You'd think that moving from small-town Alberta to big-city Edmonton to pursue music would be enough to steel your resolve, would be proof positive that you have what it takes to step out of your comfort zone—a necessary trait if your aspirations are bigger than campfire crooner. But life has a one-step-forward-two-steps-back quality, and the things that we learn about ourselves are often by repetition.
Although singer-songwriter Deon Blyan managed to carve his name into the Edmonton scene within a couple years of moving here in the mid-'90s, it wasn't until he moved to Calgary a couple of years back that he was able to see the world of possibility.
"I moved to Calgary because I felt kind of like a chapter of my life had ended in Edmonton and I kind of wanted a change," Blyan explains over the phone from Calgary. "Edmonton is a great cocoon where you can play and get a lot of support and really hone your skills. I look back on it now and I see that if I hadn't moved to Calgary, I never would have played in Toronto, I never would have played in Vancouver, I never would have played in New York City. It was almost kind of like a growth stage."
Many artists—of any medium—will tell you that growth stages are fodder for their art, but Blyan is especially frank about it, which more than comes through in his music—just take the name of his fall 2007 release Lessons (and other things learned). His second studio album really saw him beginning to understand his own voice. This direction, inspired by everyone from Bob Dylan to Ron Sexsmith to Danny Michel, is one in which he wants to continue.
"There were songs on the last album that were stripped down and those are the songs that I'm the most happy with," he says. "I'd like to just get into that organic sound, a lot of head room, a lot of space, and allow that. A lot of the songs that I've been writing, lend themselves to a lot of space."
Lyrically, Blyan is aspiring to become more of a storyteller, to try and wrest the universal from the everyday.
"I think that any songwriter worth their salt eventually gets to that skill set," he says. "I'm sitting outside a Laundromat, actually, right now—but being able to say, OK, there's a lady in the Laundromat, I'm going to write a song about that lady's story and make it poetic. I've sat down with friends to do co-writing and the way they go about it, they bring other experiences, it's not just 'I'm in love with a girl and this is why.' It's further than that that holds the listener."
Blyan hasn't officially been recording, but after taking a bit of a winter hibernation, he has been noodling with some demos, even stretching his musical muscles by playing each of the instruments. It has been a year and a half since Lessons, after all, and he's got the itch—it's time to start finishing off some songs and laying down some tracks. It's time to take on those lessons and other things (re)learned.