Blues at heart

The Steve Kozak Band is bringing the blues to Blue Frog Studios in White Rock, June 3 with special guest Sherman ‘Tank’ Doucette.

Born and raised in Vancouver, Kozak and his band will be performing a mix of both covers and original songs, spanning the gamut of different blues styles but with a healthy dose of jazz-influenced West Coast blues style at its centre.

Kozak has long had a reverence and appreciation for blues music. But growing up in Vancouver, he’s a long way away from the geographical ‘centres’ of American blues music like Texas, Chicago, Memphis or even California – the birthplace of the West Coast blues style that many of Kozak’s songs take inspiration from.

Nonetheless, Kozak grew up with a great love for the genre, and he says a large part of what inspired him in his youth was growing up and being able to see legends of the genre live on tour around Vancouver.

Meeting an icon

In particular, Kozak had the chance to meet with the iconic, and apparently very friendly, blues legend Muddy Waters. That experience, he says, was a large part of what set him on course to play the blues for decades to come.

“I got to meet [Waters] when he played at the old roller rink in North Vancouver,” he says. “He was there for five nights and we got to go. He invited us to come every night, and we got to hang out with him and chat with him. So he kind of put me on a mission to keep playing blues.”

Steve Kozak loves to bring a moving groove everywhere he goes. | Photo by Andy Cotton.

That appreciation has driven Kozak to hone his craft of singing, songwriting and blues guitar performance. In recent years, that has led to albums which have netted him increasingly more radio play and awards, including a 2012 Maple Blues Award.

But despite the growing recognition and acclaim, Kozak says it has been the live performances – hundreds of which he has performed in the last decade alone throughout B.C. – that is the most exciting part of keeping up with the blues.

“That’s sort of the thrill of the whole thing – getting to those opportunities and getting to meet lots of your musical heroes at those events and whatnot,” he says. “It’s quite a rush to play for people. And when you get the groove happening with the band there’s really nothing like it. That’s what keeps you coming back.”

Sharing the music

Kozak has also had the chance to pass along that love of blues music throughout the province. He’s led workshops for a number of blues camps throughout the province in recent years, sharing his knowledge and expertise to any eager enough to learn.

Kozak says he usually takes the opportunity to teach different styles from the greats and his personal favourites from different styles of blues, like Freddie King and T-Bone Walker, sharing what he can from the rich musical history.

“I’m not really a qualified music teacher or anything, because I’m self-taught,” he says. “So I try to make [something] that they can learn in a short period of time, because it’s not easy to play guitar.”

But for the musician and his students, the results are always well worth it, with Kozak himself getting as much joy from sharing the blues as his students get from learning from him.

“They all seem to really enjoy it. It opens up new doors to them, and when you can show them something that they’ve been trying to figure out, or you see the light come on in their head like, ‘oh, that’s how that goes,’ you know? So it is very satisfying and a lot of fun,” he says. “At the end of the three days, so far, the times I’ve done it, it’s gone really well, and the guys have learned the stuff and done me proud.”

Overall, Kozak is excited to bring a moving groove wherever he goes, and he expects the concert with his band and Doucette to be a good time.

“We’re just looking forward to having a lot of fun and putting on a good show,” he says.

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