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How The Teskey Brothers inspired my (humble) music comeback

Updated: Jun 20, 2023

Have you ever felt like you lost touch with something you loved? Something that was once a huge part of your life, but you let it slip away? Maybe it was playing sports, writing, cooking, or in my case, making music. The feeling of not being able to access that part of yourself can be frustrating, but it's not uncommon. Life gets busy, and sometimes our passions fall by the wayside.

But then comes a moment when something rekindles that flame. For me, it was discovering The Teskey Brothers during the 2020 lockdown. Their music reminded me of the joy and fulfillment I once found in making music. I decided to pick up my old hobby again, but this time with greater intention.

In this blog post, I'll discuss the importance of having musical idols, especially in a world of robotised and industrialised music production. I'll also chat about the lack of acoustic or real instruments and why incorporating them is crucial for an authentic sound.

As The Teskey Brothers' lead singer Josh Teskey said in an interview, "It’s important to us to have a human element in our music".

Josh Teskey and Jonno at Jumbo Records, Leeds.

Covid-19 lockdowns reconnected me to music

As a musician who had lost touch with my passion, the Covid-19 lockdowns were particularly difficult. My days were filled with uncertainty, anxiety, and boredom. But then, I discovered The Teskey Brothers, an emerging Australian band that brought that passion back.

In their music, I found the rawness, the soul, and the emotion that had been missing from contemporary music. Their sound, heavily influenced by the blues and classic soul, was a breath of fresh air in a particularly robotized and industrialized music production industry.

Listening to their music made me realise the importance of having musical idols and inspirations. It also reminded me of the influential bands that inspired me when I was a teenager, such as Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and The Doors.

They’ve inspired me to come back to performing live and start writing music like I did years ago. I started buying guitars, a piano and many other instruments, including a saxophone that I am curretly learning to play. I formed the band Jonno Soul, and we started experimenting with different genres, infusing them into our music. We draw from the soulful sounds of legends like Otis Redding, Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, James Brown and Sam Cooke among others to shape our own unique sound. We are committed to creating music that is intimate and meaningful, music that encourages people to connect to their emotions and to each other.

Pain And Misery is one of my favourite songs by The Teskey Brothers. I couldn't resist recording a cover:

The Importance of using Acoustic or 'Real' Instruments

One of the key elements that sets The Teskey Brothers apart from other contemporary musicians is their use of acoustic and real instruments. In a time where heavily synthesized and produced music dominates the charts, their focus on live instrumentation is a breath of fresh air. Okay, they're obviously not the only band playing R&B/Soul, Blues and Country music nowadays. But when we talk about R&B/Soul music we can't deny the fact that the genre has also got other representatives like Boyz II Men or more recently The Weeknd who rarely use guitars, relying massively in syths an computer based loops, adding other sub-genres to their repertoire like Alternative R&B,Snthpop, Contemporary R&B, Dance-Pop, Electropop or Pop Rap.

Before I had heard about The Teskey Brothers, I experienced a similar connection to James Bay (specially his first album, Chaos and the Calm) and Leon Bridges and his fantastic first album I'm Coming Home, which takes you straight back to the 60's. Michael Kiwanuka and his Love & Hate or the Black Pumas and their amazing Black Pumas LP (both of them more psychedelic, original and inventive than the former two), were also igniting my inner fire. In fairness, they were all starting sparks that made me start seriously thinking about forming a band. James Bay and Leon Bridges' careers have evoluted (involuted in my opinion) into a more modern Pop music for mass consumption (go where the money goes, which I totally respect), leaving their roots quite behind. But they're still amazing song writers and vocalists. I mean, come on... I wish I had James Bay's voice.

When it comes to write R&B/Soul original music, I think it is important to know (very well) what other contemporary musicians are doing. Learn (by studying it) how they have developed their unique style, the way they have shaped their songs with a blend of classic and contemporary influences. This is usually more of a producer's merit than a musician's skill. Doing it well can shed some light to our music composition and help us understand the music language that seems to be popularly accepted, as well as what recording techniques were used to replicate certain vitage sounds. In this particular genre, artists tend to evoke golden R&B/Soul sounds to back their songs up. Dressing them with the right clothes to be presented to the world. Any song is, regardless of the genre, usually written putting a few chords together either with a piano or a guitar, and topping them up with a catchy melody and some interesting lyrics. But if they wanted to sound like a Motown hit or a tune recorded in the 60's, they would need some clever production there. Technology has improved the quality of home studios and anyone can record seamless and perfectly clean using a computer and a cheap microphone. But if you were meant to leave this song like it is (clean), it would simply sound like another contemporary Pop tune. It is the rawness and the implicit 'dirt' of the technology used decades ago (ie. 2 channel mixing desks, old microphones, tape recorders, etc.) what made them sound the way they do. Part of that nostalgia resides in it.

Two quick examples of this are Back to Black by Amy Winehouse and An Evening With Silk Sonic by Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak. Both are probably my favourite R&B/Soul albums ever and I would gladly discuss WHY in future blog posts. But the influence of Mark Ronson as the poducer of Back to Black, the way he made the whole album sound like it had been produced in the 60's made a real difference to the final product.

This, however, doesn't have to be something good. The validity of such interpretation of what an album of R&B/Soul should sound like in 2007 or in 2023 is always subjective. Let's not forget that music evolutes and like any other form of art, it has to be a reflection of our time musicaly, but also lyrically speaking. I agree with those that argue that there is no merit in making a record that brings you back in time for the sake of it. Without deeping much into it, tones of plate reverb on vocals and spring reverb on guitars might not technically qualify as the most innovative song/album of all time because these methodes were overused decades ago. Where is the innovation?, they say. And they are right.

But here's where The Teskey Brothers differentiate from other contemporary R&B/Soul, Blues and Country bands. They do not have to emulate a particular sound to get 'their' sound. In other words: apart from their ambitious obssesion for recording their three first albums (one of them live!) using a tape machine, the voice of the band (and I'm not only talking about the amazing and unique voice of Josh Teskey) is the simple use of their instruments. Soul itself travels in sound waves that touch people's hearts without the need of complicated vintage production techniques. A Gibson 335 guitar, a Fender Deluxe Reverb amp and the smoked whiskey voice of their frontman backed up with a few blues lines of Sam Teskey's Fender Strat. That's all they need. You can add, like they do, some brass, a strong bass and a good drummer and, Boom!, you are taken back to those days where music was... real music.

As a musician, playing an acoustic or real instrument is a way to connect with the music on a deeper level. It adds a rawness and authenticity to the performance that cannot be replicated by a computer or machine.

In a world where technology is constantly advancing and replacing human labor, it's important to remember the beauty and value of human touch and connection. The Teskey Brothers' music reminds me of the importance of capturing that authenticity and rawness in my own music. As musician Paul Weller puts it, "you take influences from everybody who’s gone before you and try to add your own thing to it".

Collaborations and Connections

As a musician and songwriter, collaborating with other people and connecting with fellow artists can be incredibly important and inspiring. The exchange of ideas, techniques, and creativity can lead to growth both personally and musically. When I was first inspired by The Teskey Brothers and their music, I knew immediately that I wanted to connect with other musicians who shared their passion for bringing back the captivating sound of the classic R&B/Soul.

Collaboration and connection can happen in many different ways. You don't necessarily need to be in the same physical location to work together and get inspired. Technology has made it possible to collaborate and connect with musicians from all over the world. Bandcamp, Soundcloud and other online platforms like Vampr make it easier to discover new artists and potential collaborators, even if they live far away.

Since I formed Jonno Soul, I have had the privilege of working and recording with:

Bruno Da Rosa, a sensational bass player from Brazil.

Manuel Trabucco, an extraordinary saxophonist from Italy.

Bernardo Yacono, an incredible drummer from Argentina.

Rodolfo Capoderosa, a talented guitar player from Italy.

...and of course the amazing bunch of members of Jonno Soul: Simon (Guitar), Darren (Bass), Josh (Drums) and Bethanie (Vocals & Backing Vocals).

"Vampr is a location-based social and professional networking platform which facilitates music discovery, collaboration, and communication between musicians, creatives, industry professionals and fans." Wikipedia


I am not sure if I answered the main question of this blog post: How The Teskey Brothers inspired my (humble) music comeback, but I will try once more.

I will simply add that, R&B/Soul music is an ode to a time that's gone. A captivating genre that has it's roots in blues and jazz, which most of its songs (not all of them) are written in minor keys, evoking nostalgic and unresolved events of the past or present, sometimes sad, that brightens people hearts by being as frank as the songwriter and the musicians can perform it. The key to writing it and be part of the creation of such a complex piece of music is worth the effort. Because in the process there's always evolution. Sometimes at levels that we are not conciously aware. Finding artists who are capable of transmiting their truth through their music (or any other form of art) is something very rare. Preserving and supporting them is essential to stay true to our roots and needs. And that's exactly what inspired my (humble) music comeback.

"Hold me, don't hold me down

Carry me, but keep my feet on the ground

I'll hold you, I won't hold ya down

Carry you, but keep your feet on the ground, yeah"

Hold Me - The Teskey Brohers

Like Amy Winehouse said: "Every bad situation is a blues song waiting to happen."

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