Tuesday, December 06, 2016

The Other Blechta

by Rick Blechta

The past two weeks I’ve done very little writing. Why? Because I’m trying to clean up the last of the graphic design work after which I’m shuttering my studio — except for the odd job for friends and a handful of clients with whom I enjoy working — and mostly to pick up a bit of pin money (an interesting term in itself). I had hoped I’d be done with GD by now but two jobs went on and on despite me more and more desperately nudging my clients to finish up their projects. Anyway, I’ll soon be free!

Second of all, I’ve been working on promotional materials for my current music project: SOULidified, a 9-piece band specializing in performing classic soul music from the ’60s. It’s a labour of love, really, since this music is what got me interested in my main life’s work: music — of all kinds.

Sure I love writing, and still enjoy the act of creating compelling stories with interesting characters and settings, but it was actually music that led me into writing in the first place. I’d always had a way with words (just ask my high school and university teachers), and when someone asked me to do a music review for the local paper, I said sure. That led to more reviews and even a few magazine articles (wish I’d kept copies!). Eventually, I started into crime writing because I’d sort of temporarily burned myself out on music (teaching music seven days a week eventually takes its toll) and needed a new creative outlet.

But, honestly, if I was forced to pick only one thing to do going forward, it would have to be music. I currently have the pleasure — and honour — to play in a very fine big band, The Advocats (http://www.advocatsbigband.com/) and that has been a huge part of my life for the past 12 years.

A few years ago, soul music called out to me when my niece asked me to put together a band to play at her dad’s surprise 60th birthday party. Since soul music was where we both musically began, I wrote out some arrangements, got in touch with some old musical friends down in the NYC area, and we surprised the hell out of my brother when he showed up to a “Valentine’s Day Dance” (it would be more accurate to say he got dragged there by his wife) and there were his drums (untouched for more than 20 years) and 10-piece band in need of someone to keep the beat. It was an epic party!

It also made me realize how much I missed playing this music. Since I had written over a dozen arrangements, I thought, Why not find some good musicians back home in Toronto and put together a band that could perform this great music the way it was done back in the day?*

SOULidified was born. And ever since, my attention has been divided. On one hand, I desperately want to write and hate to see my novel-in-progress languish. But on the other hand, I want to work on new arrangements (I’m up to 46 currently) and perform with my mates, great musicians and also great people.

So now I’d like to share with Type M followers (and my fellow authors) a bit of “The Other Blechta”. Hope you enjoy it!

There are more clips if you go here: http://www.soulidifiedband.com/video.html


*The band was rehearsing an Otis Redding tune one day and I said we should do it a certain way because, “That’s the way Otis used to perform it live. I saw it, and believe me, it was #$%@@$@ amazing!” Most of the musicians in SOULidified are a fair bit younger than me, and one of those who was up on his Otis history said, “What a minute! Didn’t Otis die in 1967? How old are you?


Eileen Goudge said...

Interesting post, Rick. Reminds me of the words of a writing teacher I had years ago. "You can court many muses but marry only one." I chose writing over piano, but then I was never much of a musician. Your "marriage" to music and writing sounds more like a happy polygamous one. Well, hey, whatever works, right?

Rick Blechta said...

Yup, and with the exception of my novella, music tends to hog centre stage in my written works. Don't know why that happens, though...