Josh Caterer is the best kept secret in music today. Or is he? Since the inception of his band Smoking Popes in the early 1990’s in the bowels of the Chicago suburbs, Josh has been a study in contrasts starting with his soft-as-velvet vocals sliding over driving guitar riffs, uncomfortably honest lyrics, and just under-the-radar level of notoriety. The Popes have opened for the likes of Morrissey, Cheap Trick, and Green Day, to mention a very few, and have themselves influenced countless bands and songwriters. As the Popes grow older, Josh has explored other musical ventures including Duvall (a chirpity Christian band with a couple of super fun, upbeat records), some solo worship music, and most recently a blues project called Josh Caterer and the Jackson Mud Band. I talked to Josh tonight while he was prone on his couch, a little under the fall weather, and frankly kind of ornery in a funny way, like any good blues musician has a right to be.
Heritage Beam and Board: Hey, Josh Caterer, you’ve always been a pop-punk guy what with your band Smoking Popes… or a worship guy in a church, what’s with this blues band thing?
Josh Caterer: Well, yeah, I’m traditionally a pop-punk kid, but I love all kinds of music, including the blues. It’s a really fun style of music to play. Also, the musicians in Jackson Mud are extremely talented, and it’s a joy to be able to trade solos with these guys, which is pretty much the most fun thing about playing blues: soloing.
HBB: How does it compare to your other stuff?
Josh Caterer: Writing blues songs I get to take a different approach to songwriting than I would usually take writing Popes songs. The structure is different. I’m enjoying the bleak resignation you get writing the lyrics of a blues song. Punk music is angry, like you’re going to able to change whatever it is you’re singing about. Blues music is, “Well, this is how it is and I don’t like it.”
HBB: Who are your favorite blues musicians?
JC: Muddy Waters, Johnny Winter, Elmore James, Howlin’ Wolf, Stevie Ray Vaughn. And the truth is, Jimi Hendrix was actually the greatest blues guitarist of all time, although that wasn’t his main genre.
HBB: How many of those guys died before their time?
JC: I don’t know how old Elmore James got. Jimi and Stevie for sure. A few of them.
HBB: How long have you been playing in Jackson Mud?
JC: Since 2015, so around four years. Some of us knew each other from church, where many good blues guys meet, and so this was a way for us to get together and jam outside of the church band that we normally played in. And it was so dang fun we just kept doing it.
HBB: What have been some highlights since you started Jackson Mud?
JC: Getting to play Blues Fest earlier this year was pretty amazing. We also played at a very interesting place called the Magic Mansion in Oconomowoc, WI, on this big porch. There were hundreds of people sitting in this huge yard on a summer night and they were so into the music. It was beautiful.
HBB: Do you have any records out?
JC: We have a record out called Stranger Blues, available on all of your streaming services. You can buy it on iTunes.
HBB: So you’re playing at the Heritage barn October 24, right?
JC: We’ve played this barn before. It’s a great space, wonderful vibe in the room. We’re happy to be coming back.