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Page last updated at 10:41 GMT, Tuesday, 11 May 2010 11:41 UK
Oli Brown lures producer Mike Vernon for blues album

By Zoe Applegate
BBC Norfolk

Oli Brown
Oli Brown has secured two prestigious slots at Glastonbury Festival 2010

Wearing a biker jacket and skinny jeans tucked into lace-up boots crowned by a haircut sweeping his brow, Oli Brown looks like he might be in a band, but you probably wouldn't guess that he's prompted a comeback for a legendary producer.

The 20-year-old blues guitarist from Sco Ruston, near North Walsham, has secured a Glastonbury slot with the release of his second album - cut by Mike Vernon, who's worked with stellar names including Fleetwood Mac, Eric Clapton and David Bowie.

Mike, who doesn't own a TV and rarely listens to the radio, was at his remote home in Spain when he was called by Oli's German label Ruf Records to ask if he'd team up with the young singer-songwriter on his follow-up to 2008's Open Road.

Ten-year retirement

Having never heard of Oli, Mike drove into town to log on to the internet and was so captivated by what he heard and saw that he invited the maestro to Malaga, ending his ten-year retirement.

The pair bonded over Mike's stories of working with blues greats including Freddie King, one of Oli's heroes.

They then headed into Ascot's Torchlight Studios in January, working 14-hour days over two weeks to lay down tracks for Heads I Win, Tails You Lose, which was released on 26 April.

"He was a great guy and intimidating," said Oli.

"He was such a powerful figure in blues music in the '60s, that for him to come back and want to do it was an absolute honour."

"We got along so well. We had a lot to talk about together, it was just fantastic and we had the same ideas - we would never conflict and disagree with one another.

Oli Brown
Oli Brown is due to play in Norwich in December as part of his winter tour

"The whole recording process was just such a good time."

In a recent interview for BBC Radio 2's Paul Jones' Rhythm and Blues Show, Mike praised Oli's talent and believes he's capable of attracting a younger audience to the blues scene.

"He really does have something quite exceptional going on and I'm very happy to have been involved in this project," said Mike.

"All the old timers from three generations ago are passing away and taking those traditions with them, people are going to come along and lift those and continue that on, but people need to develop the music and Oli is going to do that."

Upbeat sound

Oli penned eight tracks for the record, which also features two songs by Mike and two covers.

One of Oli's aims has been to capture a more considered and buoyant sound which he can reflect in live shows.

"I write the songs that I enjoy playing, like funky upbeat numbers and some blues numbers," said Oli, who became a professional musician after completing his A-levels at Paston College, North Walsham.

"We've been trying to get an upbeat vibe to it because I think people's assumption of the blues is that, 'I woke up this morning depressed…' and there's a lot more fun to it and that just needs to be heard more."

Glastonbury slots

With the blues baton now firmly grasped in Oli's hands, he's just secured his biggest gig yet with two appearances at Glastonbury on 25 and 26 June 2010.

The sets will be a chance for the guitarist to showcase some of the songs from his new long-player including a reworking of No Diggity by R 'n' B outfit Blackstreet, which Oli thinks will go down well with the diverse Glastonbury crowd.

"The great thing is they're doing this blues and jazz stage, which is great as it shows blues is catching up a bit more with the popular music," he said.

"It's a privilege, I really can't wait to spend time there and look around and actually see Glastonbury for the first time because I've never been there before, so I'm really excited."

His appearances at one of the world's biggest music festivals cements his place as a rising star and comes in the middle of a hectic 2010 for Oli, who lives at home with his dad and manager Graham, mum Sue and sister Charlotte, 23.

Live shows

This year, Oli will tour Germany before playing 15 dates in May across the UK with two other acts including an in-store show at HMV's flagship Oxford Street store.

He will then fly to New Zealand for guitar festival G-Taranaki in August and the States for his annual September tour.

Unfortunately though, local fans will not get to see Oli until his set with Paul Jones' Blues Band at Holt Festival on 31 July.

There will be a longer wait for a headline show, with the virtuoso looking forward to getting back in front of a home crowd at Norwich's Waterfront on 19 December 2010.

"There's a lot of great support in Norfolk," said Oli, who started playing the guitar when he was 12.

"This is where I started off, playing in local pubs and really practising everything and I'm really looking forward to playing the Waterfront."

Oli's second Maida Vale session was broadcast on Paul Jones' BBC Radio 2 programme on Monday, 10 May 2010.

Glastonbury shows for Oli Brown
24 Jun 10 |  BBC Introducing


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