Behind the scenes with prairie musicians Belle Plaine and Blake Berglund

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Alone, the talents of Belle Plaine and Blake Berglund are impressive. They are each talented songwriters, with a knack for poetry in a distinctly western style and an honesty to their music that can be both touching and revealing.

Though each has written, recorded and released several albums of their own, their first official collaboration features tracks written by a mutual friend of both groups, Zachary Lucky. The two tracks on the newly minted seven-inch vinyl illustrate the power of collaboration, and what can happen when musicians from different backgrounds work together to create something.

The first song, Town to Town, is an ode to life on the road. There’s a sense of adventure and optimism within the song that speaks to the thrill of travelling to someplace you’ve never been, yet there is also a sense of longing, an anxiety over being away from the ones you love and the place you call home. I’m sure touring musicians can empathize with this feeling, but anyone who has spent time on the road knows what it means to be at once excited to explore and nostalgic for the things they have left behind.“Though Belle Plaine will take a break from touring after promoting this record, Blake Berglund and his band are set to hit the road again in the near future.” Though Belle Plaine will take a break from touring after promoting this record, Blake Berglund and his band are set to hit the road again in the near future. Photo by Jodi Brak

“The tracks are two separate perspectives of being on the road,” Belle Plaine said. “Town to Town is an acceptance of the fact, and speaks to the way that touring begets more touring.”

On the B-side of the record you will find the song Saskatchewan, which goes completely in the opposite direction. This track is an ode to home, an anthem that screams out “this is where I belong!” This track captures how it feels to set your sights on home after being stuck on the road, living out of hotels and the back of a van for weeks and months. The tempo and overall sound of the song is so calm it’s almost spine-chilling, which to me symbolizes the release of tension when you know the next road you’re going to drive down leads you straight to home.

“When I sing Saskatchewan, it's a love letter to my province and my loved ones for being away so much,” Plaine said. “All the relationships I've built in the province get put on hold when I'm away, and I miss my family. This song really addresses that feeling.”
Though the album contains only those two tracks, from a listener’s perspective it is obvious that an enormous amount of effort went into ensuring the quality of each song would meet and exceed expectations.

Blake Berglund said a departure from the traditional album format allowed them to really narrow down the best material and keep the price point low for both recording and distribution.
“We didn’t need to pay for studio time to record 10 or 11 tracks, which means we don’t need to charge as much to make it pay off,” Berglund said. “Financially this has been one of our most successful records.”

The vinyl is available for $10 and contains a code that listeners can use to download the tracks online.

Each group brings something very different to the recording, yet their styles pair together wonderfully, meshing country, folk and jazz into a package that makes the best of what each has to offer.
Belle Plaine brings her soft, ethereal vocals to the table, rounded out and supported by Blake Berglund’s traditional country baritone. The pair singing in tandem can create an amazing harmony that floats somewhere above the male voice and below the female voice, reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac.

Even beyond the vocals, each group brings something unique to the project through the musicians supporting them. “All the relationships I've built in the province get put on hold when I'm away, and I miss my family. This song really addresses that feeling.”              -Belle Plaine  From the Belle Plaine camp there is Elizabeth Curry, queen of the stand up bass, and Jeremy Sauer, a man of many musical talents, including the keyboard, banjo and accordion.
Sauer is in charge of the ambience behind the music, keeping the crowd in a perpetual dreamlike state with subtle organ notes, keyboard solos and banjo picking. Meanwhile, Curry plucks out a low end on a stand up bass that ranges from a driving beat to a funky, off-kilter jazz style full of slides and bends.Smile fullsize editBelle Plaine’s music is often deeply personal. While many would be frightened to bare their heart on stage, it seems to really put a smile on her face. Photo by Jodi Brak

From Blake Berglund’s band there is Bryce Lewis, a guitar wizard who coaxes some really smooth licks out of his cheap Telecaster, and Steve Leidal, who keeps the gang in time on the drums.
Though bringing together artists from different groups and genres can be a difficult task, Belle Plaine said the overall experience and lessons learned far outweigh the struggle.

“Collaboration brings lots of lessons with it. How to work with different people, seeing their process first hand, finding a direction that complements the overall vision for the project.” She said, “I give a lot of credit to how Bryce, Jeremy, Beth and Steve all opened up for the project, and to playing with one another in general. They're total professionals and it shows.”

Put the whole group together, and you have a six-piece that bridges the gap between country and folk music. 

Belle Plaine and Blake Berglund mesh country, folk and jazz music in their first collaborative album.

Belle Plaine and Blake Berglund celebrated the release of their seven-inch vinyl with a tour across the three western provinces. Starting with a show in Saskatoon on Sept. 2, the group toured out to Vancouver Island and back to Regina with one stop in Calgary at Wine-Oh’s on Sept. 8. Described by Belle Plaine as “two separate perspectives to life on the road,” both tracks on the record deliver a subtle combination of Berglund’s alt-country attitude and Belle Plaine’s soft-spoken emotional honesty. Though Belle Plaine says she is looking forward to a bit of a break from life on the road, Blake Berglund and his band are itching to get back on tour again soon. Both groups of prairie musicians can be found playing shows in Calgary on a fairly regular basis, so stay tuned to their websites for tour dates and more information.

Photos by: Jodi Brak

Published on: October 13

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Thumbnail:  Photo by Jodi Brak