MUSIC: Deon Blyan’s urban exposure at Haven Social Club

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

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.”