Interview with Cousin Harley’s Paul Pigat!

Posted by Fiona On January - 26 - 20115,607 views

One of today’s hottests bands in rockabilly is Cousin Harley.
There are three albums out (‘Hillbilly Madness’, ‘Jukin’’  and ‘It’s a Sin’), one of which is reviewed recently.

Rockabilly online thought it was time to interview one of the best rootsguitarplayers from Canada,
Paul Pigat.
Paul Pigat is an amazing guitarist, singer and songwriter and he is regarded as a creative musician in different styles; swing, rockabilly, blues, bluegrass, country etc.
Paul played with musicians like Jim Byrnes and Kid Ramos.
The band Cousin Harley is formed by Jesse Cahill on drums, Keith Picot on the upright bass/vocals and Paul Pigat on guitar/vocals.
In Canada, Jesse Cahill is known and respected as one of the best drummers in Jazz. He played among others with David Fathead Newman.
Keith Picot had recently won the maple blues award for best bass player of Canada. That’s enough from me, let’s learn about Paul:

During the youth of a musician, often a strong fundament is laid by which a musician is influenced. What do you recall about your childhood regarding music? Was there a certain someone that turned you on to your musical heroes?
“I guess it would have to be my Brother. I didn’t really come from a musical family but my brother had a great record collection. That’s where I heard BB King, Robert Gordon, the Beatles, Johnny Winter and many more musicians for the first time.
I seem to recall a record called “Kooky Country” that was put out by K-Tel as my favourite when I was really young. It had “hotrod Lincoln” by Commander Cody on it and I thought the sound of that guitar was just the best thing I’d ever heard.”

You were at the age of twelve when you performed for the first time.
What was the music you were playing? Was it rootsmusic then or was it maybe something completely different?
“We played all kinds of stuff as all the bar bands did at that time.    From classic stuff like Chuck Berry and Waylon Jennings,  to more contemporary bands  like Nazareth and Teenage Head (canadian rocknroll/punk band).   I guess it was all pretty rootsy looking back but it didn’t seem so at the time.”

You’re doing solo projects, as well as performing with your band Cousin Harley.
Where does the name Cousin Harley come from?
“When I moved to Vancouver Island I got hooked up with a great bunch of musicians and played with them for many years in side projects. The leader of this pack of misfits was a gal named Carolyn Mark. She started an all Honky Tonk band called the Fixins and everyone had to have a nickname. Mine was Cousin Harley and it just seemed to stick.
We had a side project of that band called the Metronome Cowboys. A real cowpunk kinda thing and my name in that outfit was Cussin Harley. It was my job to play steel guitar (which I must admit I did quite poorly..) swear at the audience between songs.   Man, that was a fun time!”


Where did you find Keith Picot (the upright bass) and Jesse Cahill (drums)?
“I’ve known Jesse for a long time. He was an infamously good drummer around Victoria when I lived there. We had chatted about doing some work together for a few years and when Steve Taylor decided to leave the band, Jesse was my first choice.
I didn’t meet Keith for quite a few years later. I believe the first time we were in the same room together he tried to pick up my girlfriend!! We actually met properly a few years later while doing some gigs with Pete Turland who was playing bass for me at the time. He’s a great guitarist as well and we’d do some gigs where he’d front the band and I’d play backup guitar. He hired Keith for a gig and we all just hit it off. When Pete moved to Edmonton, it was just the logical step to get Keith in the band.”

When you’re on tour together, how do you manage to keep having fun together?
“Its pretty hard not to have fun with those two. I’ve always been a believer that you have to have a pretty good friendship within a band to really make it work. You have to spend a lot of time together and it’s a heck of a lot easier if you like each other. The music helps, and the audience, and I guess some drinks every once in a while don’t hurt either!!”

I’ve seen three gigs of Cousin Harley in a few days. None of them were the same, and every gig had so much energy in it.
What makes all the energy in live Cousin Harley?
“There’s a fair amount of improvisation that happens at every gig. We’re all good enough at our instruments that we can let loose and know that the other members have our back. We’re always pushing each other as well, seeing how far we can take a tune. It keeps it fresh.”

One of my slogans is;
‘a woman can’t have enough high heels. Every mood needs another pair’.
For me it is the same with guitars.
The more the better. Do you have a favourite guitar, or maybe more than one? Or maybe a combination of an amp and guitar?
“I’m with ya on that!! I have a large collection of guitars and love them all.
I guess there are combinations  I go to more than others though. My Gretsches (Country Club and Black Falcon)  through the Gretsch Executive is what I’m using most of the time lately but I still love the old Gibson ES350 with my Ampeg GU12. They really sound different and make me play differently. The Gretsch rig is really rockin and I can do anything I can come up with on them, while the more vintage rig makes me play more traditionally.
Some of the other stuff I’m really enjoying lately are my Squire Classic Vibe Tele, and a Cigarbox guitar made by Daddy Mojo. Both are great instruments and each inspires me.
The search for that perfect tone is elusive though. I don’t think I’ll ever stop buying and selling gear looking for that “perfect” tone.
I was just down in California and had a chance to play with Kid Ramos. WHAT A SOUND!!! Makes me want to get a Vox AC30 and a Strat!!!”

You’re on the road a lot. You’re known to work with a lot of different musicians. Is there a special memory you want to share?
“It all kind of blurs together after a while but there are always those moments that you remember.    About 10 years ago I was playing a gig in Calgary, Alberta and Shorty Lafayette was hanging out. He had just done a week there and was between gigs. We stayed up drinking whiskey til the wee hours and at one point he just started singing “Rainy Night in Georgia”. It was one of the most musical experiences I’ve ever had.
There are many more that come to mind.
Last year we all had a chance to hang out with Duane Eddy at the Namm show. He and his wife, Deed are awesome folk and they stuck around and checked out the band. That was a real honor.
I just played with Kid Ramos in California last week. I think that experience will stick with me forever!!
There are tons more… maybe i should write them down so I don’t forget!!”

Speaking for myself, over a certain period of time I’m into this or that style of music or performer. There are things that connect one style to another.
Does it work the same for you? Are there certain elements that are essential for you?
“I’m a real magpie when it comes to music. I like to take ideas for a lot of different sources. I’m into and always have been into a lot of different styles of music, from Country, Hard Rock, Punk, Jazz,Rockabilly to Classical (I studied that for about 7 years)  and  I think they all kinda work together if you can find a way to mix them.
I figure, I’ve spent this much time on a certain style that when I start working on another, theres no reason to throw away everything I’ve already learned. It makes a unique sound and thats all I’ve ever really wanted out of my playing.
If there was one thing that I could consider essential for my playing it would be the fingerstyle element. Don’t want to let those classical chops go to waste. I never knew at the time that all that work on Bach would really help out in my Travis picking!!”

The last two albums that were released, were your solo project “Boxcar Campfire” and Cousin Harley’s “It’s a Sin”.
Two totally different albums. That makes me curious what will be the next.
Are you workin’ on new stuff?
“I’m just kind of toying around with ideas right now. The latest idea is an all Honky Tonk record. I’ve always had a soft spot for those tunes and I’ve played them for years. I know a lot of great players here in Vancouver that can play the heck out of that stuff so if I do decide to go that way, I may have a bunch of guests on the cd.  I’m not sure if there is a market for it but thats never stopped me in the past. I just do what I’m into at the time and I’ve been lucky that people have liked what I’ve put out. Who knows though, that could change tomorrow. I’m kind of scattered that way.
I’m working on a Tribute to Bob Wills right now for a radio broadcast so maybe that will turn into something. I never know til I start.”

Where can we see you the next few months?
“I’m sticking around Canada for the next few months so there will be some local shows with Cousin Harley and some of my other side projects.
I don’t really like touring in the winter especially through the mountains so I lay pretty low this time of year. I think my students are happy about that!”

Are there any plans of a new European tour?
“I think we’re planning something in the Summer but nothing is set in stone as of yet. I can’t wait to get back there though!! Its really a blast and the audiences are fantastic. Its kinda the place where its all happening so I’ll keep my fingers crossed.”

Can you name a rockabilly musician you’d like to know more about?
“I’d like to know more about some of the European Rockabilly guys. Darrel Higham, Walter Broes etc. Canada is a very difficult country to tour so we don’t see much of the roots scene from Europe. I’m sure there are tons of cats that can really play out there that I’ve never heard of!! Maybe next time I’m in Europe I’ll get a chance to meet them.”

3 Responses to “Interview with Cousin Harley’s Paul Pigat!”

  1. […]   – You’re playing in two fantastic bands. Is there something you’re missing, why do you want to go out on your own? Is that because you feel you want to be more than just a bassplayer? Keith: ‘I don’t intend to leave the Twisters or Cousin Harley. I just miss fronting a band and singing to the folks. I love the feeling. When there is down time off the road with either band I can run around singing and playing my favorite tunes. I used to front allot and I always said “if I found a band in witch I only had to play the bass I’d be set”. Now I have exactly that and in spades. I guess the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.’ […]

  2. […] on a Dutch tour for a week now and will continue until June 13th. A while ago Fiona talked to Paul Interview with Cousin Harley’s Paul Pigat! and Keith: Keith Picot joins the RootsBrothers! Angel reviewed their latest album: Cousin Harley […]

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