Interview with Cedric Burnside

Cedric Burnside with special guess, The Warren Earl Band. Mullumbinby Ex Services on Thursday

Cedric Burnside with special guest The Warren Earl Band

Mullum Ex Services  |  Thursday  |  8pm  |  Tix $44

Grammy-nominated 39-year-old Cedric Burnside still lives on several acres not far from the Holly Springs, Mississippi, home where he was raised by ‘Big Daddy’, his grandfather, the late singer/songwriter/guitarist R.L.Burnside whom Cedric famously played with, just as his own father, drummer Calvin Jackson, did.

Cedric was literally born to the blues, more specifically, the ‘rhythmically unorthodox’ Hill Country variant, which emerged from Mississippi where he grew up surrounded (and influenced) by Junior Kimbrough, Jessie May Hemphill and Otha Turner, as well as delta musicians T-Model Ford and Paul ‘Wine’ Jones.

What was it like to be touring with a Mississippi blues legend at 13? Were the rules for you different from the other band members, or were you running with the men while on tour?

It was amazing, and scary, all at the same time. Even though I enjoyed traveling, I was still just a nervous Mississippi (MS) kid. The rules were definitely different for me… no drinking or smoking, and I was only in the club when my Big Daddy was there. Most times I also traveled with homework from school as well.

Was being on tour just normal life for you, or did those times feel special or surreal due to the atmosphere that must have followed a legend like your Grandfather around?

It was special in the beginning, because I had never left MS before. I was seeing and experiencing new things. I was also going places I had never been before… places we talked about in school, but as I continued to travel more, it became more like a job.

In 2013 Memphis Blues Awards you as drummer of the year for the third time. Earlier in your career, while working with Lightening Malcom, you wrote a song titled ‘R.L.Burnside’, written in memory of your Grandfather. In one of the verses, you tell the story of R.L. buying you a drum kit when you were 16. The verse goes on to say you were a ‘hot head’ and that you ‘made a lot of people mad’. How did that act by your Grandfather, of giving you a drum kit, change you as a person?

Just being on the road with Big Daddy, new experiences and environments taught me some very valuable lessons in life… always treat people the way you want to be treated. So that ‘hot head’ that I had, slowly but surely, became ‘cool.’

Your most recent album, Benton County Relic,  got a lot of industry people talking, from MOJO, to Billboard, to Afropunk – they were talking you up. How did all that high profile recognition feel for you then?

It felt good, but not just because of the accolades, but because that album gave me a chance to be me, and show people my style. It was a risk that I was willing to take, and I’m glad that people liked it, but most of all, I am glad to make music the way I hear it in my head.

You are touring Benton County Relic here in Australia in March and will be playing in Mullumbimby at the Ex-Services Club on 12 March. What can your fans here in Northern New South Wales expect from your gig this year?

They are definitely going to get authentic Hill Country Blues with great energy! I’ve recently recorded a new album, so they may also hear some new music. Either way, I just hope they are ready to dance.

Cedric Burnside – from Mississippi to Mullumbimby. He plays Thursday at the Mullum Ex-Services. Tix and info from

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