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Scottish blues singer/songwriter Dave Arcari brings his signature sound to the Tooth and Claw, Inverness – with a new song and his own signature guitar

By Kyle Walker

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Bluesman Dave Arcari has it all. The Scottish singer/songwriter has a new single out, an upcoming return to America – and his own signature guitar! He spoke to Kyle Walker about the guitar, the music, and life on the road...

Q Hi Dave, thanks for looking these over! Whereabouts are you reading these from?

A I’m enjoying a rare few days at home here on the east side of Loch Lomond...no time to relax though – loads of prep for another upcoming USA tour in October!

Q So, you’re back at the Tooth and Claw in a few weeks – how are you looking forward to being back in Inverness?

A It’s been a while! Actually, I was in Inverness back in June as a panellist on a session at XpoNorth, but it’s been a few years since I last played the town. I’m really looking forward to it – I enjoy Inverness as a place and the Tooth & Claw is a great wee venue.

Q Not everybody has a signature guitar model made for them – congratulations! How does it feel to have a “Dave Arcari”-brand guitar with National Reso-Phonic? What sound and style of play were you looking for in it during your signature guitar’s design?

A Thank you! Yes, you could have knocked me over with a feather when they suggested it! Aside from the guitar being a fantastic instrument in itself to have validation from such a long standing, world-leading instrument maker synonymous with the development of blues as a genre means an awful lot to me. I’ve been a National Reso-Phonic artist for a long time now (nearly 20 years) and, until now, my two main touring guitars have been instruments custom built for me about 12 or 13 years ago.

One of the main things I had in mind when we were working on the project was to come up with a guitar that, if push came to shove, I could use for regular tuning, non-bottleneck stuff and also use in various open tunings...sometimes it’s not practical to travel with a bunch of instruments and we’ve certainly come up with a solution with this guitar. And when I do have the luxury of carrying more instruments, this complements anothertwo National guitars and a banjo nicely...as it will at the Tooth & Claw.

Dave Arcari gives his signature National Reso-Phonics guitar a strum. Picture: Peter Lee
Dave Arcari gives his signature National Reso-Phonics guitar a strum. Picture: Peter Lee

Q You’ve also released your latest single this summer – Brexit Blues. Always a pertinent topic! How did the song come about – what about this ongoing situation inspired you to pick up the guitar and write a song about it? How is Brexit shaping up to affect you as a touring artist?

A I’m not really a political animal but the song is an observation of the Brexit mess regardless, I think, of which standpoint you take...and is a reflection on the state of politics on a more global basis. Personally, I’d prefer to stay with Europe and also think Scotland could thrive as an independent nation. I can see both sides though. I don’t think Brexit will necessarily be a disaster for international business and musicians, but it’s certainly not going to help.

Q Talk me through a typical day in the life of a bluesman? What keeps you going during the touring days?

A On the road, the routine is pretty much travel – load-in – soundcheck – eat –wait for showtime – play the show – hang out with folks round the merch table – back to the hotel for a snack and dram – sleep. Repeat. We (my wife is my tour manager, merchandiser, engineer liaison....and that’s just the tip of the iceberg) sometimes get to do some sightseeing etc on days off, but more often than not these tend to be travel days.

At home, between tours or in between domestic/UK gigs I try to find time to work on new material in the studio but the time is mostly gobbled up booking shows, PR/promotion, social media and just keeping the business side of things running. I’m fiercely independent and everything is dealt with in-house. It’s like our own wee cottage industry.

I take some respite getting out for walks in the beautiful surroundings where we live..and I guess cooking is my "therapy".

Q Looking more widely: as a singer/songwriter of renown, how is the blues genre continuing to thrive in Scotland and beyond? In your experience, where are the country’s hidden treasures?

A I find a great network of like-minded more “alternative” blues/roots/Americana artists in the USA and, to some extent, Europe...it’s harder in the UK as the scene is quite so “joined up”. It’s slowly changing here tho’ as artists start to push the boundaries of the genre and break free from the lyrical topics and rigid structure they see adopted by the more mainstream blues-based artists. I like to think I play blues-based music for folks that think they don’t like blues. There’s a lot of great promoters and venues across Scotland – Sneaky Pete’s in Edinburgh; Broadcast, King Tuts and the Hug & Pint to name but a few in Glasgow; the Blue Lamp and the Lemon Tree in Aberdeen and, of course the Tooth & Claw in Inverness.

Q After this show, what’s next for Dave Arcari? What plans do you have in the pipeline?

A I have three headline shows at Orkney Blues Festival right after Inverness...then I hit the USA again for a dozen East Coast shows through October. In Novembera pal form FInland – Ismo Haavisto – is coming to be my special guest on a run of Scottish shows taking in Glasgow, Perth, Aberdeen and Edinburgh. I’d have liked to have a new album written by the end of the year but that’s unlikely now as I just haven’t had time to come up with enough new material...although I may put out a Christmas song as a digital-only single to keep things ticking over. We’ll see!

Q Final question, Dave – your beard is magnificent! How do you keep it so well-groomed when you spend so often on the road?

A Haha – thank you! It’s kinda reached ‘terminal velocity’ now, so I try and look after it as best as I can. I use a fair bit of beard oil and some beard balm...and always use a wooden comb, not plastic ‘cos it causes too much static. Margaret’s never gone through so much hair conditioner – and her electric hotbrush comes in handy too.

Dave Arcari plays the Tooth and Claw on Thursday, September 26. Doors open at 8pm and tickets cost £8. For more info, go to www.davearcari.com

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