To hear tell from the horse's mouth, Stephen Stills – the legendary Rock n' Roll Hall of Famer known for his time with Buffalo Springfield, Crosby Stills Nash & Young and his longtime solo career – has forever been blue.
"I started off singing the blues. I’ve always been a blues singer," says Stills, who kicked off his career with the folk-bluesy Au Go-Go Singers after leaving Dallas for New York City. Now, over 50-years-later, Stills has returned to the hard blues fold with The Rides, his new-ish band with blues guitar hotshot Kenny Wayne Shepherd and rock-blues warhorse organist and composer Barry Goldberg. Following 2013's successful “Can't Get Enough," the trio has reunited for a new record “Pierced Arrow” and a tour.
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"We're bound to our schedules when we're all off at the same time," says Shepherd of finding time between solo careers to make another Rides album. "We'd have to write over the course of a year rather than one shot because one of us would go off and do solo shows. We're committed to this band, but there are always moving parts."
On stage since the age of 13 with eight, raw and rusted solo albums under his formidable belt, the now-37-year-old Shepherd met Stills in a most unlikely manner: the Super Bowl.
"Stephen and I were mutual friends with the owners of the Indianapolis Colts and both got invited to their box the year that the Colts beat the Chicago Bears,” he explains with a laugh. "Not only was it the first time that we met, it was the first time that we played together. There wound up being this jam with me, Stephen, John Mellencamp and Mike Mills from R.E.M."
Several Colts games later, Stills decided that he wanted to put a blues band together with Goldberg, who he had worked with on the classic Mike Bloomfield 1968 “Super Session” album. Stills says the quality of “purity” best describes Goldberg’s performance as part of the Rides while Shepherd is labeled as “fresh.”
Shepherd explains, "[The sessions were] originally just going to be an experimental blues jam – somebody press the 'record' button and see what happens – but we're all too professional for that, started writing real songs and the chemistry was immediately apparent."
Enough so that after a first 2013 record and tour, the trio decided to make it a thing and record a second Rides album. "If it's good, why not do it again?," says Shepherd.
Hence, 2016's Pierced Arrow, and its dynamic, centerpiece “Kick Out of It," a truly kinetic blues epic that Stills had been knocking around for years in a woodshedding process.
"It was started 35 years ago," says Stills, who credits his son, Chris, for finding that soulful cut's deep groove. "We played it back and kept the title and the chorus and then reworked the song." To that, Shepherd states, that he and his fellow guitarist Stills just kept pushing each other, on that tune and the rest of Pierced Arrow to best each other as co-writers and players: "You can't fake that feeling.”