A musician who makes his home in the Cowichan Valley has been nominated in a few categories of the Maple Blues award.
Brandon Isaak has been nominated in four categories in Canada’s national blues awards including Male Vocalist, acoustic act, producer, and songwriter of the year.
Isaak started on an instrument young, growing up in a musical family in Whitehorse, Yukon. His early guitar playing was initially not in the blues as he was more drawn to the heavier sounds of artists like Led Zeppelin and Ozzy Osbourne.
“As a young kid that’s sort of where you go,” he says. “Then you research and discover where it all came from and it all leads back to the blues. It’s an ongoing journey and the more I study it, the more I go further back and getting more traditional. I think my next album is going to be a rock banging on a log.”
As for his latest album, Isaak says he recorded and produced it in his home studio with a lot of other artists from the Island. Called One Step Closer, the ten song release is mostly set in the 1930s New Orleans style featuring a variety of instruments like the clarinet and tuba.
“Normally I do try to put a few spiritual tunes on the album. I’m not religious or anything, but I am spiritual. I’m always excited about those songs, they always feel like they’re dealing with something a little more heavy than a broken heart,” says Isaak.
He also gives note to his song “What’s This World Coming To” which he believes might have been part of the driving force in his nomination in the songwriter category.
“It’s about the state of the world these days,” he says. “Normally I write silver lining type of songs where there’s always something positive, this one is a little darker but it’s getting a lot of great press.”
Going back in time, Isaak’s career started when he left home for Vancouver where he embedded himself in the music scene.
“I left blindly and just kind of went to Vancouver and just started meeting musicians and slowly integrating into the music scene there. I just kept doing that and now it’s paid off as a full-time living,” he says.
As for the state of the blues, Isaak says it’s continuing to get harder for the genre to punch through the growing noise of a diverse commercial music landscape.
“It’s a tricky business these days,” he says. “Everyone’s into this modern music. Even if you listen to country, it’s changed so much that it doesn’t really resemble country anymore it more resembles rock to me. To hold to the traditional sound of the blues is pretty tricky […] It’s a hard business to keep going, not a lot of people are doing it full-time, that’s for sure.”
His Brandon Isaak Trio will be performing this Friday at the Duncan Showroom with a few more dates on the Island upcoming. To find out if he’s won any awards, he’ll have to wait until February 12th at the Maple Blues Awards ceremony in Toronto.