A talk with Jose Ramirez

Preachingblues.nl sits down with Jose Ramirez in Den Haag.
Jose Ramirez came all the way from Costa Rica Central America, for his first time in Europe.

When he started with Guitar

Jose started playing the guitar around his 13th, before that he played the drums.
Now his mom didn’t like the drums in the house cause of the noise it generated for the neighbourhood. ‘If you want to make music Jose, you need to pick another instrument’ his parents said.
His dad, a music lover, played videos from Carlos Santana and B.B. King. After seeing and hearing that, Jose knew, i got to play the guitar like those guys.
So Jose told his parents he wanted a guitar. His dad talked to grandpa, who had a workshop, working with wood and metal and sorts. Grandpa had an old 1974 acoustic guitar laying around collecting dust, so grandpa said: ‘I’m gonna fix the guitar for that kid and give it to him for christmas’.
On this 1974 acoustic guitar with nylon strings Jose learned to play the guitar.
Jose starting playing the blues from the first moment on. A bit cause something his dad said to him: ‘There are all kind of guitar players, from Rock to Jazz. But all those styles came down from the same roots, the blues. So if you want to play Rock or Jazz, you first have to learn to play the blues’.
Jose started with the blues and said he hasn’t come out of it yet.

USA and how he end up in Europe

For 2 years Jose lived in the USA for 2 years, touring and recording with Lauren Mitchell.
While he was in the States Jose was contacted by Theo “keeping the blues alive’ Brouwers. After a talk, back then, about coming to the Netherlands Jose told Theo he is with a singer now (Lauren) so Theo told him, when you have your own band or blues project, send me an email. So last year, after returning to Costa Rica, Jose send Theo a email and they did set the date for a gig at Keeping the blues Alive. Around that date he and Bluesther searched for other gigs. He is touring Spain also with the Mojo Workers (from Spain).

What about the Project ?

Jose now has his Jose Ramirez Project. While it’s his band, he called it Project after he talked with his dad about playing USA, Europe and Panama. His dad said: “When you play in the USA or Europe and later on Panama, you’ll be playing with all different musicians, that’s not your band but it is your project”.
Beside playing the blues Jose is also trying to develop the Costa Rica blues scene for around ten years now. The people in Costa Rica don’t know what the blues is, they confuse it with Jazz and with bands like Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Doors. All great music but not “The Blues”. Jose says it’s a cultural thing, being raised with Salsa, Reggae and more Latin American music. Because of that, people have no clue what Blues music is. He said: ‘When you tell people you play blues, the people say ohhh nice you play jazz’.
To educate the people from Costa Rica about the blues he started a Blues Jam 5 years ago, every monday night at the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose. That’s a successful jam and is still alive. He also organized multiple festivals, bringing artists like Betty Davis from The States to Costa Rica.
Betty Davis supported Jose a lot and in the end she told him he should go to The States.
That was it, so Jose told his parents he wanted to go to The States. His parents said they support him, and his dream, but they could not financially support him. In the states he then was hired by Lauren Mitchell to play guitar in her band and tour with her.

Who are your heroes ?

As a kid Jose would say BB King was the best and the only one. Meanly because he had all the albums and dvd’s and books. But now he’s a bit older, BB King is still great but there are so many artists even before and after BB King so he couldn’t pick one. Jose is not a big fan of contemporary blues and leans more toward traditional blues. Listening to Robert Johnson on almost daily basis. Nowadays the blues is struggling, where big blues festivals book bands who are more toward rock, blues-rock then they are toward traditional blues. Jose also listens to the old west coast swing bands. To bands like Little Charlie, Mark Hummel and Robert Cray. Jose says Robert Cray is a treat, while he plays more americana, soul and sometimes blues. And Jose listens to Keb Mo finding him amazing. But in the end, when Jose dies he is sure BB King will be the last song for him.

Future goals

Goal nr 1: Jose is going to record his first album in the USA. Recording his original music which will come out later this year. That his first goal, to get his album out and generate exposure for his own music.
For his first album Jose wants to collaborate with 3 or 4 well known Guitarists from the USA.

Goal nr 2: Jose said that’s funny cause 5 years ago, if i should have asked him then, he would have told me that he wanted to tour europe in 5 years and playing blues music in the USA. So that goal has happened. But 5 years from now he would like to be picked up by a big agency either in Europe and/or the USA. Jose tells me the agencies are the big schedule makers, they can book the whole tour and Jose himself can focus on the music. The bigger agencies keep their artists busy. Sometimes artists go independent but they have to do all the dirty work themself. They cannot focus enough on their music and on the writing and sorts.

Goal nr 3: Maybe get a live album out from the tour in Europe. That would be nice.

Thank you Jose Ramirez for the opportunity to have a nice talk with you.

Ps: After this talk we witnessed a great performance from The Jose Ramirez Project with guest artists like Kat Riggins and Bart Kamp at The “Haagse Hout heeft de blues”

Pictures of the concert at The Haagse hout