When asked to describe the qualities of a blues musician, there may be many people who would provide adjectives like “sad,” “down-n-out” or “depressed.”
These would not be very good terms for describing Gary Sappier.
Sappier, who is bringing his Gary Sappier Blues Band to Harvest for the first time, describes himself as “a very happy-go-lucky guy” who likes to “write about happy things” in order to take the negativity out of his life; this is a statement that was confirmed throughout our chat, in which he laughed easily and often, and lightly poked fun at himself—for instance, while discussing his lyrics, he self-deprecatingly referred to himself as “hardly the Bob Dylan of the blues”—proving that Sappier is not one to take himself too seriously.
Something he does take seriously, however, is his craft. The guitarist and songwriter began playing music at a very young age, getting his start playing drums in his father’s band. Though music runs in his family, Sappier did not seriously pursue it until 2002, when he saw an ECMA award show and told his wife, “That could be me up there.”
He hasn’t looked back since then and has released six albums, amassing a catalogue of about 50 original songs. He described his output as “all over the place: jazz to punk to rock to blues. I just don’t put it into one genre. I like to test my band.” This stylistic diversity is reflected in his lyrical output. As Sappier claimed, he draws inspiration from “different things going on in the world, current events, relationships,” or simply how he happens to feel on the given day that he’s writing.
Sometimes, his music even reflects his cultural background. Sappier hails from Tobique First Nation, which is reflected in tracks like “Tobique Blues,” a song that discusses “the things daily life is filled with in Tobique.” It is when writing about these roots that Sappier finds his positivity particularly important.
“There can be a lot of negativity, a lot of hate on the reserves,” Sappier said. “It becomes so easy to give up. It’s so easy. It’s easy to say, ‘Hey man, I’m done’—but you need to keep going.”
In addition to spreading this encouragement through his music, Sappier also encourages perseverance and dedication through his new role with Wapikoni, a mobile studio that travels to Aboriginal communities, encouraging First Nations youth to pursue the arts; the role allows Sappier to serve as a mentor to youth in his community, and he enjoys sharing his knowledge and spirit, describing the service as one he wishes he had had access to. It also gives him motivation to keep working on his own music.
“When I was a kid, my dream was just to make one album. Now my music has taken me all around the world—but it just makes me wanna do more; I’m gonna keep going til’ I drop.”
First, however, Sappier remains eager to hit the Harvest stage. “I’m excited, stoked, ready to go … ready to take no prisoners,” he said. “It’s gonna be one of the key gigs of my career.”
And no matter how the set goes, attendees can expect his trademark positivity.
“I’ll be there with a smile on my face,” he promised.
The Gary Sappier Blues Band will take over the Cox & Palmer Blues Court on Sept. 15 at 10:15 p.m., immediately after Blind Dog, who was highlighted in a previous profile. For tickets and more information, visit Harvestjazzandblues.com.