Blues man Dustin Harder the force behind Eight Days in May, Eh! festival
Posted by SCENE Staff | Saturday May 12, 2012
Dustin Harder sings at 8 Days in May-Eh! Festival (Courtesy artist)
I love to get people dancing, but I also want people to be able to sit and contemplate the lyrics. It is always a pleasure if you are playing in a room where people are paying so much attention that you could hear a pin drop. That is when you know you are doing something right.
Winnipeg's Dustin Harder first picked up a guitar at the age of six, so you could say he has literally grown into being the stellar guitarist that he is today.
"I was lucky enough to grow up in a family that was always playing music," says Harder. "My grandfather actually whittled me spoons to make me part of the rhythm section," he jokes.
Harder remembers bringing his first guitar into kindergarten for show and tell, and first learning the melody of Suicide is Painless, the theme to M*A*S*H. He started writing songs at the age of 12 and started his first band at 16.
But it wasn't until his mom brought him to his first blues shows that Harder really started to study the craft.
"I didn't get into the blues until I was 16 or 17," says Harder. "It wasn't until my mom used to take me to the Times Change[d] to see Big Dave McLean. She kept trying to get me to sign up for the blues jams, but I'd always get cold feet when he called me up and I'd run out the back door and get out of there."
It would actually take a stint busking for a week on Vancouver's Granville Street at 19 years old for Harder to gather confidence in his playing. "In a week I made just over a thousand bucks, so I thought I must be doing something right."
Years of playing since have made Harder a guitar player of note in the already saturated musical market that is Winnipeg.
Harder comes from a complicated past, but he stays positive through his music
Despite coming from a loving, musical family, it wasn't always sunshine and rainbows growing up in Winnipeg. Harder's early childhood would contain some emotional scars, like finding his mother's lighter at the age of three and accidentally burning their house down; seeing his friend fall off a snow bank and get run over by a bus at the age of five, and having to deal with some abuse from babysitters growing up.
Even Harder's guitar playing was guided by his manic depressive uncle, who always seemed to be strumming to ward off the weight of the world. "I do think those kind of experiences definitely helped me develop into the artist that I am," Harder explains.
Dusty Roads Band ( Kevin Kodak)
And yet, you'd be hard-pressed to find such negative elements in his music, for seeing a performance by Harder - along with his group the Dusty Roads Band - is a thing of pure joy.
Now in his early 30's, the Métis singer and blues aficionado has been striving to break into Canada's music scene with exuberant guitar playing that can't simply be labelled as "blues." In fact, his shows are known to pack a dance floor, which Harder is more than happy to see.
"I always wanted to get people on the dance floor," he says. "Not to be vulgar, but dancing is a lot like sex. You get into it and you forget the world and all your troubles. The endorphins are running through your brain and you are smiling, feeling good for that moment."
But there are also times when Harder likes to hold his audience in silence.
"I love to get people dancing, but I also want people to be able to sit and contemplate the lyrics. It is always a pleasure if you are playing in a room where people are paying so much attention that you could hear a pin drop. That is when you know you are doing something right."
You can catch Harder's full range in Winnipeg, because he's playing several shows as part of the 8 Days in May, Eh! music festival. Harder is also the festival organizer.
And as to his musical future, you can expect a bit of everything from the man. Harder plans to release a pure blues EP in the following year that will be available on limited edition vinyl, while he is also crafting singles that will be released on iTunes, citing local influences to his new sound including Del Barber, Imaginary Cities and Royal Canoe.
Harder says he has about five or six albums worth of material that he's sitting on, so fans of the Dusty Roads Band (and future listeners) have a lot to look forward to.
Catch Dustin Harder and the Dusty Roads Band Saturday May 12 at Le Garage.