Conor Gains & the Ramlin' Moon
Calgary International Blues Festival (2016)
Ask most people what they were doing at the tender age of eight, and they probably won't tell you that they found the inspiration that would shape their life. Ask anyone what they were doing at the transitional age of twelve, and they most likely won't say they were performing live at music venues. Ask a kid what they plan to do for their fourteenth birthday, and I bet the answer isn't that they'll be ripping off some exceptional guitar leads at a festival. That is, unless you are asking guitar player extraordinaire, Conor Gains.
At the monumental age of twenty one, he's done all of that - and more. In addition to his recognizable guitar proficiency, he sings, writes songs, and is also a self professed student of music. Since releasing his second album last July, Run Away With The Night, (2014) at the age of 20, The Conor Gains Band has been performing on a National tour supporting that release, and Conor Gains is quickly establishing himself as one of Canada's most ascending Blues guitar players.
Conor is no stranger to the Toronto Blues music scene either. He took his band to the TBS talent search in 2014 - and won (July 5). This, of course, led The Conor Gains Band to take the stage at the Blues Summit 7 Showcase last January. It would be safe to say that anyone who has their finger on the pulse of the Canadian Blues scene has heard a thing or two about Gains.
He and I had a one on one conversation, pulling back the curtain, diving deeper than his impressive resume, to talk about his thoughts about music. It didn't take long for Conor to jump in to the conversation, expressing his passion for music, and opening up on a number of topics.
Listening to tracks featured on the Conor Gains Band's new album, it is obvious that he has stretched the boundaries of traditional Blues throughout the contents of Run Away With The Night. It is easy to hear hints of country, rock, rockabilly and yes - even reggae. According to him, stretching the parameters of any genre is a natural progression that should happen, and Blues is no exception. Conor had his hand fully submerged in the songwriter's pot on this album, co-writing all eleven tracks, and his songwriting backs his belief about a necessary expansion of traditional Blues parameters. When asked to give his thoughts, he says, "There are only two types of music in my opinion - good music, and bad music. Blues is a great genre to grow with, and it is
something I strive to do all the time". When asked about the genre itself, he says, "Blues is a soulful, creative, extreme right-brained forum to express or evoke emotion - a way of expressing, despite what you are going
through, something beautiful."
Speaking of growing, I asked Conor about making the transition from a power trio to a regular four piece lineup of musicians. He says, "I find a power trio is a lot of fun, but for me to play solos all night long has a lot of
pressure attached to it. Having another guitar player helps relieve that pressure. It also adds a different colour to the music, which I think is great for people who are listening. Lately, at shows I've been adding other instrumentation to the music, such as keys, too - it gives a lot of freedom to the music and how we can present it."
While discussing whether being a young artist in today's Blues scene is an advantage in his opinion, Conor offered; "Coming into a genre that has more influence being put on the music than the image makes it an
advantage - there is time for me to grow, both as an artist, and with the music. When people compare my skill to my age, it's white noise to me (laughs)." - A fitting reaction for a guy who was invited on stage by, and played with, Les Paul at the Iridium Jazz Club at age 16.
When asked if he has any advice he could pass on to aspiring Blues artists, Gains admits that he is always in the process of learning himself, but says: "There has got to be a balance between, music, the music business, and business. I feel that a lot of bands put focus on only one of these areas, and it really takes focus on ALL aspects to move forward. It's a constant learning process for me, and I find I am most successful when I approach
things this way."
The Conor Gains Band is in the midst of his Run Away With The Night CD Release Tour, and plans to continue the tour into the summer festival season. If you see his name on the marquee any time, stop in, have a listen, and enjoy the talents Gains has to offer. This guy is an artist that fits the bill, but is certainly breaking the mould.
-singer, songwriter, guitar player, bandleader
Conor Gains Band