Introducing: Lee O’Nell Blues Gang

France’s Lee O’Nell Blues Gang plays a mixture of blues and rock, and band leader Lionel Wernert and guitarist, along with singer/songwriter Gipsy Bacuet were on hand to fill in the blanks on our introduction to the Lee O’Nell Blues Gang.

What are the origins of the band, and how long have you been playing together?

Lionel Wernert: Well, Gipsy and I used to play together for many years, and in 2012 we decided to play only in duet. In 2019, my very best friend, my brother of heart, Fred Chapellier, the n° 1 of Blues here in France invited us as guests to one of his concerts. He really lent us his own musicians because he knew that Gipsy and I used to play his own songs while our gigs. At the end of the show, I was really thinking about forming my own band and Fred strongly and warmly encouraged me in this direction. So I formed Lee O’Nell Blues Gang in 2019, and less than 6 months after, I took the guys to the studio to record our very first album!

Gipsy Bacuet: Lionel is the leader, the guitarist, and the only composer of the group, and I’m the female voice and songwriter, helped in that job by 3 very close friends: Neal Black, Alain Leadfoot Rivet, and Jade Macrae. For those who don’t know, Jade is a fabulous Australian singer and also a background vocalist for Joe Bonamassa. When Lionel decided to form the group he wanted above all, great and talented musicians of course, so he chose the best of our area, Reims (the capital of Champagne and where all the Kings were crowned in the Middle Ages), but he also chose them for their personality, their human values, and the different universes from which they all come.

Lionel: On the drums, we have Pierre Alain Delaumoy who comes from real rock, on bass: Philippe Dandrimont who is a very good groovy and sticky man, and François Barisaux on keyboards who comes from classical piano and jazz…Now, it’s been less than 4 years we are together and things just roll by themselves. They are totally dedicated to my expectations, they never try to change the atmosphere I want to give to a song. I appreciate that so much. And Gipsy is the female voice, she can as well be strong and powerful, then sassy, glamorous, and sensual when I need her to be. She adds the jazz sound to my songs.

What should people expect when they check the band out? How would you describe yourself?

Gipsy: Someone here in France has written about us: “Lee O’Nell Blues Gang, the French band that has all it figured out when it comes to putting some Blues in Rock and vice-versa” We think it’s a good way of describing us…

Lionel: Exactly, people will find some big riffs, but also some blues phrasing, and a touch of jazz, all mixed with some vintage and modernity combination. A kind of contemporary Blues, not Blues Roots, or Chicago Blues for example. If you like Joe Bonamassa or Eric Gales, I think you should enjoy our universe.

How did you feel performing your first gig as a band, and how was it?!

Lionel: Playing together with the guys was not surprising for me, for us. What was really exciting was the first gig we had for the release of our first album, in October 2020. Before the release party, we never had played those new songs in concert. We wanted to keep the songs secret! So the first concert to present the album was very exciting. We were not nervous, but impatient to discover and hear the audience’s reaction…

Gipsy: But it was too short and we didn’t want to go backstage… After the show, when people come with their happy faces to buy the CD, it’s also very rewarding… Then when they ask you for an
autograph…

The new music scene is bursting at the seams at the minute with fresh talent, in what ways do you feel that a band has to stand out to build a name for themselves?

Lionel: That is true, nowadays, there are so many new bands that building a name is something hard. I think that the quality and the originality of the product are essential. I don’t want to follow the paths all traced in styles already too much revisited. I of course, like to listen to old-school blues, 12 bars blues, etc… but I think today you can’t invent anything in that style. That’s why, as I came from 70’s rock like Rainbow, Thin Lizzy, and Deep Purple among others, I try to mix my rock influences with the blues rules I’ve studied listening to Eric Clapton, Albert King, Peter Green etc…
I also have the chance to have a tiger who could play with her voice. She can be honey and sugar, but also bitter and strong… She can be as rock as it is sensual and glamorous at times…

What are you working on at the minute that people can check out?

Gipsy: Right now, we are making as much promotion as possible. A lot of Q/A for webzines, also radio shows, press magazines, etc… We are looking for an international opening. Our music is really appreciated in England, Nederlands, Belgium, Germany… That’s why we try to promote a lot! And we’re looking forward to getting our first concerts in Europa! So open your eyes, open your ears and soon you will hear about Lee O’Nell Blues Gang… By the way, if booking agencies are interested… do not hesitate!

In terms of a similar audience, which band out there at the minute do you feel you would be best suited to open for?

Lionel: Well, we will soon open for Ana Popovic, and the Cinelli Brothers for example. That will be some great experiences. If I could give the idea to a promoter, I would say: “Let Lee O’Nell Blues Gang open for Eric Gales or Christone Kingfish Ingram!”

Excluding yourself, which new band would you like to see break out and become a success?

Lionel: I think to my brother, Fred Chapellier I told you about above. He is here in France the N°1 of the Blues, a few years ago he recorded a tribute to Peter Green, which is, in my opinion, the best I’ve ever listened to. This album didn’t get the recognition it deserved and I really think it should be promoted in England, Germany, and all the North Europa.

What are your own first musical memories? And what was the lightbulb moment that made you go “I want to do that”?

Gipsy: Personally I started music through classical piano lessons when I was 6 years old. Then some high school bands, and one day, yes I think something made me understand that stage was life! But what exactly? Sorry, I can’t remember!

Lionel: When I heard Def Leppard, I knew I wanted to be on stage and rock …

What was the last gig that you attended as a fan?

Lionel: Joe Bonamassa, live in Paris, May 2022

Gipsy: The same and I keep a very good memory of Jade Macrae and Mahalia Barnes in Germany. They were lead singers in their own band… How so much talent, humility, kindness, and beautiful soul can be brought together in these 2 singers… They really sing their heart and soul.

What current social issue are you particularly passionate about?

Lionel: Not one more particularly than another. Ecology, of course, we are all concerned… The war in Ukraine… Drugs, domestic violences, teenage suicide…I feel lost in our world.

Gipsy: Well I don’t know how is it going in your country right now, but here in France it seems like the lack of respect and human values invades the minds most conducive to violence, destruction, and anarchy. All without any reason, just for fun… I hate my time and I’m afraid for the future, for my 16 years old daughter. What kind of world are we giving them?

The album that you have in your album collection/Spotify playlist that would surprise most people?

Lionel: Uli Jon Roth “Electric Sun”

Gipsy: “Fame – the Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture”.

There were some amazing new albums released last year, what would be your album of the year? And, what other new music have you been enjoying so far this year?

Lionel: Eric Gales “Crown” and Larry McCray “Blues Without You”

Gipsy: Also Joe Bonamassa “Times Clocks” and Jade Macrae “Handle Me With Care”

These are the album we are listening to again and again…

What does 2023 hold for you?

Lionel: Some great concerts and the opportunity to promote our 2 albums. Some nice meetings: Ana Popovic, The Cinelli Brothers. And why not some booking agencies to make us touring in Europa.

Gipsy: We will soon start to play in Belgium, and are waiting for a little tour in Germany…

How active are you on social media and where can people connect with you?

Lionel: As far as possible, we try to relay interviews, reviews, and news while touring.

Gipsy: So, you can follow us, like, and subscribe to our social media here:

Website: https://www.leeonellbluesgang.com
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCU9bcdZ-UVh2_EM83NxyjFg
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/4uU0QwUeHcEk1e7tsANRjH
Deezer: https://www.deezer.com/fr/artist/107074722
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/leeonellbluesgang/

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