Florida-based sacred steel group The Lee Boys create joyous music and are known for their electrifying live performances. They are playing Magnolia Fest 2014. Guitarist Alvin Lee recently discussed coming from a musical family, the formation of The Lee Boys and their lyrical inspiration. For more info on The Lee Boys, check out http://www.leeboys.com/
What first got you interested in playing music? How did that happen for you?
My father, he was a minister, so he played. We all grew up around music. He played music, we sung. My mom sung at church. That’s what really got us into music. Growing up, from going to church all the time, we got into bands. We started making our own music and went from there, you know?
Absolutely and that’s nice to have come from that background. Your music, it comes from a real place right from the beginning.
Yeah, for real, for sure. We are definitely blessed to be here, that I have had this heritage of playing this style of music. We are definitely happy for that.
What was the beginning motivation from taking the music out of the church and taking it to rock clubs. How did that happen?
For a band, what even inspired us was the passing of my brother Glenn. He was the co-founder of the group. It was what really sold that for me with that idea of going out. We, more or less, had a style in church. It was kinda bluesy and definitely feels a lot of funk. When Glenn died, it was real hard for me to play in the church. My nephews were coming up at that time. We just decided to say, “We’ll do it,” at that exact same time when a lot of the other guys started going out, like Robert Randolph and the Campbell Brothers. They just said, “Alvin, you should take what you and Glenn started. You might want to take it out to the mass.” That kind of is what motivated me, got me going, taking our music outside of the four walls.
Absolutely. It’s being able to reach a wider audience and still be true to yourselves.
You put on an amazing live show. It’s something that once people see you, they get connected with it.
Oh yeah, for sure.
Do you change up the set list every time you play?
We have some standards that we play out. We change it up. Sometimes, we might throw a cover in there. Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Stevie Ray Vaughn. We would throw on a lot of covers in church too. We would do just a lot of different things infused with our music. We are just doing more or less what we did, but on another level with the younger generation, you know?
Yeah, absolutely. What inspires you lyrically?
More or less, the music that we do and what we came from. Just the style of it inspires us. The way we write our original stuff is, sometimes, I come up with a hook and my brothers write a lot of the lyrics to it. We kind of just combine and do it together. It is all life experiences, testify, going to glory. Now all of these things that we wrote are a similar kind of inspiration for what we have gone through.
Absolutely. How often do you find yourselves writing songs?
I am constantly coming up with musical ideas. My brothers, Keith and Derrick, they’re constantly writing songs. Derrick has about 5 songs that he wrote that he wants me to put music to. That’s kinda how the Lee Boys do. We are constantly at it.
So, it’s just this constant process?
Constant process, yes.
What have been some of your favorite shows you played over the years? You guys have been at it for a long time.
Oh yeah, definitely Magnolia Fest.
What do you love about playing Magnolia Fest?
Sometimes you get spoiled with a first impression. Magnolia Fest was kind of one of our first big festivals that we played. Fortunately for us, we were able to play when Jimmy Herring and Aquarium Rescue Unit were there. Aquarium Rescue Unit was playing with Col. Bruce, and Derek Trucks, Oteil and all these guys all played. It made a really big impression upon us. The family-oriented type of thing really made us feel good. Mag Fest, that’s a good one. We love Telluride Blues and Brews. We just love all the festivals that we played. We get a chance to spread the music that we do. It’s a joy to us.
What do you feel are the biggest challenges you have had to overcome in your career?
Well, one of the biggest challenges is just making sure that, being the leader of the band, everybody still had the same passion and drive. We’ve been at this since 2001 professionally. It’s going through what life may bring us. My mom died since we had the band. My sister passed, so just keeping the band together all through life’s changes. So that’s what was one of the biggest challenges for me.
Absolutely. Keeping everything going even when things are really hard, you know?
It’s one of those things to where you get so much joy from playing your music, that has to help too.
I think Victor Wooten said it the best when he played with us. He said it’s not that we’re better musicians, but it’s just the spirit and the feeling they get when they’re onstage with us. It’s like they come alive. You’re able to just express yourself through the music.