Secret Sussex Super-Star! Stuart Bligh
Stuart Bligh is a brilliant guitarist, singer and guitar teacher.
He plays solo or with his group, Big Blue.
I first met Stuart about six years ago, and he still looks exactly the same!
ME How old are you, Stuart?
STUART How old do you think I am?
ME I have no idea because you never alter!
STUART I’m 49.
ME You really don’t look it! When did you start playing the guitar?
STUART I was 16 when I started seriously practising.
ME Did you have lessons?
STUART No. My best friends were forming a band and invited me to join. So I was in a band before I had a guitar! We were making a racket straight away.
I say to my students, the sooner you play with others, the quicker you develop.
Actually I did have one lesson when I was in my early 20s. I was a bit late and he made me a coffee, and it all came off my hour’s lesson!
ME When did you realise that you were above average?
STUART It’s due to being determined. Perseverance was my biggest strength.
My parents just let me get on with it. I had part-time jobs to pay for equipment, guitar strings, etc and I had an old Bedford Scout van for transport.
I re-invested in myself.
ME Where did you originally come from?
STUART SW London. We moved here in 1998
STUART We had a nice flat in Putney, but it was too small. We needed more rooms, so my wife Maria started looking further afield in 1997. We found this place and we’ve been here 20 years next year.
ME When did Big Blue start?
STUART Our first gig was on the 20th November, 1993 in the Greenwich Inn. I never forget the date because I’d met Maria the night before!
ME Did you play with other groups before Big Blue?
Yes. We tried to be rock stars. We even tried RCA Records. We’d written some good songs, but we didn’t have an album of songs, and we preferred Rock to Pop.
ME You could be much bigger than you are. Did you ever want or seek fame?
STUART Original songs is the key to the Big-time. It’s all down to original material. I didn’t push enough, and the other musicians weren’t as interested as me.
In my mid-20s I made the decision that my music had to be a career or a hobby. I couldn’t afford to take my girlfriend to the pictures as I had no money. But there are other ways of making an income from music, like teaching and studio sessions.
I think the definition of a successful musician is one who earns a living from his music.
Play at weddings, and then express yourself the next weekend!
LYN You taught Alex of Red Butler and he’s becoming really successful. Do you have any twinges of regret that ‘There for the grace of God go I’?
STUART No. the difference with the generations is the computer world.
We had to stick cassettes in envelopes and post them!
Youngsters can really make it work. Alex has a strong family unit and he really has his head screwed on. He’s already thinking of investments.
ME Does Alex still keep in touch and ask your advice at all?
STUART We both teach the guitar. Alex teaches the younger pupils, and when he’s away, I take over his schools for him. We have a business and a friendship relationship.
ME Have you got any up-and-coming pupils at the moment?
STUART Always! Quite a few of them have gone into music careers, not necessarily the guitar, but a musical environment. Their jobs are always rewarding!
ME Have you got an agent? How do you get your bookings?
STUART I get most of the bookings myself. I have three agents who give me some work, but I don’t rely on them. They get me 10-15 bookings a year, and I get the other 120!
Some bookings come via our Website. We’re very well-established on our circuit. Functions are mainly booked through fans of the band.
Maria takes care of the website. It’s updated about every two months.
ME How would you describe Big Blue?
STUART Blues based music, and a melting pot of other music as well. It’s danceable.
We do it all our way! We can give songs a complete makeover. We tip our hats to the past, but we keep it fresh.
ME what about songs like Abba’s, that are electronically re-worked? How do you manage them?
STUART Because when you strip away all the bells and whistles, you’ve still got a good song.
We re-invent and re-interpret.
We’re not a copy band!
Our music comes out different every time. It’s how you feel it on the night.
We ride a wave with the audience. We have signs like a nod or a wink, and the lengths of the songs can vary.
ME Are you happy with your way of life?
STUART Absolutely – as long as Maria’s there.
I realise how lucky I am, but I don’t take any talent I have for granted. I promise to do my best always.
I still practise hard!