For Jay Douglas, there ain’t nothin’ without the blues

Jay Douglas was first bitten by the performance bug when he was a child in Jamaica. It was there in Montego Bay that he first appearance on stage — but it certainly didn’t end there.

Douglas moved to Toronto and now calls it home, but he has played all around the world, sharing his creative love with loyal audiences who appreciate his mix of reggae, ska, jazz, blues and everything in between.

Douglas is about to release Confession, a new recording project that brings his audience back to the Memphis blues style that was such a part of his musical upbringing.

Jay Douglas joined us to talk about the new record.

This record sounds so good, Jay. It puts a smile on my face. There’s so much good energy in this project. How did it all come about?

Thanks to Covid. There are some good things coming out of it. You know, I grew up with the blues coming out of Jamaica, that Beale Street sound from Memphis. I’ve always got the blues in the back of my head. Had it not been for the blues, we would not have had reggae, rock ‘n’ roll, all of that. So for the last two years, we put a lot of positive energy into getting this blues out.

You’re so positive. You’ve got a lot of love, energy and lightness in your approach to life and in your music. But the blues have that darker tone. How do you combine that lightness and joy with the down and dirty of the blues?

First of all, living in truth. Ain’t nothin’ but the blues. Sometimes it’s down, and sometimes you change the lyrics, too — more positive vibes. As long as you stay true to the music. I try to create a balance.

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Tell me about some of the players involved in this record.

Gary Kendal, Larnell Lewis, Andrew Stewart, Eddie Bullen, Eddie’s son Quincy Bullen, Everton “Pablo” Paul, Dave Dunlop, arranger Michael Arthurs, James Anthony, Alexis Baro, Alexander Brown… so many great players, I could just go on and on. Also, there’s a duet with June Garber, singing Nana McLean, the queen of reggae music.

You’re well-known and loved in the reggae community. How do you think that audience is going to take it? Do you think you’re going to convert some people into blues fans?

Very good question. As I’ve said, it’s the foundation. You can’t build a house on a bad foundation. Ska, rock and reggae, it all came from the blues. There’s Fats Domino, Ray Charles, Johnny Ace, these are foundational artists that I’ve covered. I’m telling the true story of the blues.

This interview has been edited and condensed.