Interview: Saxophonist Mindi Abair discusses her new album, 'The EastWest Sessions'
Photo courtesy PR-2 and used with permission

Recorded at the famed EastWest Studios in Hollywood, Grammy-nominated saxophonist Mindi Abair and The Boneshakers first studio release, The EastWest Sessions, is an eleven-song compilation that continues Abair’s progression from contemporary jazz artist to full-blown, blues/rock queen.

The album, produced by Kevin Shirley (Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Joe Bonamassa), is an eclectic combination of blues, rock and soul that also showcases critically acclaimed Boneshakers founder, Randy Jacobs (Bonnie Raitt, Was Not Was, Willie Nelson) injecting his brand of Detroit blues-rock guitar into the mix.

From the rock-fueled, pulse thumping single, “Vinyl” to the anthemic, tongue-in-cheek “Pretty Good For A Girl” (which features a blistering guitar solo by special guest, Joe Bonamassa), The EastWest Sessions once again showcases Abair at her absolute best.

AXS recently spoke to Mindi Abair about The EastWest Sessions and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: How did your relationship with Randy Jacobs come about?

Mindi Abair: It actually goes back a long time. When I first moved to L.A. I was hired by a rock band that played a club in Hollywood every Thursday and the guitar player just so happened to be Randy Jacobs. I remember the first night just watching him out there killing a solo, and then in the middle of it he literally does a backflip into the audience. It was the coolest thing I had ever seen and that’s when I said, "I’m going to be friends with this guy" [laughs]! 

How does The EastWest Sessions relate to some of your previous work?

MA: This is a blues-rock and soul influenced record and a continuation of what I did with my last album, Wild Heart. Joining forces with The Boneshakers a few years ago really took things to the next level. In fact, the first show that we did together actually became our live album. We just went in with the idea of letting go and having a great time in the studio and that’s exactly what happened.

AXS: What was the writing process like?

MA: These songs came from a few different places. The lead single, “Vinyl” I wrote in Nashville with Jerry Flowers, who’s Keith Urban’s music director. We both sat down thinking what would a soul, rock and blues album that features sax and horns sound like, and “Vinyl” came out of that session. Another time, I bought some licks I recorded to Randy’s house and out of that came “Live My Life.” The song “Freedom” I wrote with my keyboard player, Dave Yaden, who also wrote with me a lot on Wild Heart. The songs really morphed when we got into the sudden and let the band have their way with them.

AXS: What can you tell me about the track, “Pretty Good For A Girl” and how did Joe Bonamassa become a part of recording it?

MA: That was a song that Randy and I wrote together. It’s a tongue in cheek song about things that myself and a lot of women have gone through. Women do amazing things every day in their different areas of expertise but every once in a while, someone comes along and says "that’s pretty good for a girl". As I was writing it slowly started to become an anthem and a motivating force. We didn’t have any special guests lined up for the album and one day Kevin Shirley said, “You know? I think Joe Bonamassa would kill this song.” Two days later Joe came in, but he didn’t just come in and play a solo. He came in and played the entire track with us. He really upped everyone’s game. He’s such a gentleman and a beautiful musician.

AXS: You mentioned Kevin Shirley. What as it like working with him?

MA: Kevin really gets the best out of you. He’s such a great guy to have in the studio to bounce things off of and to offer advice. It felt very natural.

AXS: Are there any other projects you’re involved with?

MA: We decided to take the concept of Pretty Good For a Girl further by building a website to celebrate women and to lift each other up. We’re currently doing a promotion where you can send in a clip of yourself in action. Whether it’s riding a Harley, riding a wave or playing a musical instrument, we’re going to make a music video for "Pretty Good For Girl" having all of these women kicking ass.

AXS: What satisfies you the most about the new album and this next phase of your career?

MA: We had such a fun time and were so inspired making this record. It’s also been wild to live through a transformation. Although I wouldn't call this a total reinvention over the last few years--especially with Wild Heart and the changes in the band--I’ve morphed from the jazz charts to the blues and rock charts and it’s put a huge smile on my face. It was such a cool change and I’m looking forward to more of that.