The Sound Cafe
Behind The Curtain: Brooke Blackburn
In lockstep with the nature of this article, this month’s feature is an artist who has been making waves in the music Collective for enough years that a biographical introduction is likely not necessary. This edition highlights a conversation with singer, songwriter and instrumentalist, Brooke Blackburn. The name Blackburn carries rich record, musically and historically – I encourage interested readers to look further than this article to learn about both. Perhaps a good place to begin is online; portions of the Blackburn story can be found at www.blackburnbrothersmusic.com. Years ago, I dove deep into the Blackburn history, and some of that investigation is available on the aforementioned site. For those who are already acquainted, this conversation goes deeper still, examining what makes one Blackburn tick as an artist - for the uninitiated, readers will discover the process of an artist whose work stands alone. To offer readers a fair starting point in this instalment of Behind The Curtain, it makes sense to begin with the backdrop of acknowledging that Brooke Blackburn has grown up with – and lived a life deeply threaded with – music.
Brooke Blackburn has spent most of his professional music career being described as the guitarist in his family band “Blackburn”, however, in recent years, Brooke has emerged as an acknowledged singer and songwriter too. After about 30 years, Brooke started exploring the realm of singing and songwriting, performing acoustically as a solo or duo. When asked to talk about what keeps him inspired as an artist, that venture does get mentioned in his comments as the conversation unfolded organically:
“The thing that keeps me inspired is doing my own thing. By that, I mean doing my own thing in the sense of writing my original material. When I write my own material, I’m telling the stories of my history, important history, and the stories of life – that keeps me inspired. Life keeps me inspired. Writing and performing and recording does too – especially during the pandemic. Writing and recording has been something I've been doing a lot during the pandemic, and it keeps me motivated. Music, these days, maybe more than ever, is meant to be heard. When I perform, I’m telling a story…if people want to listen, that’s great, and when you’re playing original material, it’s like a new introduction every time – that is inspiring too.”
Of note, as a songwriter, Brooke composes all instrumentation for his original material to provide a template for the song as a whole; perhaps employing this tactic lends to that ongoing inspiration as well. When asked about what he thinks lends to an artist’s musical development, Brooke says:
“I don’t think you find your sound right away as a musician – I think your sound develops over time. I played as a guitar player for thirty years before I started doing a single about four or five years ago – that’s when I found my sound.” And, when asked what it is that he wants people to know about him as an artist, Brooke’s answer is well suited to his current direction of performing music as a one-man show. He answers: “I want people to know that I am a singer and a songwriter, and the way I am putting music out right now with an acoustic guitar, really does put that forward.”
When asked what advice Brooke Blackburn would offer to aspiring artists looking to take a similar path to his, he says:
“We are all meant to make and play music that is our own – be yourself and push your own sound. Listen to, and learn from, The Greats – and digest that – but take what you learn from them and create your own sound. People will listen to what you do – they will listen because you are doing your own thing, and no one sounds like you. Listen to the greats, but don’t try to be a carbon copy of them – they are great because they developed their own sound based on what they heard and were inspired by – let that inspiration develop your sound that’s unique to you, and people will hear that and listen.”
Also worth mentioning is that Brooke Blackburn’s solo musical efforts have garnered him sponsorship (via competition in the solo/duo category) with the Grand River Blues Society to participate in the 2023 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN.. The International Blues Challenge is an event hosted by the Blues Foundation that showcases Blues musicians and Blues organizations/societies from around the world, and is the largest event of its kind, globally. In addition to Brooke’s latest success in the solo/acoustic realm, there’s a recording from the band of brothers who have shared a musical partnership (and legacy) for a lifetime in the works; the Blackburn brother’s long-term project, “Blackburn” is scheduled to release an album this fall.
A fitting conclusion to this column would be to take direction from the Blackburn name itself and leave this story where it began…In Blackburn’s case, it begins with a deep history that leaves room for the legacy to continue…In Behind The Curtain, it starts with mention of that same legacy, and leaves room for people to continue learning about it’s history. I encourage readers to use this edition as an introduction to the Blackburn name, if they aren’t already acquainted……
As this edition of “Behind the Curtain” draws to a close, I trust that readers of all varieties have gained something more about the artist of mention. This article can be found each month as a regular contribution via the Sound Café with the intention of providing a deeper insight into the Canadian Blues artists who are at the core of the Blues music Collective.
Photo Credit: Vince Jones.
Touring blues musician, Erin McCallum's formal post-secondary education was in media studies (news, radio), graduating from Humber College in Ontario, she went on to be mentored by Canadian News Hall of Fame inductee, Robert Holiday, and she is a regularly published writer in music and investigative journalism, having focused on music for the last six years. Erin has an exclusive monthly column in The Sound Cafe featuring musicians and industry professionals from across Canada who work predominantly in the Blues & Roots genres. Erin McCallum Big Voice. Big Sound. www.erinmccallum.com Read more from Erin www.thesoundcafe.com/post/behind-the-curtain-featuring-teddy-leonard www.thesoundcafe.com/post/behind-the-curtain-andre-bisson www.thesoundcafe.com/post/behind-the-curtain-quisha-wint www.thesoundcafe.com/post/behind-the-curtain-steve-marriner www.thesoundcafe.com/post/behind-the-curtain-michael-fonfara