Riveting Riffs Logo One  Mindi Abair and The Boneshakers - No Good Deed
Mindi Abair and the Boneshakers

“We always joke that our band is a sport. Some people just stand there and play or play quietly or play nice little Jazz, but with what we do we are dripping wet by the second song. It is a sport and we all believe that you are supposed to give a pound of flesh and that you are supposed to give a piece of your soul every night to (your audience) That is the deal that you make when you step on stage. I think it is good for us. It is a great catharsis. I don’t need therapy, because I have a band (she laughs) and an audience,” says singer, songwriter and saxophonist Mindi Abair, while talking about her band Mindi Abair and the Boneshakers.

Abair’s comments were part of a conversation when talking about the song “Whose Going to Save My Soul?” from the new album No Good Deed released on June 28 (2019).

About the song she says, “It is a hard song to sing, because you have to give your all. It is one of those songs that you can’t pretend. Every ounce of your being has to emote. This will be one of the songs in the set that takes it out of us.”

Mindi Abair both sings and plays a lengthy saxophone solo during “Whose Going to Save My Soul?” and we wondered how much that is going to sap her energy.

“I think that it is really helpful to have songs that I am singing and then songs that I am playing sax on (both for the same song). It breaks it up. Sometimes if you are just playing saxophone all night, those muscles get broken down and those muscles in your face hurt. As a singer different muscles are going to be worked. It is all energy and it is all (about) you giving, but it is different. It does help to be able to spread it out over the night and to go I am going to sing this song and play this sax.

As far as wearing you out, it spreads it out a little more. It is a lot of energy and I am going to be exhausted to do this record live. “You Better Run,” oh my god I have done that one live. Your heart is beating out of your chest.”

So let’s talk about the song “You Better Run,” a song originally recorded by The Young Rascals in 1966 and written by Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigatti.

Mindi Abair and The Boneshakers Photo TwoKevin Shirley (producer) sent an email one night and he said I really feel like this is a Boneshakers song. I think you guys would kill this song. It just sounds like you guys. I listened to it and I thought wow I can totally hear us playing this. The guys will tear this up. Oh my god. We tried it out at one of our shows during the soundcheck. It was how would you play this? How would you do this? We just had fun with it and had fun with the way that we would play it. To delve into a Punk band and one of their songs and have our way with it I love that. I love just finding music that inspires you and that you can see yourself in. We are not here to remake any one song the way that it came out. That is not our style, but if you can see something in someone else’s song and you want to make it your own, then you can hear how you can make it your own, I think that is an inspiring song. We had fun playing the song and it is the first one that we added to our live set. We just couldn’t wait. We have to play this song. Come on.

(The audience when it hears the song) the people will lose their minds. If you aren’t moving, jumping around and possibly pounding on the person next to you, while this song is playing, you are dead inside. You have to be up and you have to be rockin’ out, because it is just so fun.

My first concert that I paid to go and see was Cheap Trick, so I came up with the notion that you should have your hands over your head with a lighter in your hand and just going nuts for the whole concert. That is what I thought a concert should be. None of that has changed over the years for me, whether it is Blues, Rock, Jazz, Soul, Pop or anything else. Some people have the same live sound and the same arrangements and the same everything as their CD, but we aren’t that band. We are definitely a band that takes it to the next level live and lets it breathe and morph. We have fun with it every night. The live experience takes it a lot of steps further,” she says.

Since she mentioned Kevin Shirley the producer we thought we would ask what makes him the perfect producer for Mindi Abair and The Boneshakers? (Kevin Shirley has worked as a producer and mixer with bands like Iron Maiden, Journey, Rush, Led Zeppelin and Beth Hart, as well as Joe Bonamassa.)

“Kevin is a really deep guy musically. He has a great ear and I love the fact he is one of those producers that makes the band that he is working with the best version of themselves. He doesn’t make you come in and sound like him. He is just very much about getting the core of who you are. He doesn’t want to muck it up with a bunch of over production. He wants that sound that you guys have as a band and he wants to make sure that it translates to a record. I love the way that he does it. He is a real cool guy and he lives by the beach in Malibu. He has a very calm, cool personality. When he delves into something he dives deep.

I have a band of guys who are immense musicians and who have great ears and we have this language between us that is very natural after playing together for so long. Kevin can walk in and he will say I think this song needs another section, and all of us trust him so much, (even though) that is the last thing that I want to hear a day before we record a song or the day that we record the song. He will turn a song on its end and when you look back you will think how could that song not have another section?  He was so right. I think it is great to have someone in the studio with you that has an ear apart from yours. It is fun having him come in and make little changes that just make a world of difference. He is great and the guys and I just love him. He has become the sixth member of the band,” says Abair.

No Good Deed very much has a live feel to the album and Mindi Abair talks about what contributes to that sound, “We recorded back to back (for five days) and we were out for dinner every night too. We didn’t stay until three in the morning. We were done by seven every night and we went home to our families. We had a good time. It is pretty amazing to walk into the studio with these guys for five days. We would just go in and we would record it as a band and the vocals went down as the music went down. It is not like I had a vocal day when I came in and did the stuff again. That is not the case. It is the same with the sax solos and the guitar solos. It is all in the energy of the moment. I love the energy of that, because it is a different energy, as we work together and we play off of each other. I am proud that it took us only five days. I was watching a Peter Gabriel special and the album So took them ten months and that was the quickest record that he ever made. I was thinking wow that’s a whole different animal. We didn’t do more than a couple of takes, because there is that magic of finding it as a band and when you start thinking about it too much you can ruin it.

It is a live performance and it is us playing together.  We are not layering stuff and we are not spending a week on a snare sound just to get a certain thing. We are really playing like we play (live) and captured who we are. I like that, because I think one of the hardest things to do is to catch that lightening in a bottle when you are live on a tape or on a record. I love the fact that we have captured that in the few records that we’ve made. That you feel that abandon and that you feel that mojo and that energy of us live in the moment. That is cool and that doesn’t happen every day.”

No Good Deed by Mindi Abair And The Boneshakers is released on Pretty Good For A Girl Records, Abair’s own label.

She explains why, “I moved away from being on a major label. I wanted a change and I wanted to own the music that we are making. I wanted the creative freedom to bring in the producer that I was loving which was Kevin Shirley. He is just incredible. I took it upon myself and boy it is a lot of work. It is definitely the most work I have ever done.  It feels good to own what we create and to have control over it. The last three records that we have done have been on Pretty Good For A Girl Records.” Mindi Abair and the Boneshakers Photo Three

As for the name of her record label she says, “I wrote a song with Randy Jacobs for the record The East West Sessions called “Pretty Good For a Girl,” and it was a tongue in cheek song. We were having fun. I brought the lyrics in and we were just getting down and dirty playing some Blues. Many times after shows people come and they mean well. They are so complimentary, will shake my hand and they will go, wow you are pretty good for a girl. It is surprise and it is wow we didn’t expect this. It is really cool. One day we will be past that, but we’re not and it is fine. I love being a part of that shattering of the glass ceiling and being a part of changing those misperceptions about what a woman should be or what a woman should look like or what instrument a woman should play or what a sax player should look like. Someone had to write this song and I know a lot of women who have come across that hey you are pretty good for a girl. I wrote the song and we thought it would be a tongue and cheek song on our record and that we would have a good time playing live. A lot of radio stations picked it up and it became a hit for us on the last record. Sirius XM Bluesville was just playing the hell out of it. I thought that was the coolest thing in the world. We made tee shirts, bracelets and necklaces and I made a website called Pretty Good For a Girl dot net where we celebrate women. We have a cool time lifting women up and showcasing women and the cool things women are doing. I really love that and I thought the title was apt for my record label. Why not have fun?”

Our conversation turns to talking about the members of the band, “Randy Jacobs is the best guitar player on the planet. I met him when I first moved to LA I got hired for a Rock band and we played the Mint in Hollywood every week. I remember standing on the stage, and I was brand new and I was watching Randy play this guitar burning solo. He was in the same band as me.  He (went) up to the edge of the stage and he took a back flip into the audience, landed and he kept playing. The audience just went nuts and I thought okay we are going to be friends (she laughs). Sure enough we were friends and we played in that band for a while. He then started his band The Boneshakers. He had been in Was (Not Was) and Bonnie Raitt’s band. I love the way that he plays. He has played on some of my solo records and I have played on his solo records. I just feel like we have this immense chemistry as players and human beings and we have always been friends. He is someone that I love where he came from musically. He is from Detroit, but he has this edge and roughness to him. He will go into this swampy slide guitar and who knows where he learned that, but it wasn’t Detroit. I am from Florida and he is supposed to learn that down there (she laughs lightly). I am a fan of his playing, his showmanship and his energy. That guy is the real thing.

Rodney Lee (keyboardist) has been in my band for seventeen years and I have to say that the sun rises and sets on Rodney Lee. I remember when he was first playing in the studio just goofing around and Kevin Shirley heard him play. His eyes got big and he goes that guy is a Rock star and I just looked at him and went, oh you don’t even know yet. He can hang with the Herbie Hancock’s of the world or hang with a Rock band or a Blues band. This guy is deep musically and one of the most beautiful human beings on the planet. It has been fun to be in the trenches with him for seventeen years and to make music with him and to be a part of his life.

Third Richardson is our drummer. We are from the same hometown. He was just across the bridge from me in St. Petersburg in Clearwater, Florida. Third is like a wild animal. We chain him up to the drums every night and we let him go. He has (such) energy. That guy starts a song and you can’t help but to follow along. You feel that pounding in your heart. That is what I love about Third.

Ben White is our bass player and we joke that he has the best hair in the band. He has a cool fauxhawk. It is not quite a Mohawk, but it is kind of a Mohawk. We call him Ben hot comb. He locks in with Third and it is all over with.

It is a great band and I am lucky to stand on stage every night with friends.  They are immense musicians who inspire me every night and they make me a better player. I love that,” she says.

The song “Moving On,” can best be described as a Rock song with a bite.

Mindi Abair agrees and says, “It just keeps going in your face the whole time. I wrote this song with my friend Brad Cox. He wrote “Not That Kind of Girl,” from our last recording session. This one is about not quite being where you want to be and just taking the step and going no, no I am supposed to move on from this. This is not my resting place. This is not my happy place. I am going to move on. Let the past be the past. Get what you want out of life and go for it. It is one of those that chugs along like a train. It is a good work out song. If you are into that kind of thing put that on and you will keep going.”

As for the Bluesy / R&B song “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul,” co-written with Tyrone Stevens, she says, “There are (times) when you write love songs and there are times when you write party songs and there are (other times) when you write I am at the very bottom of the world and I am trying to get out, will someone help me. All of us find ourselves in various places throughout our lives. This song was a song that I wrote just feeling that cry for help. It was like wait a minute, “who’s gonna save my soul.” If you find yourself at the very bottom of life and it has just all gone wrong and you are alone, this is a real question to ask. I have seen people be at that point and I have felt that pain. It is rough and it was worthy of a song for sure.

Ty has written on every record I have ever made. He wrote a lot of my older material with me from “Save the Last Dance” to “Remember to Make a Wish.” He has written all kinds of songs with me over the years.

We wrote it together and we got into this funk of what would it be like at the bottom. We were talking about life and death. It got dark in there for a few days.”

I love the fact it is an incredibly deep album and all of the songs are different. The experiences that you get from each song are journeys. I really feel like the band gelled. We have made a lot of music together and we have played live together nonstop for four or five years now. We walked into the studio and it just happened. It was very magical. I think it is deeper musically than some of the other records that we have made. We go from almost traditional Jazz or old skool Blues to hardcore Rock and Roll to Soul. I am so proud of our musical accomplishment and our bond and it shows with this record. I want everyone to hear it immediately.”

On the record No Good Deed Mindi Abair’s vocals go from being very gritty to at times very soulful. When we first talked to her almost fifteen years ago it was her sax playing that was driving all of the attention and you rarely heard Abair sing. We wanted to know why or if something had changed that allowed her to showcase her vocals more.

She laughs lightly and says, “That is a fair and very good question. When I was a kid my grandmother was an Opera singer and my dad was a sax player, so I had music and vocals around me all of the time. I sang and I played sax all of the time. When I went to college it was frowned on if you sang and you were an instrumentalist. It was this odd world of if you are an instrumentalist you know the chord changes and you know the form of the song and it is a more cerebral event than just being a singer. I wanted that respect of being an instrumentalist, so I would still sing on a bunch of people’s demos and at studios when I was in college. I would put different names (pseudonyms) on it (she laughs), as crazy as that sounds. I would make up a name.

When I got out on my own, my very first record was an independent Pop / Rock record and it was called Always and Never the Same. I still sell it on my website, but it is out of print. It was just a total Indie release, but it is all vocals. Then when I got signed to Verve Records it was really as an instrumentalist and I sang one or two songs. I did one record Stars and that was like whoa I am pushing the boundary.

I think what really set me in motion to sing more was my time with Aerosmith. I had this beautiful gift of being able to be a solo artist for so many years. I was in my own bubble and I wrote my songs. I had my band, but it was great for a couple of years being able to break out and being on American Idol and going off on my summer vacation with Aerosmith. I was singing and playing sax with Steven Tyler and the guys. Nothing pushes you to be a good singer like singing behind a great singer and he is just the best of the best. I remember coming off of that tour and thinking I need to spend time on this and I need to approach this like I approach my saxophone. I started vocal lessons. I warm up every day and I have really given it a lot of respect. I have worked towards being a great singer for our band, because we need vocals and we need to be strong in that way. Everyone in the band sings, which is amazing. I wanted to be that rock, so we could do anything that we wanted to do as a band. I have worked hard at it.”

Fans who have followed me for a lot of years have listened to the last four albums that I have done with the Boneshakers and it has taken more of a left turn into Blues, Rock and Roots music. I expected some people to run screaming, but I found that some people, who listen to Jazz, also listen to a lot of Rock and Blues. I love that, so a lot of my fans have come up to me after the shows and said I did not expect that show. I did not expect that record from you and I loved every second of it. This is really cool. I love that aspect of change and sometimes people just come on the journey with you. I believe that some people just love to make the same record again and again, but I don’t. I want to grow and I want to expand. I want to change and I want to be inspired by what inspires me at the moment. That has meant that every one of my CDs had a different feel and especially the ones that I have made with the Boneshakers these last four or five years. They have taken a turn to a lot more abandon and a lot more grit. It has been a lot of fun.”

The album No Good Deed is also a lot of fun with a little something for everyone, but always at a very high standard. Check it out. Riveting Riffs Magazine predicts this album will be a collectible. Back in the day of record stores you would have been hunting all over the city for this record, because it would have been sold out everywhere.

Please visit the website of Mindi Abair for her current tour information.   Return to Our Front Page

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This interview by Joe Montague  published June 24th, 2019 is protected by copyright © and is the property of Riveting Riffs Magazine All Rights Reserved.  All photos and artwork are the the property of the photographers as noted and Mindi Abair and The Boneshakers unless otherwise noted and all  are protected by copyright © All Rights Reserved. This interview may not be reproduced in print or on the internet or through any other means without the written permission of Riveting Riffs Magazine, All Rights Reserved