In the early 2000’s, Hillesheim was at a Blues jam in Hillesheim, Germany and struck up a friendship with a singer/guitarist Dirk Dommermuth. The musical chemistry between the two was so natural at the jam that both understood right away that being in a band together was a great idea. This band, BlueSide, has produced four albums since 2005 and are recognized for their authentic blues influences like BB King, Robert Johnson, and many others. BlueSide often performs sold-out shows in their native Germany and on international tours across Europe. BlueSide’s recordings have been highly successful in the European Blues community, in particular their recording of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on the “Reminiscence” album. An obvious tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughn’s recording, Stefan was careful in approaching the recording of a song made famous by one of the all-time Blues guitar greats. Stefan admits, “It’s always a long shot to perform or record a cover version of a song that was played by a guitarist of his caliber. If you try to sound exactly like Stevie you can only lose, because he played it so incredibly and you end up sounding like a copycat. I tried to put it in my own tone and personality…. definitely paying homage and touching on some of Stevie’s licks and ideas, but mostly trying to sound like myself. That’s a basic premise of the Blues; you can play the exact song as someone else but you have to put your identity into it…you have to put yourself out there.” Dommermuth describes Stefan, whether in the studio or live as, “Stefan is remarkable and driven, whether he’s up on stage or in the studio. His performances at venues drove their sold-out crowds wild, and we received highly praiseful reviews from various music publications. Our album “Reminiscence” received wonderful reviews from both critics and the public, selling extremely well. As a lead guitarist on our shows and the album, Stefan most definitely played a lead role in ensuring their success. What’s more, his fantastic performances have brought great acclaim and continued success to BlueSide as a whole. Stefan is truly one of Germany’s top guitarists in terms of skill and professional accomplishments. Few of his peers can claim to have achieved as much as he has.”
At least part of the burgeoning Blues scene in Germany over the last two decades can be attributed to the sensibilities of its fans, who are inspired by the lifestyle of the music and musicians. Whereas a great deal of pop music is trendy and could be considered “fashionable” and “escapist”; Blues discusses the everyday pitfalls and (sometimes) joys that we all experience. Rather than avoidance and rejection of these experiences and emotions, the Blues deals with them by using the music as a catharsis; you sing about life’s ups and downs and become part of a community that encourages this process. Hillesheim adds, “Blues has become quite popular in Germany and Europe. It may not be as present on the radio as Pop, Hip Hop or Rock music, but there are a large number of clubs and festivals for Blues and Jazz. I think people in Europe mostly get into Blues because of live performances. I would say that Blues fans in Europe are true die-hard fans who still buy Albums in the form of CDs and Vinyl. They are extremely supportive and go to live performances of their favorite acts. It’s a circle of people whom are very passionate about the music they love. A community like that can support the career of a musician for a very long time. I think both the artists and the Blues fans become a family that appreciates each other.”
In his respectful pursuit of this original American musical art form, Stefan Hillesheim gives proof to the idea that the Blues speaks to everyone, if they only listen. You can be a member of a successful German band like BlueSide, a child from the Mississippi Delta, or an elderly woman from the tough streets of Chicago…it’s all the same. People being in touch with their emotions and finding a positive outlet for life’s hardships through musical expression.