Interview with Chris Welch

Aynsley Lister is a man with a mission. His aim is to create inspirational music that reaches out to hearts, mind and soul. A sensitive singer songwriter the young musician has achieved great artistic success with the array of compositions found on his most recent album Along For The Ride.

Now is the time for the wider world to come along, listen and just enjoy that ride. Oh and did we mention that Aynsley also happens to be one of the finest blues rock guitarists of the 21st century of the Common Era?

There is certainly nothing common about Aynsley, especially not in the eyes of the multitude of fans that flocked to see his flurry of live performances in recent months. They included myself and fellow supporter Steve Elphick who witnessed his exceptional trio in action at the Beaverwood Club, Chislehurst, Kent last December. Just before the show I had a chance to chat with Aynsley about his career and ambitions over a splendid meal organised by Steve in the nearby Tigers Head pub.

Aynsley was rather taken with the vintage cassette tape recorder I used to pick up our discourse above the uproar of fellow guests. I assured him it had worked well enough for that guy with Cream although there was always a risk the battery might now be flat. Fingers crossed and cue play back. (The tape worked. Phew!)

Aynsley was born on 14 November 1976 in Leicester. He started playing guitar aged eight and performed his first concert in a bar band at the age of 13. He had learned guitar by playing along to his father’s old records of Freddie KingJohn Mayall and Eric Clapton.

Aynsley: “Dad had a huge record collection and he liked listening to bands including Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac and he loved great guitar solos. He would have the stereo on at home every day.

“His way of relaxing after a hard day in the office might be a glass of wine but he definitely switched on the record player. It was never off! I remember it was a silver Hitachi, which I later inherited. When he upgraded to a Technics systems he gave me the old Hitachi and a box full of 45 rpm records by Albert King, Albert Collins, Freddie King, BB King and Eric Clapton.


“I just slowed them down and played along to them in my bedroom on my guitar and worked out how it was done. I wasn’t interested in any other music, pop or anything else. I was in my own little bubble. I learned to play guitar listening to blues records and slowing them down. It’s so different now with YouTube. If you are learning to play nowadays, you can find an instructional video. It’s a world apart from my early years.”

Aynsley remembers all his mates at school were usually out playing football in their spare time. “I’m terrible at football” he laughs. “Don’t know anything about it. The guys in my group think that’s hilarious. They’ll all be chatting about football and I haven’t got a clue what they are talking about! As a kid I was in that bubble with my guitar and inherited record collection. If I had to do any home work in the evening it would be left to the last minute”.

When did Aynsley first start to play with bands?

“Well I played at a school concert as the lead guitarist when I was about 13. One of the parents who came to the show liked what he heard and asked if I’d like to come down and jam with his band at a local pub. ‘Get your mum and dad to bring you down, bring your guitar and we’ll get you up on stage.’

“It was a covers band and at the end of the night they asked me to join. So at the age of 13 I was in a local Sixties & Seventies R&B band. Then my dad started taking me to jam sessions that were specifically for blues around the Midlands, mostly in Nottingham and Derby.”

Did Aynsley’s dad play blues guitar?

“No. I think he always wanted to. So I’m kind of living that dream. He’s always been really supportive and would drive me anywhere I could get to play with musicians, normally those who were my dad’s age. My friends at school weren’t interested in blues. I started going to blues jam sessions in about 1993-94 and got my first band together when I was 18 in 1994. That’s when I started singing and writing a bit as well”.


Aynsley dutifully took a day job for the next three years while he went out gigging. He didn’t have to rely on music to play the bills. “I was still living at home but I moved out when I was about 23. I was quite a late mover. Then I put a band together and started playing around Nottingham and Derby but not so much in Leicester.”

Aynsley created quite a buzz on the scene with fans coming from all over the area to see this charismatic young guy playing the blues with such authenticity. “I was still playing ‘covers’ but quickly realised I’d always want to change something. It could be the lyrics, the guitar parts or the chords and I realised this was a bit pointless. I might as well write my OWN stuff y’know? That’s what started me writing and I’ve done quite a few albums now.”

By the time he was 18 and ready to start recording he released two albums Messin’ With The Kid (1996) and Pay Attention! (1997). The second album, attracted the attention of Ruf Records’ owner Thomas Ruf. In 1998 they signed a record deal and Lister recorded his first major album, Aynsley Lister produced by Jim Gaines with mostly Lister compositions, and with a guest appearance by guitarist Walter Trout. This breakthrough led to European tours and Aynsley working alongside top blues players.

“My writing style is a combination of all the stuff I’ve listened to over the years. You are a collection of your influences aren’t you? All the things whose sound you like. Doing that, you end up as your own melting pot.”

Many lead guitarists feel the need to play at full volume with lots of distortion immediately they get on stage. Aynsley doesn’t do that. He keeps cool and calm then builds the excitement.

“I’ve got blues roots, so the guitar playing is always quite bluesy. But you’re right. I’ve never always felt the need to go in at Number 10. If you do that, you’ve got nowhere else to go. Whereas, if you come in a little bit understated, then you can add more notes, more volume and distortion. For me, when I’m playing guitar I’m trying to tell a story. It’s not all about pyrotechnics. I’m trying to move people, not necessarily with the lyrics but certainly with the melody and mood of the guitar.”

Mr. Lister is most happy with his current line up including Jonno Martin (vocals, bass guitar) and Craig Bacon (drums). “And I like the whole set and our live show. We have been touring as a three piece for the last two years after coming out of the Pandemic. Initially it was a cost thing to say ‘Let’s lose the keyboards’.

Now I’m going to try and write an album of songs specific for this actual line up. We know each other so well as players now. We all understand each other musically. I’m quite particular about the speed of the songs y’know and I want it to be consistent from night to night. Our drummer has that consistency and so we rely on Craig to set us the tempos.”


Audience reaction is important to any band and the Listerines (sorry!) certainly have been experiencing warm receptions during their current touring season. “You can develop a feel for what people want. We just came back from Germany and the audiences out there tend to be really up for it from the get-go. When we come back to England we have to work a bit harder. We go on stage in Germany or Switzerland and before you even play a note – they are screaming! In England people are a little bit more reserved. Until they’ve had a few Gin & Tonics. I’m joking! Every night is different and you never know what you are going to get.

“Say for instance we might start the set list that we’ve worked out, with a slow song. And then you feel that we might be playing to a crowd that wants a bit more energy. You just have to do it on the fly.”

Would the group welcome a hit single? They deserve one after all.

“Well there were a few songs on our last CD that I was really happy with. In fact I was happy with the whole album. But for whatever reason it’s not caught on. Maybe there’s not the right audience for it? I just don’t know. The stuff that I write does touch on different genres other than blues. But it would be amazing to have a hit single. It just takes one song to catch on”.

Aynsley confesses he doesn’t really understand how the pop music business works. “The industry is changing so much and it’s all about downloads, the Internet and Social Media – all that kind of stuff. It’s difficult to keep up to speed with that and I definitely have not.”

He is too busy working on his guitar sound and writing songs to get overly upset by the vagaries of The Biz. “But I do get a lot of radio play in the U.S. and messages from people across the Globe who have been following me for years in countries where I’ve never even played!”

He’d especially like to go to Australia and Japan and even further afield. “Everywhere really. I have been to the U.S. a couple of times but touring there without financial backing is very hard”.


It was time for Aynsley to pick up his pick and head for the stage. “I like to tell a story when I’m writing lyrics y’know? When you read a book you can imagine the scene in your head. That’s kinda what I try to do when writing lyrics and convey them through a good melody. Singing and lyrics are a BIG part of what I do although instrumentals play an important part in our live show because of the nature of a three piece group.” He smiled. “There might be the odd drum feature, but there are lots of guitar solos!”

Finally, what has given Aynsley the biggest buzz about devoting his life to music, since those early days when he first practised to Dad’s precious 45 rpm records?

“One of the most satisfying things in all the years I’ve been doing this is when somebody comes up to me after a gig and says a song I’ve written is their favourite. They might say it’s the first song they’d chose to dance to at a wedding or any other special occasion.

“If my lyrics mean something to them, that’s great. Without sounding all flowery, if they have connected with my song, and it moves them in some way, then I have gone beyond being a guitar player. And that feels quite incredible. I’m so happy I can go out and do something I really love. Playing gives me a living and it is quite a privileged position. I don’t have to do a day job!”