Jake Blair taking it one goal at a time
Jake Blair has high hopes for the future.
In his teens, he was hailed as a boy wonder. But in true blues fashion, he later fell on some hard times.
The guitar slinger, now 26, is currently experiencing a resurgence in his musical career. He is booking his own shows, investing in promotional material, acquiring equipment and preparing to record his debut EP.
The Jake Blair Band is scheduled to play McMenamins Hotel Oregon at 7 p.m. tonight, Jan. 18, and The Horse Radish in Carlton the night of Saturday, Jan. 26.
Blair was making headlines in 2000, partnering at the age of 13 with 12-year-old McMinnville bassist Matt Seymour in the “boys of blues.”
Blair was living in Lebanon, but spending his summers in McMinnville practicing with Seymour under the direction of his father, Dan. The two played shows around the region, including a gig at the prestigious Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland.
After high school, Blair moved to McMinnville full time. But some questionable choices and hard times, as he explains, slowed his musical career.
The birth of his son, Graham, was a blessing that helped Blair set his priorities straight, shoulder more responsibility and commit to providing for his family. Unfortunately, that involved working long hours, up to 80 a week at various jobs, forcing him to quit playing altogether for a couple years.
In May 2011, he secured a full-time job in McMinnville with steady hours, allowing him to pick up his tool of trade again and revive the once promising performing career.
“It was refreshing,” he said. “I missed it. I feel more serious about it now, too.”
Blair said he’s doing everything by the book with his small business.
In doing his 2011 taxes, he found he turned a profit of $36 after write-offs. But he said the lessons keep coming on the management side, thanks in large measure to Dan Seymour.
“I taught him what he needs to do, how to be persistent,” the elder Seymour said.
Blair acknowledged that persistence is the top attribute needed when finding gigs. “If someone doesn’t call you back, you just keep bugging them,” he said.
His bookings grew in 2012, the highlight being a concert staged at the Mt. Tabor Theater on Nov. 16.
The event featured three young local guitarists — Blair, Ty Curtis and Ben Rice. It was billed as “The Original Guitar Slingers & Singers Showcase.”
A milestone for Blair was being interviewed on KINK’s Sunday Night Blues Room show at 101.9 FM, and his song, “I Want It Back,” received some airtime in the bargain.
Blair said he knew Curtis and Rice from back in the day. He and Curtis had jammed together as teenagers at McMenamins Boon’s Treasury in Salem. Later, Blair jokes, “as his notoriety was climbing, I was fading away, never to be heard of again.”
But it’s a different story today, as Blair sets his sights on turning the Jake Blair Band into a nationally recognized brand.
As a youngster, Blair was inspired by Stevie Ray Vaughan. But since returning to music, he and Seymour have moved in a different musical direction.
“It’s what I call sophisticated blues,” Seymour said. “He can do whatever he wants. He just has to have it in his mind that he wants to do it.”
One song they’re working on involves a riff derived from the Tetris video-game theme. Another creative take of Blair’s was a Pink Floyd medley they performed as a duo earlier this month at Cornerstone Coffee.
“It takes a lot of balls to do something like that,” Seymour said. “You have to have something more as a musician.”
When the Jake Blair Band formed, Dan Seymour advised the boys to take the essence of a song and not be afraid to jump somewhere else when they set about performing it. And he said they both took that advice to heart.
“Most of the tunes he does, he damn near paints a picture,” he said of Blair.
One piece of advice Blair didn’t take, at least originally, was to write a lot of songs. That’s the next step at this point, he said.
In the coming weeks, Blair plans to record a five-song original EP at Instep Studio in downtown McMinnville, aided by local producers Keith Sommers and Dan Rost.
“Dan has been wanting to do a CD with me for like eight years,” Blair said. “Finally, the planets are aligning.”
With a polished product, Blair hopes to earn a return spot at the Waterfront Blues Festival this year. Another goal is to get one song on heavy rotation at radio stations across the country.
“That’s the next shore that I’m rowing for,” Blair said. “Once I get there, I’ll figure out what to do next.
“I know that if I’m focused on my main goal, all the steps in between are the way the universe works. It’ll just kind of naturally happen.”
Contact Ossie Bladine at email@example.com.