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What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
My mother put me and my siblings into piano lessons when I was about 7 years old. We lived on a rural farm in western Saskatchewan, and it was something to keep us occupied. I was allergic to a lot of things outside as well, so I really took a liking to staying inside and learning. From there, I picked up more instruments as I grew up.
As for what else I’d be doing – I have a degree in linguistics and considered becoming a speech pathologist. I still find the whole field fascinating and will talk for hours about weird language facts.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I do work as a copywriter to help me pay for all my music gear & gas money between far-apart prairie cities. I have always loved to write – it’s just another form of storytelling, like songwriting.
I go back to my dad’s farm a lot – it’s peaceful and there’s space to think and recharge. Last summer, I did an entire album worth of demo tracks out there in a week.
My wife and I travel (not so much the last couple years, obviously) and I like to walk/bike around my community when I can. I’m someone who needs “nothing time” to really get my ideas aligned and find the best way forward when I’m trying to create songs or lyrics.
How long has your band been around?
Since early 2018 or so, though I didn’t start using the name “Blaeser” til 2019.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
At the moment, Saskatoon. I was born and raised in Saskatchewan and the peacefulness of a long summer night out at the farm will really leave a mark on you. I already have, and undoubtedly will have more, songs that refer or relate to the province – “Grave in the Grass”, “Atlas of the Plains”, and “The Saint of South Saskatchewan” are a few.
On top of that, I find “western Canadiana” has a way of working into songs here and there too. One of them mentions Highway 1 in the title, and I release under the label Road Trip Records because they’re good for listening on long prairie drives.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
It’s one of my legal surnames that my mother gave me. She passed away when I was 16, so it felt like a way to honour her while also sounding just a little bit abstract.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
In the summer of 2018 I played two small festivals in Saskatchewan on the same day. The band and I pre-packed everything we could into our vehicles before we played the first slot in the afternoon, then basically ran off stage and got on the road. It was a five-hour drive to the next one, Gateway Festival in Bengough. We arrived on time to do the next slot – closing down Night 2 at the beer gardens there – and that was also the first time my in-laws saw me play live, with a few hundred drunken people in a field. Everyone had a great time, as far as I can recall.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
I’ve had great experiences at The Gateway at SAIT in Calgary. I also did a show in Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park a while back, and played in a neat little community centre on an island in Lac La Biche, which was a really unique and cool setting to connect with people.
In a lot of ways, I prefer anything that’s a little smaller and more intimate than a loud bar where people are mostly there to drink. There are many, many places I’d like to play – way too many to name, but some that come to mind are MacEwan Hall in Calgary, the Roxy in Vancouver, and Danforth Music Hall in Toronto.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Dan Mangan, Jon Gomm, Halsey, City and Colour, and the Tragically Hip. Pink Floyd and Blink 182 would drop in for the after party. Illenium and Shawn Mendes would be vibing in the beer gardens.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
For those getting into bands, keep it fun. Once it becomes stressful and a source of anxiety, a lot of the willingness to create is sapped away. Find people that build up that fun creative energy, not steal it.
As for my younger self – it’s easy to get discouraged and think, “I’ll never be as good as X person.” In reality, there’s no difference between you and a virtuoso other than a whole lot of practice. Commit to getting better, continue through the millions of mistakes, and you will see the improvement. I’ve made mistakes many more times than I’ve played things perfectly, and as a result, those good performances are much, much better.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
Learn how to edit videos & compose shots better. Video and short-form clips are such a huge part of modern music work, and it’s like a whole other full-time job in itself to try and keep up. Having basic knowledge of composition, lighting, framing, etc would have given me quite a big head start.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Probably “The Saint of South Saskatchewan.” It’s the earliest original song I wrote that I still play, and still holds up with everything I’ve learned since then. It’s a song for my mother, who I lost when I was a teenager.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
My favourite to play is probably “Diamond Dust” or “Atlas of the Plains”. They have neat little finger-picking patterns (or in the latter’s case, a swaying 6/4 – 4/4 time signature) that add personality. But the most requested one would probably be a toss-up between “Grave in the Grass” and “It’s Chaos; Be Kind”. They’re both fun in their own way, but they really shine when it’s a full band arrangement.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
Usually it’s just me writing and playing. I always write things solo on my acoustic guitar so that I know what the arrangement will be, but I also purposely make them “roomy” enough that I can add more instruments if bandmates are available. I prefer to be able to adapt to any style/size of room, so it works to do it this way.
As for inspiration, usually it’s just single lines or lyrics that pop into my head. I save them all in a note on my phone and build songs off the interesting phrases I’ve got. Sometimes they tie in to current events – “Hello, Brother” is about the Christchurch mosque shooting, for instance – but sometimes they’re just generic ideas of things that seem emotionally charged. I always try to have something worth saying, in everything I write.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
I would really struggle to write a generic love or clubbing song – I don’t think my brain works that way. I like to say things that have (hopefully) not been said before, or at least, not used in the same way by anyone else. The themes might be universal – loss, growing older, discovering your own faults, finding someone to love – but within those, I really try to express myself in ways that go beyond the usual tropes.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
In the studio, yes, all the time. I often have specific ideas of how I think things should sound, but I also try to leave the egos out of it. As the main songwriter and composer, I know that my perspective is limited and I shouldn’t steamroll other ideas.
My drummer, for example, came up with the track listing for the upcoming album, which is totally different than the one I had. But I like it better. He recommended I scrap a few songs I was going to include. Vocalists who come in for features will have different ideas about harmonies and lyrics, and that’s okay. It’s never about getting their way; it’s about making the end result better. If you all try to approach it that way, things generally turn out really well.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
I’ll have one more single release in July, before a new album drops in August. The album is called “An Audio Guide to Introspection” and it’ll be available on all the usual places, with a limited run of printed copies. I’m working on a series of shows I can play to support that – if you want me to stop by your area, send me a message and I’ll do my best to make it happen.