MKE Music Maven An off the stage interview with Amy Ashby

A few years ago while researching the local music scene in Southeast Wisconsin for a photography event (Blues to the Rescue: A Story in Photographs), I found out about the local band, "The Incorruptibles." So I contacted, Amy Ashby (Lead vocals/Upright bass) who was gracious enough to give me an interview. It took me a few years, but some user-friendly tech enabled me to finally present the interview to you. - - - Enjoy ! (Leanne w/SEWI Blues and Jazz).

"The Incorruptibles" between sets at the Ozaukee County Fairgrounds.: L to R, Bill Siebert (Drums-Backing Vocals), Amy Ashby, (Upright Bass-Lead Vocals) and JImmy McCarthy, (Guitar-Lead Vocals). (Summer, 2014)

What inspired you to name your band, The Incorruptibles?

Jimmy actually came across it. It's in reference to the religious belief that:
  • "Godly intervention allows some human bodies (specifically saints and beati) to avoid the normal process of decomposition after death as a sign of their holiness. Bodies that undergo little or no decomposition, or delayed decomposition, are sometimes referred to as incorrupt or incorruptible."
He brought it up as a potential band name and we loved it. It's catchy and provokes all kinds of interaction with fans. Coming up with a good, catchy band name is always a challenge!

Your bio mentions being “vocal-driven.” With a trio of such talented musicians what does that mean?

We feel that in general, vocals in a band are often not the center of attention – especially in blues bands. Since Jimmy and I are sharing the lead vocals, and Bill can also harmonize, we wanted to really make the vocals stand out. We do some duets and we do some harmonizing.
The Incorruptibles at the 'Tonic Tavern' in the Bayview neighborhood of Milwaukee, WI (December 2014),
With both male and female lead vocals, fans get a variety. We set out to focus on that from practice #1, and it's paid off – fans love it!

You continue to be part of jam sessions with some of the local blues legends. Was it easy to get your foot in the door?

Prior to moving to Milwaukee, I was an active blues musician in northern WI. Reverend Raven often tours (that area) and he was one of few musicians I knew when I moved here. Just a week after moving down, I caught him at Mamie's on 33rd & National. He asked if I wanted to sit in and play some bass. That's really where I got my foot in the door, so to speak.
Reverend Raven (L) with Westside Andy (R) at the Paramount Blues Festival in Lime Kiln Park, Grafton, WI (September 2014)
From there, I returned the next week to their Tuesday night blues jam and played and sang. I met musicians there that told me about other blues jams, even those that are unadvertised, and it went from there. For several months, I'd go out 3-4 nights a week and jam. I immersed myself into the local blues scene.
"I’ve been playing with Stokes at Mamie's as the house bass player during their Tuesday night blues jam for the last few years, and we've become pals. It's a real treat to play with someone like him and I have enjoyed every minute backing him up on bass."
Stokes with Harvey Westmoreland at Mamies in the Silver City neighborhood, Milwaukee, WI (Summer, 2014)
It's not always easy to get your foot in the door in a new scene – especially being female. Everyone knows every one and their abilities, and then some new girl walks in and asks if she can jam.
They give you a funny look, pair you up with another unknown and sit back and watch. Sometimes, they'll give you a little test. Start you out with something easy and if you pass that test, they'll start throwing stuff at you and see if they can trip you up. If you pass, you're in. Then you can play with the more seasoned players.
To this day, I will never forget going to a jam (in another city) years and years ago. A well-known guitar player that I admire was there and I was really hoping I could jam with him. Since I was new to the jam in this particular city, and only knew one of the local musicians, I was once again, that unknown female. The guitar player showed, but even after being told that I could play, he still refused to take the stage with me. I got up with a group of musicians and played the first song while he sat in the audience and watched. By the end of that song, he had grabbed his guitar and joined us on stage. We jammed, we became friends and have jammed on occasion over the years.
If you have talent, getting your foot in the door is really about someone giving you a chance to prove it.

Would you consider the blues to be a waning genre or style on a national level?

I personally feel that the blues is very much alive, but just not as mainstream at a national level because we are losing so many of the biggest names. I've moved around the state of Wisconsin and have traveled throughout the US, and in most places you'll find a "blues scene".
Maybe it's just a few bands in a small town, maybe it's Clarksdale, Mississippi, maybe it's a big city (but one thats not known for its blues scene). There's a lot of blues out there, but you don't know it exists until you start digging.
I've lived in Milwaukee since 2010, and while I have been to almost every blues jam in the city, I still find that there are some clubs and players, playing the blues, that I have never heard of.
Places you don't see advertised in the papers or online. People whose names you never see in print or pictures never taken, but are likely to blow your mind when you get an opportunity to hear them.
Tom Holland, Amy and Jimi Schutte at "BBQ & Blues", Motor Bar @ Harley-Davidson Museum in the Menomonee River Valley neighborhood, Milwaukee, WI (October 2016)
I intend to delve deeper into the underground blues scene in the city, with a little help from my friends.
Tom Holland and Amy at Motor Bar (October 2016)

From a performer’s perspective, what is it about the pop culture movement of Rockabilly, that is so popular even decades later?

I think that the popularity of the music is really hand-in-hand with the culture as a whole. Hot rods. Greasers. Pin-ups. Rock and roll. People actually live the lifestyle and the music is a big part of it. The music itself from the era is still covered by bands, but you have a newer generation of rockabilly and roots rock and roll that keeps it alive.
Artists like Big Sandy and His Fly Rite Boys, The Bellfuries, JD McPherson, Nikki Hill – they live the same lifestyle and make new music that still has that retro feel but incorporates new ideas as well.
And then you have off-shoots like Psychobilly that infuse heavier music – but they generally live the same lifestyle. I really feel that the entire culture is helping keep rockabilly strong. I mean, you don't see a culture dedicated to the 80's!

If it was possible to go back in time who would you like to have performed with?

Rockabilly: Hands down - Carl Perkins. I can not get enough of him! What an icon and musical genius!
Blues: Hands down, my main blues man – Albert Collins. He is my favorite blues guitarist of all-time with his finger pickin' on his Telecaster. His storytelling-vocal style is unmatched by anyone – well, maybe except for Buddy Guy.

As a musician-vocalist-business manager-entrepreneur, would you have some advice for the next generation of female artists interested in Blues and Rockabilly?

Doing more of the business end over the last 2 years had been a real education. I'm still learning. The only advice I have for any female who wishes to take on a role like I have is this: Have guts.
If you don't have them, then take a sideman role in the band you play in.
If you want to start your own band and be the star, you need to be used to being uncomfortable. Get used to a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows. Best gigs of your life and, rejection after rejection.
The music is the EASY part. Getting yourself booked, doing great marketing, being professional and managing everything that goes into getting you on the stage is a lot of work. If you want it bad enough, you need to find the guts to do it. I had to.
Even today I find myself get frustrated on occasion and want to quit. Maybe I didn't get the turnout at a gig I had hoped for. Maybe I didn't get that festival I really wanted to play. Quitting gets you nowhere.
Amy @ Motor Bar, (October 2016)
And, unless you have a lot of money to hire someone to do everything for you, it's either do it or don't play.
Every day I put on my big girl pants and do what I have to do to try and keep the train on the track and keep pickin' up steam. The best part?
When you have one of those "best gig of my life" moments, it's all worth it! It gives you that shot in the arm you need to work harder and push to the next level.
You also need to be out in the scene and supporting other musicians and promoting yourself. Often!
That's how you spread the word and make fans. I've dropped in on a whim to a local jam, got up and played a few songs on my upright and sang, and have gotten gigs for my band from people just hearing ME play with a jam band. You never know who might be in the audience. And you get to meet a lot of really great people along the way.
Amy between sets with pals, "Brent Johnson and The Callup" at Kochanski's in the historic Burnham Park neighborhood, Milwaukee, WI (Fall 2014)
"Our band decided from day 1, that while we were all veteran blues musicians, we didn't want to be a blues band. About 1/4 of our song list is blues or blues-based. And we always have standards we can pull out of our pocket at a moment's notice."
However, the blues we play is not your standard stuff. We play more of the B-side tunes than the hits. We also infuse roots rock and roll (Buddy Holly, Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Roy Orbison, etc.) and rockabilly in our song list... with little dashes of soul and R&B mixed in.
They all have one thing in common – it's not what anyone else is playing!
One of our biggest compliments we hear at shows is how diverse our song list is. It's a "great mix". It "takes you on a journey through the decades". We'll blues it down with Kim Wilson's, "Don't Touch Me Baby", then play "I'll Cry Instead" by the Beatles, move to some rockabilly with "Say When" by Carl Perkins and then play some good old rock and roll with "So Long Baby Goodbye" by The Blasters.
The Blasters performing at Turner Hall in Milwaukee, WI (June 2015)
Amy & friends at the Blasters gig at Turner Hall (June 2015)
And then there's our original music. About 1/3 of our song list is original. Both Jimmy and I write blues/roots rock sounding originals, so it fits well with the covers we choose. We can play the blues. We can rock and roll. Add strong vocals to a trio with guitar and upright slap bass and what we have is unique to this area.

Are there any festivals and venues on your must play list?

In terms of area blues festivals, Waukesha Blues Fest is great! It's well-organized, well-run and a festival that showcases SE WI talent, along with regional and national artists. We played for the 2013 festival, and we STILL get fans who say they saw us there!

Where will "The Incorruptibles" be in 10 years?

"I love this band! And, in 10 years, I hope we'll still be rockin' and rollin'! My goal as a musician is to be known on a regional level, have a strong following, record and sell my original music and have fun playing – which is what it's all about for me. I'd love to see us reach that point, and go out and do occasional 10-day tours. We released a 2-song single in 2014 and our debut album in July of 2016! We've been getting international airplay and great reviews have been rolling in. I hope we have much more success from that album and write several more!"
Created By
Leanne Parshalle
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Photo credit(s): Leanne Parshalle / Blues to the Rescue

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