"The Blues is an invitation to check in with how you feel, and respond in a language that’s Universal. It informs my every day, not all about me, I do get to learn old songs, write new/old songs, enjoy the journey of discovery, the ongoing odyssey."
Rene Huard: Blues Calling, Roots Feeling
Niagara-based artist Rene Huard is a multi-talented veteran on the Canadian roots music scene. A performer for over 40 years, Huard was a member of the Meteors, a Fort Erie-based blues band that had the opportunity to open for blues legends such as James Cotton, Long John Baldry and others. Huard has the esteemed distinction of being among the first performers at the annual Ottawa Blues Festival. As a multi-talented musician, Huard is not only a masterful vocalist and songwriter, he performs on harmonica, guitar, and piano. In addition to his extensive musical career, Huard may be familiar as a former Reality T.V. host on the programs Antique Hunter & Antique Style.
(Photo: Rene Huard)
The first single from the veteran Niagara bluesman’s upcoming album "Blues Calling" (set for release on January 2024) "Hard Times" is upbeat in every sense of the word. "It's fair to say "Hard Times" is a contemporary homage to the chunk-a-chunk guitar of Chuck Berry, and the wry lyrical insight of Willie Dixon", says Huard. "The Berry/Dixon effect, applied to these troubled times. Music shared is good for whatever ails you."
Interview by Michael Limnios Special Thanks: Sarah French Publicity
What do you learn about yourself from the blues and what does the blues mean to you?
The Blues is an invitation to check in with how you feel, and respond in a language that’s Universal. It informs my every day, not all about me, I do get to learn old songs, write new/old songs, enjoy the journey of discovery, the ongoing odyssey.
How do you describe your music philosophy and songbook? What's the balance in music between technique and soul?
I love that question re: balance between technique & soul. Are the best and most respected. Take, 'Otis Rush', his stinging guitar fills, razor blade cut’n vocals soaked in deep soul, convey his profound pain, or joy, that is what jangles my spine. Knowing all the chords and inversions, the theory of it, an asset to be sure, but without the soul connection, even a technically perfect offering, an empty shell. I play what stirs me up emotionally, or has a groove that cannot be denied, moving me almost supernaturally, my repertoire is reflective of those facets.
Why do you think that the Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following in Canada?
In Canada, we share many cultural similarities with our American neighbours to the south. For me, here in southern Ontario, had access to Buffalo, NY radio stations, Sunday morning LIVE Gospel broadcast from churches just across the river. In a broader context, historically, since the 1960’s, out of Toronto, and in most major centres in Canada, Blues Bands like Downchild, Dutch Mason, King Biscuit Boy, their records played on CBC and specialty programs like that of Holger Peterson, Danny Marks, the blues has seeped into the Canadian fabric, bona fide threads of connectivity to the sources of the Deep South, the African American experience, resonates profoundly here. Universal appeal. Same reason the British Blues spawned the avalanche of loyal followers. Really, by this stage, it’s a global phenomenon, I’m not waving the flag or anything like that. Yea Canada!
"I do fear for the prospects of the new generation of Blues artists, that, despite the marvel of Digital Distribution, global access, ya-da, ya-da, without a more broad exposure, (via traditional media, concert venues), and a more fair percentage share of streaming revenues… my fear, many talented artists will tire of self-funding their dream." (Photo: Multi-talented Canadian roots musician, Rene Huard)
Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Donnie Walsh, (Mr. Downchild), Morgan Davis, Jackie Washington, to name but three, (Canadians), who took the time to get to know me, take me fish’n, invite me on stage to jam, feels like being granted access to a club, one of very few clubs I’d want to be in, (Mark Twain thang). The Blues is a fraternity, (TBS, others across the country), brothers & sisters each inspired by shared influences. Play with others as often as you can, and, if they are better than you, all the better. If you are the best at whatever you do, (dangerous comparisons, eh?), share and inspire others to play.
Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
So many memories, so little time. First time I saw John Hammond Jr. LIVE at The Beacon Arms Hotel, Ottawa, ON, 1970’s), Mr. Hammond fielded a question thrown from the audience, “Can a white musician play the blues as well as a black man?”
“Oooh, hot potato, incoming “, it was an uncomfortable moment. Then Mr. Hammond cooly replied, “The Blues Is Colourless“. That answer stuck with me, a white boy with a love of the music, but at times feeling I lacked the essential race credentials. His blistering performance convinced all present, the message is the thing, not the colour of messenger.
What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
Both the present and past have their charms, when it’s good, it’s good, if I’m tip toeing around this, maybe it’s because, as a LP collector, I can always go to the vinyl vaults, or to my resource books, do a little time travel, or the You Tube, so much archival sound bites and video, old & new, I feel I’m getting a valuable helping of both old & new. I do fear for the prospects of the new generation of Blues artists, that, despite the marvel of Digital Distribution, global access, ya-da, ya-da, without a more broad exposure, (via traditional media, concert venues), and a more fair percentage share of streaming revenues... my fear, many talented artists will tire of self-funding their dream. Blues artists need to be financially supported for their work. I do hope young aspiring blues/roots artists are encouraged, and that the elder, wise ones who’ve inspired us all, are respected and supported when them ol fingers can no longer bend another note on the high E string.
"I honestly cannot say, but I did not see any young people at the last Blues Festival I attended. That’s why it’s so important to share with and support the young who show genuine talent and love of the music."
(Photo: Rene Huard)
What is the impact of Blues on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?
As a largely traditional form of music/culture, with deep historical import, by definition Blues carries the social relevance of the past to the present, that is the root. We know our past, learn from it, go forward, to a degree enlightened, if we choose. If people can for a few brief moments or more, get lost in the music, or feel they “must“ get up and dance, or perhaps have an epiphany of sorts, a realization that allows them a fresh perspective, cathartic even…isn’t that what all artists crave or offer? An energetic shift for the better.
Do you think there is an audience for blues music in its current state? or at least a potential for young people to become future audiences and fans?
I honestly cannot say, but I did not see any young people at the last Blues Festival I attended. That’s why it’s so important to share with and support the young who show genuine talent and love of the music. If they have successful internet sales (and fair renumeration), have venues to showcase their latest album… College & University exposure, etc., these are the fans of the future, and the roots continuation from the fertile source.
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