Blues might be the nucleus of Geoff Achison’s music, but his writing ripples with a fusion of genres.
And now Geoff and his band, The Souldiggers, are set to bring their electrifying vibe to a Barnoldswick stage, a sound charged with an alchemy of sultry rhythms and emotive lyrics.
The Australian musician’s love of American blues dates back to his childhood.
“It seemed so pure and unadulterated,” he said, “and isn’t sprinkled with fairy dust or softened with pop music.”
“I grew up listening to pop. It’s like the cream cakes of the music world: sweet and fun and that’s all fine but I like the rawness of blues.”
He might have favoured the latter genre but he sees himself as “a musician first”.
“I’m into whatever moves me,” Geoff added. “I play a bit of everything – there’s so much to explore and experiment with. I use themes you wouldn’t necessarily find in old blues players’ writing, which usually focuses on sex, drinking and getting thrown in jail.”
His tracks might look at the depths of life but his style sizzles with a cathartic rock and roll edge to soften the soul.
“I’m looking at the state of the world. There’s plenty to be upset about and music charges you up enough to make you feel better. That’s what music is for: it’s a place to go to.
“It can touch upon any myriad of things. My latest album [Another Mile, Another Minute] is my expression of grief but I also refer to it as light-hearted philosophy.”
His love of musing on the world – and the things that unify us – seems to seep into his music from his personal life.
“At the dinner table, we talk about what life is all about, trying to find a way to speak to each other and move forward. Music’s the perfect vehicle: if you look at it deeply enough, you can see how it brings people together. I try not to bring politics to the stage: that’s polarising. Some artists use their music very well to hammer home a point. I try to keep my lyrics ambiguous. I’m more interested in bringing people together. We’re in the happiness business and we want everyone to forget their troubles for the time they’re at our gigs.”
What he can appreciate, however, is the versatile power of music. It offers the potential, for example, to depict inexplicable feelings.
“A friend of mine referred to himself as an expressionist,” he said, “communicating ideas even deeper than with words.”
But for Geoff, music is a key to lifting the soul: he notes the use of the art form as a shared vehicle of expression in all cultures, proving “we’re all the same.”
This openness certainly defines his new album, his songs all acting as explorations of differing styles: while one is twisted with rock and roll, the album as a whole tenderises into the acoustic.
While his album has been picked up by America’s Landslide Records, the experimental nature of his previous work can be put down to the launch of tracks on his own label.
“It was great to have artistic freedom,” he said, “but we had to make everything happen ourselves. Still, I’ve had a long and exciting career - it’s the best job in the world. I love meeting the crowds and speaking to people. You feel like you’re catching up with old friends.”
Also important in performance to Geoff are humour and spontaneity. They’re elements he wires into his shows.
“We don’t want to get people thinking too hard and feeling down in the dumps,” he said. “What’s lovely in England is that audiences tend to be really polite and turn up to just listen. We’re hoping for a big, happy crowd. We’re having a wonderful time [on tour] and we have great musicians.”
“I do like to leave a lot of room to improvise [during shows]. We don’t do set lists in the same order and always leave room to bend and twist the set.”
“I’m a country boy and would play out in the woods growing up. There weren’t any other guitarists around me so I would play old blues and progressive rock tapes and as I didn’t know there was a wah-wah sound device, for example, I would try to replicate the sound on the guitar.”
The rocker lists B.B. King, Miles Davis and Ray Charles among his key influences.
“You don’t need to be told it’s them on the radio,” he said. “Ray Charles’ music at the time was quite revolutionary. He was one of the pioneers of rock and roll but was an all-round musician. He has no boundaries in regards to genre.
“A big part of what I go for is playing and finding sounds that are original: it informs how I write songs.
“Blues is a home base for me.
“It’s always there as a foundation. My music can go in all sorts of directions but blues is levelling for us - then we can go off and explore.”
And, ultimately, it’s clear that Geoff writes in a way that charges the blues genre with a fresh edge to give it the electrifying power needed to galvanise the soul. And he’s certainly on a mission to rock Pendle audiences.
“Blues happened to be the first sound that spoke to me and made me want to be involved in playing music. It is my portal into the music world.
“We’re really looking forward to coming to Barnoldswick. We’re there to have fun and hope people leave happy and hear something different.”
The gig will take place next Thursday at Barnoldswick Music and Arts Centre, 18 - 22 Rainhall Road, at 7pm.
Tickets cost £15, plus a £1.75 booking fee, and can be ordered on 01282 813374 or 07757 379561.