Tuesday September 30, 2014


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Matt Blais to make a Halloween appearance in Brandon


This Halloween, singer-songwriter Matt Blais will stop into Brandon’s North Hill Inn on his cross-Canada “Canadian Heartbeat” tour.

Blais, born and raised in Calgary, has a unique sound that combines fiery rock and roll with smooth vintage soul—and a dash of blues for good measure.

Unlike many musicians that are almost born with an instrument in their hands, Blais says that he didn’t have an interest in music until high school. “It was kind of out of boredom – nothing else to do. A buddy of mine had a guitar and taught me a few cords,” he tells the Journal.

Growing up, Blais’ early taste in music was considerably old-school – sometimes even earlier than classic rock. “A lot of Mo Town, early Beatles, and as I grew up I got into the Rolling Stones. I’m a rock guy, for sure, no matter what the decade. Whether it’s Elvis, Bruce Springsteen or Sam Roberts… Anything with honest song writing, lots of guitar and edgy vocals, I like.” Today, he enjoys The Heavy, Sam Roberts, Joel Plaskett and Ben Kweller.

Throughout high school, Blais would join a few bands and dip his toes into writing music. After a while, he had schoolmates asking him to play at different events, like a party or at school gatherings. “I didn’t even know them – and they were giving me money… I kind fell into this music thing accidentally.”

While Blais’ music career blossomed out of seemingly nowhere, he admits that playing guitar didn’t come naturally. “I know my chords and I like to write songs, but I’m not much of a lead guitarist,” the singer-songwriter says. Instead, he takes more of a Bob Dylan  approach to guitar, making it a means to an end. Likewise, Blais started off with Dylan-like focus on folk, but admits that didn’t gel well with the more aggressive way he preferred to sing. To compensate, he added a more Blues focus to his vocals, allowing him to “sing [his] heart out.” This led into Blais’ unique mix of genres that he’s now known for.

“I’m not trying to pioneer the new genre of alternative hard folk experimental blues punk. I just want to write a good song,” he adds.

His latest album, The Heartbeat, was born out of a desire to more accurately capture the “live” experience.

“Our first record, Let It Out, was produced by somebody else… It was a little more experimental and we were kind of
trying to find the sound,” he explains. “When we started performing that record live, the songs kind of grew and grew and grew. They became more high-energy and intense on stage. And so, when it became time to make our second record, I thought, ‘We’ve taken our sound even further. It’s all about that live rock show.’ ”

This focus on the live sound also led to the album’s name, The Heartbeat.

 “We wanted people to see the show, leave  with the CD and say, ‘This is what that band sounds like on stage,’ ” Blais’ says.

This earnest approach to music also bleeds over into the way Blais manages his music career. “Bruce Springsteen played thousands of shows before he was even noticed. It was all about shaking hands and making those personal connections. That’s been the approach I’ve taken so far. Not so much focusing on a YouTube video and trying to get thousands of views; I’m more about playing live. So far, that’s been working.”

For his Halloween show in Brandon, Blais says that he doesn’t have a setlist for the show – and that’s the way he likes it.  Instead, he plans on reading the crowd and playing what they want to hear , though he will play some songs from The Heartbeat.

The band’s never had an unsuccessful Halloween show, boasts the singer-songwriter. “The people are in the mood to party… there’s something about putting on a costume that just gives you that little bit of freedom. Like, when a kid puts on a Wolverine costume, he just feels like he can punch a hole through anyone.”

As for what costumes the band will wear to the show, Blais says that, because of the demands of touring, it’s something they will have to figure out the day of the show. “Really, it depends on what clean laundry we have or what we can pick up at the dollar store.”

Matt Blais’ Oct. 31 show at the North Hill Inn (1129 Braecrest Drive in Brandon, MB) is an 18+ event and has $10 cover charge. Also at the event will be Brandon’s own Tremendous Dynamite. The show begins at 9:30 p.m.

Matt Blais will appear in concert on Thursday, Oct. 31, at the North Hill Inn.


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