Goin' Down South with John Liggett - 10 Questions
John Liggett (lead vocal, guitar, harmonica) and Reverend Brian Mickey (drums, backing vocal, percussion) formed the Chicago blues rock band Goin’ DownSouth in 2013. Goin’ DownSouth has put out four full length CD’s and on their new release, Preacher Got A Gun, the duo is joined by session veteran Robert Mickey (guitar) and ex-Koko Taylor and Melvin Taylor band member Ricky Levi Nelson (bass). Steeped in traditional deep blues and brought up to date with a focus on hill-stomp trance blues, Goin’ DownSouth plays folk magic hoodoo music.
“This is sh*t-kickin’ music that transports you to a broken down southern juke joint.” - Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony of BLUES BLAST MAGAZINE said,
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it. In third grade, the church we went to started holding what they called “Contemporary Mass” in the cafeteria. That was the first time I saw a live band with electric guitars and drums. I took my first guitar lessons soon after that from Sister Lucy and started making up lyrics right away. A few years later I heard Hound Dog Taylor’s, Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers album and that was all she wrote for me.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
It was pretty crazy to look at my original birth certificate for the first time just a few months ago and see my biological dad’s Occupation listed as “Agent” and Kind Of Business listed as “Booking Musicians.” I’ve never met him, but I found out he was the drummer in his own touring band when I was born. That helped explain a lot about what drives me musically.
What has been the high point of your music path? I’d say opening for Johnny Winter. Of course he’d been around for much longer, but I became a fan after being introduced to Hard Again, I’m Ready and Muddy “Mississippi” Waters – the three classic blues records that Johnny produced for Muddy. The venue was packed all the way to the back of the room and the crowd was fired up for Johnny! We played great too, so it was just a really good time.
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like? The first thing I keep in mind is that Goin’ Down South is rockin’ blues bar band at heart and our crowd is looking for a groove and a big beat they can move too. I’m always looking for the ultimate guitar riff and when I think I’ve found something, I’ll try to pair it up with an equally devastating lyric, haha…add a couple changes or breaks or bass run licks and then bring it to my musical partner Reverend Brian Mickey on drums and we’ll run it a few dozen times, add some harmonies and make small adjustments as we go. Not everything gets that far but new material is something we work on constantly.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be? I was reading that due to the pandemic, up to 90% of independent venue owners, bookers and promoters will be permanently closed within the next few months without federal funding. And since indie artists rely on live performances for most of their income, things could get bad quick. Nivassoc.org is a great place to go to stay informed and the site makes it easy to contact your legislators about supporting the Save Our Stages Act and the RESTART Act.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why? Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues! He was an absolute magician on guitar and I’d love to be able to stand next to him and see firsthand how he did what he did. He was also a great singer and songwriter. And he directly or indirectly taught everybody playing rock and blues everything we know.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show? Reverend Brian and I have a repertoire of at least 30 blues standards and another 40 originals we can run. When we’re not working on new material, we’re getting ready for a show and lately former LA session man Robert Mickey has joined us on guitar along with Ricky Levi Nelson who toured with Koko Taylor and Melvin Taylor on bass. Both of them play on our new CD, Preacher Got A Gun too so it was a lot of fun for Brian and I to make this record with them.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it! Good protest songs are incredibly hard to write. The successful ones are as relevant today as they were or would have been in the 1960’s or even the Dust Bowl era and Great Depression of the 1930’s. And they make their point without sounding preachy. I’m always on the lookout for that type of stuff but it’s not really an issue with this band because we’re not overtly political.
What's coming up in the future?
We’ll be playing a string of shows regionally around Chicago this Fall to promote Preacher Got A Gun. And the Reverend and I have been working on some new, rompin’ trance-blues material to release in the Spring of 2021.
Tell us where fans can access your music?