About seven years ago, 12-year-old blues guitarist Hayden Fogle took Buffalo by storm after playing on stage with Buddy Guy at a University at Buffalo concert. Now he is traveling around the world, playing various festivals and releasing a debut album in October. Fogle came to WBFO’s studios to play a few tunes and chat with Reporter Nick Lippa about his growth as a musician in Buffalo.
You recently flew around the world after winning the Lee Ritenour Six String Theory competition. What is that and what did it entail?
Hayden Fogle: “It happens every few years. This year he picked, (eight) musicians from all over the world to basically play at the Blue Note in Japan. To go to the NAMM convention and do some demos for Yamaha guitars in LA. And we also went to Switzerland last September. We played at the St. Moritz Jazz Festival in a place called the Dracula Club, and there was only under 100 people there. But it’s a very respected club and they say presidents use to got here and people would talk about country plans and it was very secret and very cool. But especially working with Lee Ritenour who is considered one of the greatest studio guitar players of all time. At our performance in California, it was very special because it was in Los Angeles and it was where Lee lives and where a lot of other famous musicians reside. It was just ridiculous because in the audience there was Steve Vai.”
“You had all these very very well-known guitarists and musicians in one place and actually, I remember after performing, I went and talked to Steve Vai and said, ‘Hey man I really enjoyed,’ I’m kind of just fan boying here, seeing all these people you have listened to and respected, I’m like, ‘Hey I enjoyed your set.’ And Steve Vai’s girlfriend was like, ‘I loved you.’ It was crazy. To have so many cool musicians that are well respected just in the same room, it really kind of makes you open up your eyes to things. Buffalo is an amazing city. I’ve really kind of grown working in Buffalo getting my chops together and paying my dues here. But as I start to travel out, I just played at the Dallas International Guitar Festival in Dallas, Texas. And I just played the International Blues Festival in Mont Tremblant, Quebec. And it’s like an eight and a half hour drive. Everybody speaks French. I was performing with Brandon Taz Niederauer and it was my bassist from Buffalo, Mike Reed, and Kendal, who’s his touring drummer. And alongside Larkin Poe there was these two awards they give out—the heartbeat and the discovery of the festival. It was all in French so I don’t know what the exact translation is. But we won one of those awards along Larkin Poe which is one of the top touring blues/roots acts in the country. They have a half a million likes on Facebook it’s crazy. It was just cool, because people were coming up to me.”
“As a musician as you start to go around the world and see how people respond to music it’s like—music is a worldly thing. And it just makes me want to get out and travel because people respect music all over the world. Music is a universal language. I know in Japan, hardly anybody spoke English. It’s Japan. English is not very commonly spoken around there. But we played at the Blue Note in Tokyo. We played two shows. It’s just one of the coolest clubs in the whole world. They have a Blue Note in New York City and they have a Blue Note in Japan. And people don’t speak English, but we played a song and I was singing in English. And it was really cool because people responded to the solos. People clapped and cheered. People clapped and cheered when we came on. People were so nice in Japan. I think as you start to go around the world you just start to open up your eyes to things.”
From what I saw there was a guitarist picked for different genres. There was blues, rock, soul/rhythm, classical. I am assuming you were blues right?
HF: “Basically I won the blues category and there were applicants from over 55 countries. And I was selected as the top blues guy in the world. And they had basically the top guitar player of every genre in the world. Just put them together and let’s do a few gigs together. And they had a drummer and a bass player and a keyboard player and a rhythm section and we just played material in each of our genres and then we also played together and jammed.”
That sounds like an incredibly opportunity. Was there anything particular you took away from the experience?
HF: “I’d say jazz is very close to blues from a guitar playing standpoint because you have blues guys calling themselves jazz guys. You have guys like Wes Montgomery who are jazz guys but they play blues. And you have George Benson. Then you have blues guys like Ronnie Earl and Stevie Ray Vaughn even did some jazz stuff with Chitlins con Carne. You had this cross pollination from the music. This cat Cecil, he’s from New York City. He has a degree of music from Berklee College of Music in Boston and he’s just a killer jazz guy. And I remember when we were warming up the day of the show in Switzerland, the first time we really played together. We were just jamming. We had never met before. Just two guitar players.”
“Music has kind of a common language. What makes it very worldly is just like anybody in the whole world, you don’t have to speak the same language but you can play music. So we were just jamming before the show. I learned some rhythm techniques from the rhythm guitar player. Even the drummer. He’s from Scotland. The bass player is from Serbia. The keyboard player is from Estonia. So you have all these influences and what’s cool is that we all brought a song. And I brought an Albert King straight blues song. Blues at Sunrise. I just wanted to pick the most killer blues song I could find. The guy from Serbia, he brought a song that he wrote, and it was like Serbian influence. So you could hear this kind of middle-eastern feel. And the keyboard player had his version of Stella (By Starlight)… he put his spin on it. So you basically hear everybody’s influence on, what we think as common music, you have people trying to do what these people do.”
Is playing internationally something you want to do more of in the future?
HF: “I just have fallen in love with traveling and playing music. What I love about music is seeing people’s smiles and their reactions and seeing the positivity it brings to people. That’s kind of what I want to do. Travel and play for people.”
You’ve got your first album coming out in October. How do you feel?
HF: “I think it’s kind of scary. Honestly I’m very nervous. You always have your imagination. You dream of what you want it to be. I have no experience with putting out albums because it’s my first album I’m putting out. I have an idea of what I want it to be like, but I’m just kind of waiting for it to happen. I guess I’m just very excited and nervous to be honest. This is kind of my stamp on the country and the world. This is Hayden Fogle. This is my first album. Check me out. Because pretty much all up to this point I’ve gotten my name out there from videos from people seeing me live and this is something that is live recorded, but it’s on a CD you can play. I really am curious to see how people take of it. I wouldn’t just put it in a box of just the blues. I wouldn’t say it’s a blues album. But I also wouldn’t say it’s a rock album. I’ve always been in to all types of music. R&B, jazz, rock and roll, classical, blues. I kind of have tried to put everything in to it, all my influences. I don’t want to say it’s just a blues album. But I don’t want to say it’s just a rock album. It’s kind of like alternative or indie or something like that.”
You have managed to build your professional resume as you made your way through high school, which you graduated from just last year.
HF: “So I graduated from high school, and a few months later I have a plane ticket to Switzerland all by myself for the first time going out of the country to play music. And I never thought that would happen. Where music and what I love would take me across the world. I am just like wow. This is living the dream right here. This is amazing. Flying over the Alps and thinking, music is what brought me here. Music makes me fall in love with music every day that I do it.”
I imagine balancing your life the past few years had to be difficult.
HF: “Honestly I’ve been doing this music thing since I was 12, 13. I was in sixth grade when I played with Buddy. So I went through all of middle school, all of highs school as a musician who would have his homework to do but then had gigs to play. Sometimes it was like, I’d get out of school, have to go to sound check, and then I’d have to play a gig and then I’d schmooze with people and musicians and then I’d get something to eat and by the time I get home, it’s 2:30 in the morning and I have an hour or two or three worth of homework. And when it gets to the end of the year it gets crazy because they give you packets of stuff to go over. I was real good about it at first, but I was kind of like that guy who plays guitar and every teacher was like, ‘Oh you must have been up late last night.’ Some people were really kind. Some people gave me a hard time because they didn’t understand what it’s like to be a musician. The crazy eating hours, not always being able to structure your routine as a normal person.”
“It takes so much time up because being a musician isn’t just playing. It’s traveling to the gig. The maintenance of your gear. Basically it’s the people business. I’m talking to people on the phone all the time. Talking to festivals. Talking to promoters, because I’m the front man of my band… I’ve basically had to be the manager of myself, but also let my band know when to show up at the gig. When there is any problems I have to really spearhead it. I’m not only a musician, I’m also a manager. And a student. I had someone at my school tell me, ‘Your number one job right now is to be a student. Everything else is just secondary.’ I kind of didn’t agree with that because what I love is music and that will always be what I want to do. Honestly, I graduated high school. I was on the honor roll. I was in the National Honor Society. I even considered being a surgeon at one point but that didn’t work out. I just did what I had to do to get by and get what I wanted from it. I’ve always been a self-learner.”
Playing Blue Note. First album. It feels like the natural progression for your career.
HF: “I’m just thankful to be doing it because I don’t deserve anything that I’ve been given. I don’t deserve any of this stuff. I’m just very grateful for all the opportunities. It’s a lot of sheer luck,” he said. “There’s a domino effect. And it’s like, I can’t say I wish I would change one thing because if I were to change that one thing it would change the outcome of everything else.”
What was a key domino changing moment to get you where you are today?
HF: “The first time I ever played with Buddy at UB, it wasn’t even planed. It was a late birthday gift. My Dad through a coworker new someone at the University of Buffalo Center for the Arts and got me backstage for like a meet and greet with Buddy. A picture and a handshake. I was back there and someone told Buddy that I played guitar. He asked if I brought my guitar and I said no. He was joking with me how you got to bring your guitar. Like a brick layer without his tools and he’s like, ‘Do you want to sit in with me tonight? Do you want to play guitar with me?’ And I’m like yeah,” he laughed. “His guitar tech took me back stage and gave me Buddy’s second guitar that he had. He had two. Gave me one of his. Strung it up. Tuned it up. Got the amp ready and all I did was, he called me up at the end of the show and I jammed with him for ten minutes and the rest was history. Right after that happened, that was a moment where over 3,000 people saw me play blues and keep up with touring musicians and one of the greatest, most prolific blues musicians of history and one of my personal all-time favorites, Buddy Guy.”
“Through that, I met so many musicians that heard that I played with him. They were like, ‘I saw the video man. Do you want to come sit in with us?’ Basically that was a catalyst for getting in to the music scene in Buffalo. I formed the Ambassadors a year later and we started playing gigs all around town. Our first gig was at the Niagara Falls Blues Festival. I think that moment with Buddy was like, it just tipped the scale. I had been playing guitar since I was eight. So it was like four or five years. And I just started getting in to blues for six months. And playing with Buddy—he said to the crowd, ‘This is the kind of young man I want to see carry on the blues.’ I kind of felt responsible as being almost a torch bearer. Muddy Waters told Buddy, ‘Don’t let the blues die.’ And everyone is telling me ‘You can’t let the blues die.’ One of the last times I saw Buddy, we were back stage and he was saying, ‘I can count the number of radio stations on my fingertips that play my music.’ And it’s just so sad because back in the day, that was pop music. That’s what they played on radio. B.B. King was like a radio host. It’s something I love and I don’t want to ever give up.”
That Buddy Guy moment was around seven years ago. As far as torch bearing goes you’ve done a lot in Buffalo already.
HF: “To this day, JJ White, Jeremy Keyes, some of the top musicians in town that everyone reveres as the top blues guys let me sit in with them when I was only 12 or 13. I was listening to videos I’m like, ‘Man I wasn’t that good. Why did they let me sit in with them?’ But they gave me the confidence that I needed. Because when you are learning about something, you need people telling you that you’re doing good so you stay motivated. There were a few people that kind of weren’t so supportive, but no one really went out and said anything really that nasty to me. Everyone kind of supported me. But I think the thing is, if it weren’t for the support of Buffalo and the musicians in Buffalo and people coming out to see me play and sharing my videos and following me and referring me to festivals and meeting people, I don’t think I’d be where I was if it weren’t for the people in Buffalo. That’s why I love Buffalo so much. They’ve gotten me to where I was. And I said that on the album before I played. I told everyone I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for everyone here so I want to say thank you.”
You can also hear Fogle next month at the Borderland Festival in East Aurora which takes place September 21-22 (Fogle plays the 22).
Fogle is having his CD release party at the Tralf October 24.