Deon Blyan
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Deon Blyan

Calgary, Alberta, Canada | INDIE

Calgary, Alberta, Canada | INDIE
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Folk Pop artist Deon Blyan will be playing at Gitters Pub this Friday. Blyan just released his second album, Turning To Wave, which is about the travels he's taken and the places he's seen. - High River Times


If Deon Blyan’s new album Turning to Wave is more about cities than it is about relationships, you probably can’t blame the guy.“I think I got sick of writing about girls,” the Calgary resident says, somewhere on the road in B.C. “I guess it had to happen eventually. It took on this theme of going to and leaving places, and in the three years since the last (2007’s Lessons and Other Things Learned) I’ve done some extensive traveling. A lot of those trips and places inspired me to write, cities like Toronto, Vancouver, New York, San Francisco. These kind of metropolises where there’s a constant hum going on.

”His infatuation with New York, where he’s discovered a venue (Arlene’s Grocery) that likes him and a growing audience, has certainly sparke a fire in his music. Not only does he directly name check Brooklyn in the song of the same title, he addresses early rock ‘n’ roll fantasies with Across 23rd Street, an homage to the Chelsea Hotel, home at one time or another to Leonard Cohen, Nico, Charles Bukowski, Sid Vicious and Bob Dylan.“I was playing a show in Greenwich Village and kind of followed the whole Dylan story of when he lived there,” the pop-rocker, who has been compared to Jim Cuddy and Neil Finn of Crowded House, explains. “I felt drawn in. In fact, in November we did a video for Across 23rd Street at the hotel. It’s not in the hotel itself, I actually only got as far as the front desk. I almost had a feeling that if I went in any farther it might ruin it for me, since I’d built it up so much in my head."

Blyan plays Haven Social Club tonight at 8 p.m. with Dave Vertesi and Sean Burns. Tickets at $10 at the door.

For Turning to Wave, he once again turned to Edmonton’s James Murdoch for help as producer, co writer and musician, using a few members of Murdoch’s band as well. The partnership started back in 2007 with Lessons, and Blyan feels that it’s worked out quite well.“Before we did the record we went out for a night, had a few drinks and then I crashed on his couch. We got up the next morning for coffee and I played him all of the songs on acoustic guitar. James asked me a few questions about certain phrases, helped me flesh out arrangements and pushed it a bit further; it’s a good process. There’s no preciousness about the music; either it’s a good idea or not. On Lessons he asked me personal questions about the songs, or whether I’d want to say something in a different way. That was a bit off putting
at first, but now we’re quite comfortable at this.

”As an indie musician writing and playing classic pop-rock in an era where many ears are attuned elsewhere, Blyan is in for a tough slog, but he’s a hard worker. Backed at times by Murdoch and his band (as he will be at The Haven), Blyan also takes to the road by himself, as he does in New York; and if he worries that it’s all for naught, he’s also sometimes reminded that there are people out there listening.“Yeah, it’s not as though I’m being showered with Cristal and caviar when I’m on the road,” he laughs, “but there are moments when you realize you’re making an impact. Last time I was in New York there was this couple listening intently to me at the gig.“Afterwards I went up and awkwardly asked ‘why are you here?’ They said ‘we saw a link to your music, listened to it loved it, so we had to see you.’ They were actually from Idaho and now living in New York, this young romantic couple living their dreams, and they had come out to see me. That was fantastic.”
- Gigcity.ca


Taken as a whole, there's a feeling of maturity that rings through Deon Blyan's Turning to Wave. Every step along the way is a careful one: the notes here never sound wasted, the songs—most co-written by Blyan and producer James Murdoch—are steady as they move ahead on waves of crisp guitars and keys. Consistent and careful don't mean a lack of emotional peaks and valleys, though, and there are plenty of those here, the jangly folk-rock and searching lyrics of "Empty Heart" or the sad and stormy album closer "I Don't Know" among them. - Vue Weekly Edmonton, AB


The Canadian folk-pop scene has found itself a new poster boy. Initially, Deon Blyan's newest album Turning to Wave appears to be yet another collection of brooding singer-songwriter accounts of love lost ("Empty Heart") and moving on ("My Lesson's Learned," "Dive Right In"). And yet, he somehow manages to craft easygoing melancholic tunes that are astonishingly uplifting and hooks that continue bouncing around in your head long after the album has ended.

Blyan's second album reunites him with Edmonton's James Murdoch, who produced and co-wrote several songs, and enlists the aid of other local talent such as the haunting vocals of F&M's Becky Anderson on the track "Earthquake.

"It seems that every writer is told at some point to write about what you know, so when you live in the wondrous expanse of flat land that is Alberta, it's no surprise that you'd want to write about anywhere but here.

Over the course of the album, Blyan takes us on a journey to the bustling cosmopolitan streets of Brooklyn, on the search for "what the fuss is about" in "Across 23rd Street," and we're even transported to a fanciful town where two worlds collide in "Winnipeg Italy." Anything that allows you to forget the frigid Canadian winter, even for a moment, is one hell of a gift.

Turning to Wave's catchy pop ballads highlight Blyan's commanding and emotional storytelling abilities. Offset with a folk-country twang reminiscent of Blue Rodeo's Jim Cuddy or Luke Doucet, Blyan's ability to capture a picture of the daily Canadian experience evokes an unequivocal feeling of familiarity.
- The Gateway Edmonton, AB


The equation goes like this: Singer-songwriter writes tunes about relationship, relationship ends, singer-songwriter hits roadblock and then bounces back to write ... more songs about relationships.

This is the cycle in which we find 31-year-old Deon Blyan. The Wainwright-born tunesmith originally moved to Edmonton in 1994, seeking to join our growing music community. As a drummer, Blyan simply wanted to meet some of the local songwriters he had grown to respect: Paul Bellows, Chris Wynters (Captain Tractor) and Stew Kirkwood and his band Welcome.

Within a few years, Blyan's own band, Flowers Fade, had recorded a five-song EP and fallen apart, and Blyan found himself in the position where he could finally take centre stage. So he did what most singer-songwriters do - hit open-mic nights at various pubs and mingle with musicians and artists.

"As a new artist, you kinda have this idea of what you want to sound like," says Blyan. "Whatever your favourite is at the time, you want to do everything you can to try to sound like them. I was a real Radiohead/U2 fan back then - I was going through that phase. I think as you grow older, your influences become more dense, but at the same time, you let it be what it's gonna be.

In 2001, he recorded his full-length debut, Try To Be Kind, a Gin Blossoms-inspired roots-pop-rock album that was well-received in the singer-songwriter circles. But then he hit a wall. A long-term relationship came crashing down, and Blyan found himself at a loss for words. Blyan didn't write any new material for a year or two, trying to deal with the darkness that surrounded him. He slowly dug himself out of the hole, writing the material that would become his "bounce back" album, Lessons (And Other Things Learned), which he produced alongside Chris Wynters and James Murdoch.

All of a sudden, Blyan had regained momentum, recharged his batteries and found his true identity. He had gone back to roots and country, the music of his Wainwright childhood, polishing his songs and infusing them with the spirit of the Jayhawks, Blue Rodeo and John Cougar.

"I've really delved into that over the last four or five years - the original sort of country music: Willie Nelson, that sort of thing," he says. "The stories that are in there, the melodies and the simplicity - I've really gone for that.

Yes, most of his news songs are still about relationships, but it seems Blyan would rather look up than down nowadays. It is no longer a question of impressing his friends or trying to please the market, no longer about trends or pretending to be cutting-edge - it's time to reflect on the past and look to the future.

Blyan's true personality shines through on Lessons, which was released through Edmonton indie label Shameless Records last month. The album flows effortlessly and resonates with wisdom and clarity.

"I think that comes with maturity, right?" ventures Blyan, who now splits his time between here and Calgary. "So many people grab onto what's in fashion, but then you realize what you feel comfortable wearing. As you grow up, it's less about trying to impress strangers around you."

- Published: Monday, November 12, 2007. The Edmonton Journal


Deon Blyan
Lessons (And Other Things Learned)
Shameless
EDEN MUNRO / eden@vueweekly.com

From the opening notes of “Little Things,” the lead-off track on Deon Blyan’s Lessons (And Other Things Learned), the warm tones of the record surround and comfort as Blyan’s voice soothes with a gentle reminder that it’s the little things that count. The next track, “(Tomorrow) It’ll Be Alright,” keeps the album moving with a bouncing rhythm that all but lifts you up and carries you along. Lyrically, things are still hopeful, if a shade darker, with Blyan singing “I want to change / It’s going to take me more than one night.”
There’s an unmistakable feeling of familiarity with the music, with pop-influences offset by a gentle twang that reminds of the work of Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy. Like Cuddy, Blyan has a bent for catchy, laid-back melodies and lyrics that capture the small struggles of everyday life. The rootsiness sometimes gets obscured by the wall of sound that many of the songs are built with, and the best moments happen on tracks like “Shine Again” and “Don’t Pass Me By,” both of which sound as though Blyan is right there in the room singing, but that’s not to say that something like “War and Peace” doesn’t hold a few surprises hidden away in its soaring organ and tight horns.
Deon Blyan is playing at Axis Café on Fri, Oct 26.
- Vue Weekly, Edmonton, Oct 2007


Album: Lessons (And Other Things Learned)

Artist: Deon Blyan

Label: Shameless Records

Rating: 4

Review: Wowee! Where did this guy come from? Even though Deon Blyan's been skittering about the Edmonton and Calgary music scenes for a while now, he's always been more of a ghostly presence than a name rolling off every Albertan's tongue. But that's all about to change. Lessons (And Other Things Learned) is cooked with small-town geniality, prairie ponderings and nightclub shimmers, making for an album just bursting with sleek folk-pop tunes. Right from the moment The Little Things opens the disc, you'll be hooked. For life. Every track is light yet rich, with golden brown melodies cuddling right into banjo rock-outs and Blyan's sophisticated vocals. Lessons sounds so good, you'll want to gobble it up in one bite. Just remember to remove the plastic first.

Amanda Ash
- Edmonton Journal Nov. 3, 2007


Little Things, from Lessons (and Other Things Learned)
"It's a really old song - it's been around for about five years," explains Blyan. "It was probably one song I wrote very soon after recording Try To Be Kind. I played it now and again live, but I never thought it had the strength to be an album song.
"There was a song that I heard that inspired me to play it - a Ben Harper song or something. I used to play very slow, very mellow. It probably came out of some ending of a relationship or whatever, but a moment where I had a clarity where you look back on certain situations in a relationship. I was looking at these big-picture things and looking too far in advance, not seeing what was happening right there at the time. It's a reminder: it's the little kind things in life that really matter."
Shine Again, from Lessons (and Other Things Learned)
"It was a real catalyst to this album actually happening," he explains. "It was a situation where I had writer's block for about a year. It's so cliche because it always comes back to relationships. I was in a long-term relationship that I hoped would get more serious and it ended.
"Through the process of dealing with that, I spun through life for a couple of years dealing with it. Shine Again just came after I bought a Teddy Thompson album and listened to one of his songs. I just sat down and wrote Shine Again in its entirety. Immediately I drove to Edmonton and played for Chris Wynters at one of his open stages and said, 'OK, I really want to do this album.' The whole idea behind it is that I'm singing to myself, asking myself, 'When will the light shine again?' You've been sad long enough.
"We wanted to have it as a duet with Volya (Braziuk) - kind of a June Carter/Johnny Cash sort of thing where it's a bit of an argument going on in the verses. And then the chorus is asking that question: Let's stop being sad and angry, when will the light shine again? There's kind of a hope there, you know? I think in all my stuff there's a hope and a faith sort of thing."

- Francois Marchand, edmontonjournal.com Monday, November 12, 2007


Discography

"Turning to Wave"
March 1st, 2011 Independant

Tracklist
1. Brooklyn
2. Empty Heart
3. My Lesson's Learned
4. Dive Right In
5. Earthquake
6. Across 23rd Street
7. Under Summer Sky
8. Winnipeg Italy
9. Company in Canada
10. I Don't Know

"Lessons (and other things learned)"
October 9th 2007!on Shameless Records Canada

Tracklist
1. The Little Things
2. (Tomorrow) It'll be alright
3. Not The Time
4. Shine Again
5. I Won't be far
6. Can't Afford
7. Under the Sun
8. On The Outside
9. Thing called fate
10. Blackbird Promise
11. War and Peace
12. Don't pass me by

For this second recording Deon teamed up with the pop producing duo James Murdoch (indica / aquarius) and Chris Wynters (sixshooter), allies in the struggle to produce smart and original Canadian pop songs.

"Try To Be Kind" (Out of print)
2002 on Shameless Records Canada

Photos

Bio

Deon Blyan is different. Depending on the format he chooses to play his songs for you in, he changes. That's a part of the charm, because he can fit to the surroundings of the venue and to the focus of the show he's playing. He's always sure to please.

When he plays solo the songs take on a more deliberate and yet patient delivery. His voice rises and falls and focuses on telling you his story. He'll probably ask you questions from the stage, or at least ask you to ask him questions at anytime. Emotion and melody trump everything.

When Deon brings his drummer and bass player things get lively, he keeps it loose but delivers the songs with a bit more urgency. He wants you to dance but understands if you'd rather tap your foot where you are instead. It's a bit rawer in this format with clanging telecaster chords, deep bass and driving drums weaving together. Emotion and melody still trump, but the emotion is different, it's exciting and youthful and looks hard to contain.

When the full band is out with Deon you get the bombast of the album versions of songs. Blended harmonies and stunning lead guitar lift the songs to a different level. You start to see the craft of the songs clearer; the arrangements come in to focus. The band leaves an impression, the energy and emotion are still there, but it takes on yet another dimension. The melodies, rather than anchor the songs, float above the music and communicate the stories found there.

The new album, Turning to Wave, was recorded in Edmonton, Alberta once again and features some of the city’s best musicians: James Murdoch adds the ear candy; Nathan Carroll strums and plucks the catchiest of guitar hooks; and F&M lends some golden background vocals. Alberta native turned Nashville resident Chad Melchert plays solid yet emotive drums, and from Deon’s current home (Calgary), Jon Nordstrom adds his soft touch on bass.

The way most romantic men fall in love with a girl after the first kiss, Deon seems to have fallen in love with cities over the past 3 years; while listening to this album you will find yourself yearning for a vacation “if for only two days”. His enthusiasm for New York, Vancouver, Toronto, and Sausalito is infectious, to say the least.

Much of the album was co-written with James Murdoch (who also acted as producer) and when comparing Deon’s earlier albums to this one, it’s safe to say Murdoch’s presence added some fresh air which gives this album distinction without manhandling Blyan’s sound.

In conversation Deon expands on this, “Murdoch and I have really found a comfortable groove in our relationship” says Deon, “if you are going to truly work with a producer, then you have to be willing to be transparent with the song ideas, lyrically and musically. After I finally decided to record again it just made sense to work with James. We wanted Chris Wynters in the room as well but he was in Scotland for the week”.

Deon goes on to explain the writing and recording process for Turning to Wave.” I had 5 great tunes ready to go, but that was it when I decided to record, so I panicked and almost didn’t go ahead with it - but I decided that I’d put some structure around finishing some more songs so I set a schedule of Wednesday nights and Sundays to force myself to finish the ideas I had. After a quick morning of playing the tunes on acoustics’ in Murdoch’s living room, and doing some co-writing, I realized how good the ideas were and got really excited to record”.

When asked about the sound of the new album Deon says, “We consciously put less on this one, we were happy with the sound of the last one, but wanted to allow some “head room” on these tunes”. The live sound of the songs on this album give them a cohesion and energy that creates an additional hook in itself, supported by melodies that you’ll find bouncing around in your head days and weeks after you thought they’d been forgotten. It’s still easy to compare Deon to Jim Cuddy, Neil Finn and Teddy Thompson, but the unique Blyan twist takes a less twangy shape here. Nevertheless, we still hear pedal steel, beautiful clean electric guitars, as well as some banjo on Turning to Wave. And, it is in fact the crafty guitar work by Nathan Carroll that adds to the cohesion mentioned earlier.

Further to the cohesion in sound, we experience a mature turn for Deon and his songwriting on his latest collection. He takes us on a journey to some of his favorite places on tracks like “Brooklyn” and “Across 23rd Street”. We are also taken to some of the deepest emotional places a person could visit in the songs “Earthquake” and “I Don’t Know”, and we are even transported to a fictional town in “Winnipeg Italy”.

The impression that it’s difficult to pigeon hole Deon into a neat and tidy genre or musical realm grows quickly as the notes and melodies float from the speakers. We also learn that Deon is constantly moving forward, both figuratively and literally; and lucky for us, he pa