Blind Boy Paxton brings his brand of blues to New Zealand

American blues musician Blind Boy Paxton is gearing up for his third New Zealand tour in as many years.

After losing much of his eyesight by 16, he's dedicated his life to learning decades-old blues songs and taking them on the road.

"I get it from the family,” he told Newshub. “It ain't appropriated, it's appropriate.

“My family gets the blues naturally, not just the music either.”

The 29-year-old is from South Central, Los Angeles - a place more known for NWA and Kendrick Lamar than the blues.

But he says it doesn't matter where you're from.

"Blues ain't something limited to the South. The blues is part of a people, part of a culture.

“It's part of black culture, it's our music. It goes where the people go."

He picked up the blues from his grandmother, who grew up in Louisiana.

"I probably sing like her more than anybody in the world," he says.

Paxton started to lose his sight as a teenager - he's now legally blind. 

He can't drive, but can still see just enough to play his instruments - not that he needs to see them.

"If you can see a little bit, don't try to look at your hand, because you're supposed to know where things are and go there,” he says. “That's how music works."

He plays at least seven instruments, including piano, fiddle, banjo and guitar, and says the hardest part is practicing them all.

"I'd like to become a great pianist, but I've gotta play the strings. I'd like to become a great fiddle player, but everyone wants to hear the blues on the guitar."

He says his impairment shouldn't mean he has to give up what he loves.

"It's not a sighted world. It's a world of feeling, it's a world of listening."

He admits "Legally Blind Boy Paxton" just wouldn't have the same ring to it, although he admits it may soon be time to change the name.

"Ain't too many black men like being called ‘boy’,” he says, “it has certain connotations to it.

“That's why Mr Riley ‘Blues Boy’ King started being called B.B. King," he says.

He kicks off an extensive nationwide tour on Sunday and says more artists should play outside the major centres.

"What's wrong with them? Too much beach? Too much fun in the sun, to get music?

“I know you've gotta sit inside for an hour-and-a half, but you can go outside in the intermission.

“Come on, people!"

Some of the songs he plays are more than 100 years old, meaning for much of his audience, it's the first time they're hearing them.

Paxton finds himself continually drawn to Kiwi audiences, because they seem to be drawn to the misery.

"Why do y'all like this and where'd you all hear this? I don't understand it, but they get it!"

A big man with a big laugh - and a big hug - Paxton says, as long as his audiences keep having a good time, he'll keep bringing the blues back to New Zealand.


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