Letter from young French bass player Charlotte Gutteridge after coming from Little Steven’s Blues School in Notodden

I didn’t think I would be accepted for this course, so when I found out that I was chosen, I thought it was too good to be true! I was so happy but very stressed at the same time because I had to organise the journey, make sure my bass guitar was well protected on the plane and learn 10 songs, all that in a very small amount of time.

Learning the songs wasn’t easy… Because at the Little Steven’s Blues School they use sheet music! They provided YouTube links instead and with the help of my father, I soon found the chords and I managed to learn the bases of all the songs on the bass guitar.

When I arrived in Oslo, I picked up my baggage and I met, at the airport, a student that I had previously contacted before my flight. And off we went! The country is really beautiful and very clean, but everything is very expensive in Norway.

Upon arriving at the school, everyone was very welcoming. We were quickly showed where we would be sleeping, I was lucky, I had a room to myself because I was the first and only girl at the start.

The second day, we were split into groups. I was placed with the three other students who had come thanks to the European Blues Union (three polish musicians: one harmonica player, one singer and a guitarist), and two Norwegians completed the group (another guitarist and a drummer).

At the start I felt like I didn’t belong amongst all this talent. But the other students in my group quickly reassured me and were very patient with me.

Each group had to choose two songs from the list we were given beforehand. We made our decision in a way that everyone in the group was comfortable with the songs chosen. Afterwards, we just had to play together! It was like we had been playing together for a long time and that we had known each other for years! Everything fit perfectly together.

After, we were asked to write our own song! Our two guitarists found a funky rhythm inspired by James Brown. The harmonica player found a melody, the drummer quickly followed and as soon as I found the right chords, I joined in too. We found the base of our song! The singer arrived a little later and she loved it! She then got inspired by our meeting and the funky rhythm to write the lyrics of the song and suggested we add some gospel at the end, and that’s what we did!

We were the first group to record in the Juke Joint studio with Banana (Lowell Levinger: musician in Little Steven and The Disciples of Soul). He gave us his opinions and tips for the song, we then added harmonies for the voice, the tambourine for the gospel part… And when we listened back to the track, it sounded very funky and professional.

We played twice on the Jailhouse stage (a little stage made for prisoners passionate about music and the blues). We played the day before the festival, but also for the first day of the festival because we replaced a group that couldn’t be there! Everyone loved what we did. I got many compliments, not only from the teachers, but from the people in the public too! Someone even pulled me in for a hug because he really liked what I do on the bass guitar. I was very touched to have such positive feedback. It helped me gain confidence and to realise that what I was doing was very good!

In conclusion, the course was an unforgettable experience. I loved learning new techniques and playing with new people. I learned a lot of things from the teachers and the other students. I met a lot of amazing people, I really appreciated passing time with the other students, teachers and guardians who I kept in contact with. I was very lucky to have the chance to record in the Juke Joint studio with Banana as our producer and to have met Stevie Van Zandt himself!

I am very satisfied with my experience during my course in Notodden, and I’d love to have the opportunity to go back next year (and I know the teachers would like to see me again because they told me!). I hope one day I will get the chance to show Notodden to my family!

I’d like to thank, one more time, France Blues and the European Blues Union for giving me this opportunity, this course and this journey I will never forget!

Charlotte Gutteridge