RR: Whenever I’ve seen you play here in New York at Sin-é or Fez, people sit there mesmerized.
JB: People weren’t into it at first. I had to fight to be heard. Then I had to stop fighting. Whole months would go by where people would just be talking. I even got a headache from a performance one time.
RR: What changed?
JB: I learned how to use everything in the room as the music. A tune has to resonate with whatever is happening around it. So if people are talking, I let them talk. That just means they’re part of the music. I even had to learn the noise the dishwasher makes at this little cafe; I had to play in B-flat, or it wouldn’t sound right.
RR: I want to talk about another Michael. I read a review that compared your recent EP, Live at Sin-é, with Michael Bolton’s new record.
JB: Oh, my God! Oh, shit, that’s really disgusting!
RR: It gets worse. They said he has succeeded in taking from the tradition of African American soul and blues singers in a way that you have miserably failed.
JB: Really? But the thing is, I’m not taking from that tradition. I don’t want to be black. Michael Bolton desperately wants to be black, black, black. He also sucks.
Silly boy, I love you!