Matt Blais brings his signature raspy vocals and blistering blues harmonica to Lorenzo’s Cafe in Ashton Creek May 14. (Photo submitted)

Cracking the musical cryptograph

Live music can transport the listener to a new world through electrifying and emotional performances

Live music can transport the listener to a world of imagination through electrifying and emotional performances.

That’s the goal of roots-rocker Matt Blais when he brings his signature raspy vocals and passionate attack on harmonica to The Riverfront Pub in Grindrod May 12 and Lorenzo’s Cafe in Ashton Creek May 14.

“I think a good show is one I don’t remember,” said Blais. “The show is over and you come back to the real world — it’s an escape from reality.”

The Calgary-based singer-songwriter has played in Grindrod before, but is excited to tap into a new market in the form of Lorenzo’s Cafe.

“Part of the reason we love to tour is (seeing) new places,” said Blais.

“I love touring. Touring is the reason I got into this in the first place. I really tried to remember that.”

For him, touring through bars and smaller venues is the preferred route, as smaller venues translate to more intimate shows, with the added bonus of more relaxed, less stressful performances.

Blais began performing in front of people while he was in high school, which eventually led to him playing what he refers to as real shows.

“It was a really slow evolution to play full time.”

One of Blais’ earliest gigs was at the Taste of Calgary festival with his band, which, at the time, largely played The Beatles covers. At the event, Blais met local vendors who were running their stands, conversing with clients, and happy to have him and his music around.

“That’s when I sort of realized music is more about the community.”

And it’s a realization he was happy to make, and one that eventually transitioned into a nearly eight-year career as a full-time musician.

Blais started his musical career by playing the harmonica. At first, he didn’t play it much, but when he first heard Bob Dylan, everything changed.

“I went out, got a guitar and harmonica (neckbrace) and tried to do it all at the same time.”

Blais’s signature style is influenced heavily from his classic rock background and his formative years listening to bands such as The Beatles. More recently, however, musical acts such as Sam Roberts and The Black Keys have helped shape his path, and it shows in his work.

“I try to be a musical chameleon,” said Blais. “Some songs are more folky, some are more high energy.”

Blais has been writing his own material since the age of 15. In his early years, whenever he learned a new chord on guitar, he would work it into his progressions. Even after years of experience in writing his own material, it has always been about the music for Blais.

“I try to write really honest songs and play with passion and heart and try to connect with people,” he said.

During his performance, Blais pulls from over five hours of material to choose what song to play for any possible situation.

“They can expect the unexpected,” said Blais on what the audience can expect at his show. “We never make a set list. We always play the songs we think will connect with the audience.”

His impromptu set-list is comprised of largely original tracks, but Blais doesn’t shy away from playing music from his roots.

“Covers are part of who I am as well.”

After his half-week tour through the Okanagan, Blais is heading back to Calgary to focus on future releases.

“Right when we get back from tour, we’re filming a new music video for Give a Little More.”

The single, Blais said, is the polar opposite to his most recent single Set Me Free, which featured laid-back guitar riffs and raspy yet calm and soothing vocals.

“It’s rocky, blues harmonica — super high energy,” said Blais on his upcoming single.

And it’s through these drastic transitions that Blais is able to keep the feeling of the music fresh.

“I’ve always wanted to unlock the code of music.”

Blais plays The Riverfront Pub in Grindrod May 12 at 8:30 p.m. with no cover charge, and Lorenzo’s Cafe in Ashton Creek May 14 at 8 p.m. for $10 at the door. For more information, visit www.mattblaismusic.com.

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