"I've played in almost every state in this country," says Paul Geremia. And he's taken his guitar across the border, too, playing Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Slovenia.
TIMELESS APPEAL Geremia.
The music that's sent him halfway around the world? Scan the Johnston native's discography dating back to the 1960s and you'll find the songs "Early Mornin' Blues," "Shuckin' Sugar Blues," "Gamblin' Woman Blues," "Bad Dream Blues," "Stone Sober Blues," and "Back Door Blues." Geremia likes to say he was born in the "Providence River Delta."
He will return to that delta in late April when he — alongside journalist-turned-MTV-exec-turned-novelist Bill Flanagan and the late, great songwriter George M. Cohan of "Over There" and "The Yankee Doodle Boy" fame, among others — will be inducted into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame.
Naturally, the bluesman, 68, was on the road when he heard the news this week and we caught up with him over the phone from south Florida. The interview has been edited and condensed.
YOUR WEBSITE DOESN'T LIST AN EMAIL ADDRESS. YOUR FACEBOOK PAGE PROMISES THAT COMMENTS WILL BE PASSED ALONG TO YOU. ARE YOU CONSCIOUSLY AVOIDING TECHNOLOGY? I'm still using the telephone and, I figure, if the telephone isn't good enough, then don't call me! [Laughs] There's also a whole lot of crap on computers that I don't care to get into. I don't like commercials on television, so don't have a television. I just don't find [in] the computer or the Digital Age anything that appeals to me. I had a girlfriend who I used to try to call at night and when her line would be busy, I'd say the next day, "Gee, I was tryin' to call for hours, you know?" She said, "Oh, I was online." And then she up and left me and married this other guy. And I often wondered: it was probably true that when I was trying to reach her on the phone, she was communicating with that guy on the computer, online. So that's always turned me off about computers. I lost my girlfriend to a computer. [Laughs.]
ARE THE BLUES A WAY TO COMMUNICATE WITH THE PAST? I think it's a way of communicating with timeless things. The subject of the blues is one of the things that gives it timeless appeal. So, I guess, in a way you could say it helps you communicate with the past in that there are things that always were and always will be; there are things that we can't outlive.
LIKE WHAT? You know, like Son House said: "The blues is about the relationship between a man and a woman. And that's all it is. There's nothing else to it." He said, "If you're writing about something else, it's not the blues." I tend to agree with him. That's the crux of the whole issue.