Manitoba country singer sets sights on Nashville

Country singer Quinton Blair has always preferred a more traditional style of country music.
Quinton Blair takes writing country songs seriously (Ora Walker Photography)
Country singer Quinton Blair has always preferred a more traditional style of country music. And it shows up in his song writing. 

"There's just an honesty there, and you can really connect with that moment," he said.  "When you talk about [modern] country music, a beer or just a country girl ... that doesn't connect with me."

Blair takes his music seriously, and treats his writing as a full-time job.

"I treat song writing like a trade," he said. "And sometimes, even if I don't have that inspiration, I still want to work and develop that skill, and flex that muscle a bit. Even if I'm writing a song that I'm never going to release or play, I'm still going to learn about myself and about the process."

"I end up writing a lot of tunes at 2 o'clock in the morning, for whatever reason," he revealed. "It seems like that creative energy flows late at night."

Blair mentioned a recent acquisition that he says helps a bit. "My friend Rob Waddell, a songwriter from Winnipeg, hooked me up with a record player a couple of months ago," he said with a grin. "So now the tradition is just to sit back and have a drink, and listen to some old records. I find a lot of inspiration in that, and it translates into great writing opportunities."

What old vinyl does he listen to during those relaxing moments? 

"Emmylou Harris. Jerry Jeff Walker," he said. " Whoever!"

Having good friends in the country has its benefits as well. Blair says he's been able to set up a weekly writing retreat, courtesy of a neighbour. 

"I'm fortunate enough to have some friends who let me write songs in their log cabin," he said. "So at 8:30 in the morning on Wednesdays, I go in there and I have to split the wood to heat up the place. It's too cold to be able to do anything when it's minus 40 in a log cabin, so you sit around waiting for it to heat up, and bounce some ideas around. Then you pull out the guitar and do some writing. So that's where I treat it as a skill; as a trade I'm developing."
Cover of Quinton Blair's album, Blues Man (

Crafting a good song is serious business for Blair, and his trip to Nashville will be more work than pleasure. He'll hook up with fellow Winnipegger Del Barber while he's there, and the pair will write songs, play showcases and spend some time networking.

"I think at the end of the day it's a matter of just opening up opportunities," explained Blair. "I'm trying to be realistic and business-minded, and get out there and find those opportunities."

Hear Quinton Blair in conversation with host Bruce Ladan on SCENE. The show airs every Saturday from 5 - 6 p.m. on CBC Radio One, 89.3 FM/990 AM/97.9 FM in Brandon.