Blake Berglund: A Testament to Community
Blake Berglund is a Canadian country artist who recently went on a quest to find “The Spirit of America’s Country Music”. The musical and spiritual journey began in September 2016 and spanned five weeks. However, this was just an addition to the path Blake had already paved for himself as a country singer from Saskatchewan. Blake recalled that there was no “defining moment” where he chose to be a country singer and that overall, it has been a “slow process” but things began to change for him when he turned twenty-six:
“There was a horseback ride I went on with my brother on my 26th birthday where I committed to it all as a life-practice but the ‘country singer’ side of me is a constant evolution. When I recognized what artists such as Willie Nelson stood for and valued musically, I began emulating that in my own career. It was pretty easy to start to obsess over what makes country ‘country’ – which is why I'm so offended when it’s bastardized.”
Upon starting his trek across The United States, Berglund was “creatively dry and slightly distraught”. He wanted to prove throughout his project “that country music at its highest integrity is alive and well, and what is being spoon-fed to radio listeners isn't a worthy representation of where the genre is at.” Blake’s initial plan was to review concerts, but through this process, the trip took on a “narrative of its own”.
“[It got] to the point where I began to shed light on my own struggles and back-story. Who would have thought that driving around listening to live music for five weeks would result in spiritual enlightenment--then again, how could it not?”
Blake’s creativity resurfaced as he documented the experience in his blog, which was something he wasn’t used to doing. “It became my primary creative outlet and opened a door to a self-expression that I had never considered – in fact, was rather intimidated by. I found that the dedication and discipline to the practice garnered the best results as it bled into other areas of my life. Upon returning, I found my home responsibilities take a small precedence over my creative writing but the narrative is continuing and I'm returning to Nashville in February to tell the second half of the story.”
In 2016, Berglund was recognized on the first ballot/long list for the Canadian Country Music Association Awards’ (CCMAs) “Roots Artist of the Year”, for which he was grateful and called it “a testament to community”. Community is something that Blake is deeply rooted in, whether it’s in his hometown or the country music community as a whole. He works very hard to maintain a teamwork mentality amongst his peers, as they also give him, “at its rawest form, a sense of family”.
One of his peers is fellow Saskatchewan artist, Jess Moskaluke. They have been friends for many years and Blake “cannot express enough love and appreciation for her achievements and growth as a woman”. He added that “She's only become more humble with her successes and is a positive role model for both males and females that look up to her. That matters more than anything to me, how she develops with the opportunities that come her way – and I know of nobody that does it with more grace and class.”
As for how different artists fit into the community and the way he approaches his life-practice as a country singer, Blake explained, “I heard an aphorism once that ‘the sky is big enough for all the stars’ – it's true. There are artists that use their successes to build their community up and introduce the crowds they've been blessed to be given with their lesser-known contemporaries – I have such respect for this approach. I want this sentiment to come through with the successes I've been given”.
Blake has earned many opportunities, including the ability to play live music in people’s homes. Although he enjoys this method of performing he also sometimes views it as a “selfish” act: “We are usually given a home cooked meal, a warm bed, good conversation and a default audience – how can we not be grateful for the house concert concept? It must be balanced, however, to support the other pieces of the industry, such as the independent venues that are also dedicated to live music and are trying to make a go of it in a fickle music industry…. With this said, [house concerts are] a great opportunity to solidify career-long support and fans that will find their way into helping us fill venues to capacity.”
Hoping to fill The Conexus Arts Centre to capacity tonight, (January 16) Berglund has possibly one of his biggest opportunities to date: opening for Dwight Yoakam! “I'm excited to open for Dwight…. I'm most looking forward to watching from side stage and having the opportunity to perform my material in front of his crowd. I usually don't get too worked up before performances … but this gig feels a little different. I'll settle into what I do as soon as I hit the stage, I'm sure.”
If you are unable to attend this concert, you can always listen to Blake Berglund’s radio show online via cjtr.ca. “They air every Saturday in January from 3pm-4pm. Outside of the radio show I'm active through my social media and blog…. Topics that are most important to me tend to have a social taboo tone to them. I love discussing politics, social reform and our evolving consciousness as humanity. There are some mighty roadblocks these days in everything advancing to a more enlightened state and I think that the ones who are brave enough to talk about it should be educating themselves and their opinion. I take shit sometimes for my moderate political stance as I do value aspects of financial politics and the right of centre business capabilities but we are in a time in history where power has been nothing short of abused by both sides of the spectrum and it's now a discussion of what's right or wrong, not right or left. This discussion begins with the well-being of all people.”
Photo courtesy of Blake Berglund.