At Seymour Duncan, we are all about the players and their quest for the right sound. For every band that has achieved critical mass, there are thousands more who are putting in their dues at local bars and coffee shops. Seymour Duncan Underground is a new continuing series to showcase unique musicians and bands that have not quite reached the mainstream. Today, we sit down with rocker Blake Havard from Vancouver, Canada.
Blake grew up in Alberta, influenced by the music of his parents, where it was not uncommon to hear Motown, Kris Kristofferson, Neil Diamond, The Beatles, and Elton John playing on the record player. His older brother had started a band and Blake quickly took to starting his own group. Blake set his sights on the local Battle of Bands and won. He took off to Vancouver and started playing shows, recording and living the life of a musician. Blake can currently be found touring around doing solo acoustic dates and will soon be working with Canadian guitar legend Bill Dillon.
As a musician from Vancouver, Canada – how would you describe the music scene and the challenges for an artist?
“Vancouver is a beautiful city with a lot of talented and creative people. The challenge being an artist in this town (maybe like a lot of towns) is that it is an expensive place to live and there are not a lot of places to play. It’s hard for small venues to make a buck which makes it hard for the working musician to survive. Having said that, there is a big open mic scene where you can keep your chops up and test out new material in front of great audience! You can always go visit your massive fan base built up all over the world on Myspace/Facebook!”
Your music has been described as storytelling – where do you draw your inspiration in the songs you write?
“As a kid, listening to music would take me on a journey. I could identify with a song like it was my own story. I was hypersensitive to all these wonderful nuances of emotion and sound. I remember busting moves to ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ in my parents living room or starring off into space listening to Ziggy Stardust or the Beatles White Album. My songs usually come from a real life emotion triggered by an event that affected me deeply. If I am lucky, that emotion makes it to the iPod stage and the listener can identify with it.”
“If I am laughing, crying or dancing during the songwriting process I know I am on to something! Storytelling seems to be a dying art in songwriting these days. I am humbled when I listen to the great storytellers Dylan, Cohen, Hank Williams etc. I just hope a little bit rubs off on me! Don’t get me wrong though, I like to bang my head to AC/DC or get down to KC and the Sunshine Band too!”
What kind of gear do you currently use?
“I like the twang and funkiness of old school Fenders, Gretsch, Gibson, Rickenbacker guitars. You can’t go wrong with an AC-30 or a blackface Deluxe. I do have a Pensa/Suhr Strat with a matched set of Duncan’s that sound sweet! For my acoustic shows these days I rely on a Gibson Rosewood J-45.”
Has the life of a musician always been the path you desired?
“I remember seeing my Grandpa rocking boogie woogie on the Vox Continental organ. It changed my life. Since then it’s been an ongoing love affair with the mystical magical world of music. For better and for worse! I grew up in Northern Alberta so there was a time I dreamt of playing hockey for the Edmonton Oilers. Sometimes, I still have that dream skating on the ice – but for some reason my stick is a guitar.”
You mentioned meeting Seymour, what were your impressions on meeting him?
“Years ago I went to a small guitar shop in my home town to see Seymour Duncan do a seminar. The place was called ‘Mothers Music.’ I was blown away that he was actually going to be there. There was only a handful of us in the room and I was a little nervous. It was like going to see Santa Claus for the first time! He played some stingingly fine Telecaster riffs and was a laid back down to earth guy. I got to shake his hand and introduce myself. They did a draw for a pickup and I won! I still have it! I think I was 17. Good times!”
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