Blake Jurasin is a talented musician based out of Austin, TX. Beyond making his own music he also plays in different bands and groups. Take a stroll below with us and see what all Blake had to say when he sat down with BareBones Ent.
BS: You play in a few different groups. What is that like for you to be able to contribute musically in various groups?
BJ: It’s incredibly interesting to see what different techniques work for different groups and to see where there are similarities. Learning Gospel techniques after listening to guys like Jabari Johnson has helped me during the “Praise Break” section of church services; it’s also given a fresh perspective on how to make my country licks more interesting and rhythmic for Bethany’s band.
BS: So we met you through your playing with Bethany Becker, but you are also a solo performer and in church. What is one different thing that you pull from each of those that you feel makes you a better musician?
BJ: Because I play a different role in each project, each has taught me different things. Strictly speaking on behalf of the music, being a solo artist has pushed me to shed on my chops. Listening to guys like Joe Satriani and John Petrucci greatly influenced how I approached rock guitar in my younger years. My solo career and playing with Bethany requires me to take voice lessons. For the past two years, I’ve been taking with Gene Raymond out here in Austin, who has taught me about vocal control, breath support, correct vowel pronunciation, how to adequately alternate between head and chest voice, and much more.
Bethany’s band has taught me many things. When I joined her project, I actually auditioned to be a bass player. However, her former guitarist had just left the band right as I entered, so I ended up with the electric guitarist role. I had only played a handful of country tunes, so I definitely had to do some studying to see how country players get that traditional “country” sound. Listening to guys like Brad Paisley and Billy Joe Shaver certainly helped.
Playing for Abundant Life Church was another challenge. When I first joined, I thought I was going to be playing mostly four-chord, Hillsong styled songs. Gospel music tests my ability to change from rhythm to lead in an instant. It’s heavily influenced by many genres, including Jazz and Funk with maybe some rock thrown in the mix. I have to learn about three to five songs a week for the church, and they all vary in complexity. There’s no sheet music available most weeks, so I’ve had to work hard to train my ear more than anything.
BS: How would you best describe your solo music?
BJ: It’s interesting because the whole concept behind “Who I Was” is exactly that: who I used to be. Some of those songs had been written years ago, and I had been wanting to release that music for a while. Don’t get me wrong; my music is still very heavily rock based, but it’s so weird to hear how angry I sound in these recordings. My current music is still comprised of some angrier songs, but I’ve definitely changed since the writing and even the recording of this first EP. I’d like to imagine that I’m a pretty happy and easy-going guy.
BS: What do you feel inspired the music that you make? Do you write more from life experiences, or story based?
BJ: To me, music isn’t linear. There are different approaches to writing, and I’ve certainly taken several of them. Sometimes, I’ll be feeling a certain emotion and will try to translate that on my guitar. Other times, I’ll write around the concept of a song title. When I write lyrics, I imagine the song as a character in a story, even if I’m the character in the story. In a way, I try to mentally distance myself from the song that I’m writing and write strictly to what the song needs. I ask myself questions like “How would this character react to a certain situation?” Even if I’m writing from life experiences, I aim to create a fictional story centered around the life situation.
For example: I have a new song called “Yes Ma’am.” The song idea was created a few years ago when someone approached Bethany and me at a duo gig we played. He had been asking questions about our relationship. At the time, Bethany and I were just friends, and she was my boss. He then referred to Bethany as my “Yes Ma’am” when I told him this. I thought the idea was hilarious, so I used the idea of a woman who demands a man to say “Yes Ma’am” as a concept song. The song itself is about a woman who robs a bar and takes the protagonist of the story hostage. I’d like to think that the song itself is not about Bethany, but I think she secretly wants it to be about her.
BS: What would be a dream tour for you?
BJ: Man, if I could open up for Green Day, that would be a dream come true. My very first album was American Idiot, and Billie Joe Armstrong heavily influenced my first few years of playing guitar.
BS: You are a very talented guitarist. Do you play any other instruments as well?
BJ: Thank you!! I obviously sing as well, but I can play bass, a little bit of piano, saxophone, ukulele, and probably a few others that I’m forgetting.
BS: How did you become involved in music?
BJ: I started when I was 8! My parents were getting divorced, and I had just started playing alto saxophone in my school’s band. I used practicing as a way to help me cope through their divorce, and since then, I just used music to express myself. Through the years, I played alto sax, bari sax, tenor sax, mellophone, french horn, bass, and trumpet in marching band, jazz band, and concert band in my different schools.
My love for the guitar came from Green Day, though. I lived in Louisiana, and back in 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the state. My whole extended family evacuated to Monroe from the Greater New Orleans area. One day, my Uncle Larry took me for a ride in the car and showed me “Minority” by Green Day. I thought the music was so cool: the heavy guitars, the aggressive vocals, the mix of an irish-styled intro going into a big chorus. I was HOOKED on their music. Fast forward to a month or so later, I remember sitting by my TV and watching Green Day and U2 perform a benefit concert for New Orleans. This was during the first Saints game back in the Superdome after the hurricane. My heroes used their music to help benefit my city. I was determined to do the same with my music, thus starting my journey into being a full-time musician.
BS: Are you a guitar guy? Do you have a dream guitar to own?
BJ: Oh I’m definitely a guitar guy. I’ve gotta say that I’ve been pretty happy with my PRS CE24. It takes me from blues to jazz to rock and everything in between. Honestly, I’d love to one day be endorsed by PRS so I can have a collection of PRS guitars. They make quality instruments, and I’ve loved the ones that I currently own!
BS: So you seem pretty busy with all of your music endeavors. How do you find to best manage your time?
BJ: Coffee coffee coffee coffee. I definitely need coffee to endure my long days of teaching then gigging. I also have a calendar and to-do lists so I can stay somewhat organized. I’ll make sure to divide my time between gigs, teaching, practice, business outreach, and personal time.
BS: Aside from all of the bands you play with and your own music, you also give music/guitar lessons. How did you get started with that?
BJ: I started in high school by giving lessons to kids a few years younger than me. Once I graduated college, I saw that lessons could be an extra stream of income that would allow me to show other passionate musicians how I approach my instrument. I absolutely love teaching.
BS: What do you find most rewarding for you personally doing that?
BJ: That’s hard to answer. There are so many different rewards for being a music teacher. Seeing my students progress is so rewarding, especially the younger ones. I find it imperative that kids find healthy and constructive methods of expression. Even the adults in my lessons talk about how playing guitar has given them a new voice that allows them to be creative.
Teaching also reinforces musical concepts. I feel as if teaching students requires me to study outside of my musical projects so I can give them relevant and fresh information. It’s helped me visualize my instrument in so many new and exciting ways.
BS: Are there any restrictions, or can anyone sign up with you?
BJ: My one restriction is that I have a minimum age requirement of about 6 or 7 years old. Other than that, I teach anyone who’s willing to dedicate time and patience into their instrument, whether he/she is just starting out or he/she has been playing for years.
BS: How can people sign up for lessons?
BJ: They can contact me at https://blakejurasin.com/contact. If they are not physically in the Austin area, I also give lessons via Skype.
BS: I’m going to ask you to give a little away for free. Do you have any advice for young or just starting out musicians?
BJ: I have a few bits of advice:
- Don’t be scared to suck at your instrument. No one starts out as a virtuoso.
- Understand that it’s about the journey, not the destination. The more you allow yourself to explore your instrument, the more you’ll start to understand who you are as a musician.
- Learn how to play rhythmically. It’s just as important as being a lead player, if not more important.
- Play with others and play out as often as you can.
- Don’t limit yourself to one genre.
BS: What is next for you? Can people expect some new music?
BJ: For my project, I’ve started writing with a few musicians in the Austin area. We haven’t gigged out or anything, but I would say that I’ll definitely have an update for my personal music by the end of the year. I’ve also been writing for a few other groups, and I’ll also be playing at a Neil Peart tribute concert with percussionist/drummer Michael Bahan of Cascade Studios on April 10th. I believe the gig will be at Empire Control Room in Austin, but I’ll be posting updates when I know for sure.
BS: What is the best way for fans to contact you and where can they hear your music?
BJ: I’m on Facebook (Blake Jurasin), Instagram (@blakejura), and YouTube (Blake Jurasin). Fans can contact me through social media or my website, www.blakejurasin.com. I’ll also be posting updates to some big shows coming up soon.