Life as a blues musician is often a balancing act between touring, recording or working odd jobs just to make ends meet. One such musician's days of driving trucks and selling firewood are far behind him.
It's been years since singer, songwriter and guitarist Watermelon Slim had to drive a truck for a living. These days, you can find him in the recording studio working on a new album, on tour overseas or playing at a club near his home in Mississippi.
Slim, whose real name is Bill Homans, has come a long way from his job as a heavy equipment operator for the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. His follow-up stint as a watermelon farmer in Oklahoma earned him the nickname Watermelon Slim, a name he also gives to his own special brand of music.
"I'm in the business of recombining and putting together genres, and making it come out as Watermelon Slim music," he explains. "I don't just write country, and I don't just write blues, and I don't just write rhythm and blues, and I don't just write rock and roll. You can find all kinds of influences, [and] if you look hard enough you probably even hear the classical influences I had as a little, little boy."
Country, blues and rock dominate Watermelon Slim's latest release, Ringers. Slim composed 12 songs for the album, and co-wrote two more with seasoned Nashville songwriter Gary Nicholson.
Slim recorded his most recent albums in Nashville, where, according to Slim, co-writing is a common, everyday practice.
"That's the way they do it down in Nashville. At first, I kind of balked at it. I said, 'Well, listen. I've got two degrees in this," he says. "I can write as good as anybody down there.' And they said, 'Yeah, we know.' But, this is the way they do it in Nashville. Everybody co-writes."
Watermelon Slim teams up with Gary Nicholson on "I Appreciate That."
Since 2004, Slim has been nominated for 17 Blues Music Awards. In 2008, he won his first two awards with his band, The Workers, for Best Blues Album of the Year and Best Blues Band of the Year.
Slim enjoys being in the spotlight every once in awhile, but he says true happiness comes from making music day in and day out.
"Back before there were any awards of any kind for this kind of music, the reward for a blues man was a pocket full of change [coins], some bills [money] at the end of the night, and the knowledge that you've got a place to sleep out of the rain and the wind. And, most of all, if you've got another gig [performance] the next day, you're making a living," he says.
Slim is currently performing on his "No Paid Holidays" tour across the U.S., Canada and Europe. He's already at work on his next album, due out in October.