Memphis Music Feature: Matt Isbell of Ghost Town Blues Band
Memphis Music Month continues! Each Tuesday and Thursday in October, we will share a Q&A with a local artist—so you can discover new music and get to know the amazing people making that music. See all the features here.
I’ve partnered with my friends at Memphis Music Hub for this series, so the ‘MH’ you see below stands for Music Hub.
MEMPHIS MUSIC MONTH FEATURE #4: Matt Isbell of Ghost Town Blues Band
Ghost Town Blues Band won second place in the 2014 International Blues Challenge on Beale Street, and since have been at the top of the contemporary blues scene.
In this interview, lead singer, Matt Isbell, tells us about their success with their latest album Shine, and how important it is to keep your ego in check in the music business.
Q&A With Matt Isbell:
MH: In one word or phrase, what about Memphis inspires you creatively?
Matt: Home of the Blues!
MH: Who in Memphis do you love to listen to?
Matt: “Victor Wainwright and the Train” has to be one of our favorite Memphis bands. Not only were they Grammy nominated for their last record, but they are some of the coolest/down to earth guys on the planet. We know it’s gonna be a good night when we end up on the same festival stage as those guys.
MH: Which place gives you that quintessential Memphis vibe?
Matt: We’ve traveled all over the world and there is definitely no place like home. When we get back from a tour, the first thing I do is scarf down a Huey burger and drink a nice cold Crosstown Traffic IPA. Huey’s has been one of my favorites since I was a kid. I even use the Huey’s seasoning on every burger I grill at home.
MH: Can you let us in on a lesson you’ve learned in the music business?
Matt: One of the most important lessons that I’ve learned in my music career is to value the people around me. Whether it’s the musicians in the band or the fans who pay the ticket price or even the promoters and venue owners, without them, you’re nothing.
It’s good to have confidence in yourself but keeping that confidence in check so that it never becomes an ego is absolutely the most important aspect of being a successful artist. For instance, ever since COVID-19 wiped out all of our major shows, I basically had nothing to fall back on aside from the people who I have supported such as my band members and fans, etc.
We’ve started a Patreon page that although is in the infancy stage, I truly believe it’s going to be a huge success for us because of the relationships that my band members and me have developed with our audience over the past decade. What goes around, comes around. Here’s hoping right?
MH: Tell us about a moment in time that moved the needle for Ghost Town Blues Band.
Matt: We competed in the International Blues Challenge in 2013 which happens to be right here in Memphis on Beale Street and made it to the finals. That definitely helped us get on the blues world map so we went back in 2014 to be awarded second place.
The notoriety that we received from our runner-up status skyrocketed the sheer volume and quality of the shows that we were playing. It put us on the international map. It wasn’t really the award alone that put us in such a successful position but rather the dedication, drive and commitment that got us there.
It’s not about the award or the status but the drive and commitment that you put into the chase. It’s all about the journey and the journey is only a little more than a decade long road trip so far!
MH: Where can we hear Ghost Town Blues Band?
Matt: We released an album called Shine late last year that debuted at #1 on the Billboard Blues Album Charts so we are always out on the road promoting our records but when we are back home, we mostly play at Blues City Café on Beale Street and Railgarten in Midtown. We are always creating content for our fanbase. We recently recorded a “live stream video” at the Railgarten Music Hall to share to our Facebook fans during the pandemic.