He's the real deal -- the writer of old-school country lyrics; the maker of music where honky-tonk meets modern twang; the keeper of country music traditions from Hank, Johnny and Waylon.
The 2013 Saskatchewan Roots Artist of the Year would much rather be authentic than popular. So it was that Sept. 9, 2016 marked the departure of the young Saskatchewan musician on a mystical quest, "The quest for America's real country music."
He found it -- the authentic, backwoods version of country he was so desperately seeking. Living out of the back of his van and driving in U.S.A. country for five weeks, he found himself, too.
Q: Why did you start "The quest for American's real country music"?
A: Initially, it was a dissatisfaction with the state of today’s mainstream country music— that reason still remains high on the list. The avenues that make “country” accessible to the average listener are protected pretty heavily as far as who’s allowed in and who isn’t. Financial interest and advertising is what steers the ship, so when an artist that plays an alternative sound speaks out against the lack of quality in what’s being directed towards the listener, it usually isn’t received with open arms by a certain sect of the industry. With that said, it doesn’t take the outspoken to convince the listener anymore—they’re an intelligent crowd and they can hear it for themselves.
Q: Where did your quest take you?
A: Physically, it led me to Kentucky. I never saw it coming. I thought I was going to spend a few weeks on the road and find some hole-in-the-wall in East Nashville where I was going to hang my hat for a couple of weeks (which I did end up doing) but the trail led me into the Appalachian Mountains. I discovered a family-run festival that’s the epitome of community. I left feeling like I found what I was looking for—but once you start looking, it’s terrifying what you are faced with discovering. Like all journeys, it led inward.
Q: What was the most surprising thing you discovered about country music on this journey?
A: I was surprised with how prevalent “real country music” is once you leave the bubble of what’s being spoon-fed. There is more quality country music out there than there’s ever been and I’d argue that it’s of a better quality than ever before. For an artist that stays true to the spirit of real country music, they must force themselves to be vulnerable and intelligent all the while honouring traditional approaches. I also found it surprising how I was forced to look at my own career and face what I have to do to push the envelope, stay true to the spirit and remain unique in character.
To read the rest of the Q&A with Blake Berglund, buy the digital version of the Spring 2017 issue of Prairies North, or purchase a print copy in our store. To see a music video from Blake Berglund, read Saskatchewan's Country Music Stars.