somewhere. Book Of Soul is the furthest I’ve gone down the road. When I first thought up Blue Beat, I was playing Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, Ray Charles…as I uncovered writers and artists I loved I folded them into the batter, and Blue Beat became that too. We’re always evolving.