How did you get booked at The Snail Pie Lounge in Glenville? I actually played there two other times.
Do you like the space? I liked the stage. It's in an old barn. It's kind of in a rural area. It's not near really any big cities or towns. I got the impression that the people . . . go there expressly to hear the music. It's almost like . . . a private club in a way. It's not private, but it's got the feel of almost, like, a listening room or something like that.
You'll share the stage with Grammy-nominated artist Alvin Hart Saturday. Have you played with him before? Yes, Alvin and I have known each other for many years. But we haven't really played together very often at all. But we have played at the same events at different times.
You've collaborated with many artists. Has one experience stood out for you? Most recently, I did some work with Ali Farka Toure. I guess (the last time we worked together) was seven years ago as a matter of fact. That was very influential. We did a film ("Feel Like Going Home") that was featured on PBS. It was directed by Martin Scorsese. We did an album together as well.
What was it like to have a film crew follow you? It was great. It was a great opportunity, I think, for me to show other people the true history of the music and the awareness that there is of blues music on the African continent, specifically Mali. I am still influenced by it.
You've been to Africa many times. Was your first visit eye-opening? It's been about 20 years since the first time I went to Africa. I was in Cameroon. It was definitely a formative experience for me and made me want to go back and see other countries in the West.
What have you learned in your travels? Well, I just learned that there (are) a lot of similarities between our black American culture and African culture musically. (As well as with) the food people eat, the concepts (and) ideas that people have (and) the way people relate to each other. When I want to Cameroon . . . it was all very familiar in a lot of ways and I felt very much at home.
Your latest album "blu.black" will be released Tuesday. Where did the inspiration for the new CD come from? The inspiration for this album is not only blues, which is kind of a blueprint for a lot of the music I do, but (also from) African music and reggae. The main focus of the record is keeping Africa at the heart of what we do musically (and) lyrically. Also, It's an exposition of Ethiopia. We talk about Rastafari and Ethiopian history as well. It's a culmination of stories that started thousands of years ago. We take original music . . . and lyrics talking about the present day, but we're ever mindful of what came before us.
You've traveled far to learn about music, but what first made you want to be a musician? I listened to B.B. King and that was the first music that made me want to play guitar. I was also exposed to church music through the older people in my family.
Where there other musicians in your family? On my stepfathers side of the family, almost all of them are musicians. Some of them have gone on to do a lot of things. I have a cousin . . . who sings backup for Stevie Wonder. Her brother is a very good jazz saxophonist. Her husband played keyboards for Whitney Houston for a long time and also for K-Ci and JoJo. So coming up, I was aware that people couple make a career out of playing music, so that was also an inspiration.
In 2007, you were awarded a $500,000 MacArthur Fellowship? It's a secret nomination process, so you don't even know you've been nominated until you win. It was definitely a big surprise. It's enabled me to have more time to play music. (It's) enabled me to have more time to write music. It's been great as far as that's concerned.
What's coming up for you in the future? I'll be going to Thailand in December with Phil Wiggins who's a harmonica player. We've played several gigs. It's more of a traditional blues gig. (I've toured) North America, the Caribbean, Brazil, Africa and Europe. I've also played in Australia and New Zealand and Japan. This will be my first time (in Thailand.) I'll be doing that and I'll be writing and getting ready to do some more recording with . . . not only my band but also with some people from Mali as well.
- ERIN McCRACKEN, FLIPSIDE STAFF
If you go
See Corey Harris in concert with Grammy-nominated artist Alvin Hart Saturday at The Snail Pie Lounge, 5182 Appaloosa Lane in Glenville. Doors open at 7 p.m., and the music starts at 8 p.m.