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An Interview with Colin Dussault


Colin Dussault

Colin Dussault in the Studio

(© Jesse Kramer/used with permission)
Colin Dussault is one of Cleveland's most successful musicians. A staple of the local blues scene, he's shared the stage with legends and even presidential hopefuls. I recently had a chance to visit with Colin and his band at Magnetic North Studios.

In the Studio
In the sound room,the guitar player practices alone. Huddled in a lobby corner are the diminutive keyboardist and barefoot drummer. Goofing around, the former begins to sing in a near-falsetto. This sends them both into loud, high-pitched laughter as the bass player looks on.

The night's full of music, sarcasm, camaraderie, some comments unfit for print in any family publication and overwhelming energy. Finishing ahead of schedule,everyone's happy.

Colin Dussault, Bluesman
The band's leader and namesake sits across the room, taking in all the antics. At one time as infamous for drinking and on-stage antics as music, at 38 Dussault has mellowed. He's been proudly sober for a few years and will become a father in a few months. From his vantage point, life is good.

Humble Beginnings
Dussault explains how he's evolved from moving furniture to leading "the hardest working blues band in Northeast Ohio." "I started 18 years ago, May 13, 1989, on my 20th birthday. Started playing at the Ultimate Sports Bar. Jimmy Feeney (guitar) is the one other original guy. The way I started was cool. I had a band in high school. Had to run to Radio Shack to buy a microphone, that kind of thing, and then played in the basement, just jammin'...jammin'. Did a lot of house parties, played homecoming...like every harp player I was a pain," Dussault says with a laugh.

Anyone who's ever spent any time at all around blues bars from far east of Cleveland to Put-in-Bay knows that distinctive laugh. They've heard it jump out in the middle of songs, when Dussault breaks out into one or another tangential story. They've witnessed it echo sheepishly from the stage when he changes the lyrics of one standard or another into a more risque alternative. If they stuck around long enough, they heard it while he mixed with the crowd.

Giving Back
A consummate showman, Colin Dussault knows how to work a crowd as well as he does the harp. He remembers fans faces, names, even their children's names, and always shares a moment or two of his time between sets.

He remembers what it's like to be just starting out, trying to learn the ropes, and looking towards more seasoned musicians for insight. Now that he's experienced some measure of success, he doesn't mind giving a little back. On this CD, as in the past, Dussault has some special guests. Tonight it's Bill "Mr. Stress" Miller, locally legendary harmonica player and leader of "The Mr. Stress Blues Band." Singing backup on the CD will be "Afterthought."

Back in the Studio
"It's great to be back in the studio recording again. You can hear all the parts so well and I have fun playing with these guys," explains Miller. Clearly he's feeling in his element, trading stories and jokes with the others between songs.

As a teen, Dussault began performing by sitting-in with local bands. Eventually he made his way up the ranks. "Back in the beginning we were at a wedding, one of my dad's friends. My dad had a band in the 60's and I look up on stage and on the stage was Al Serafini. He took my dad's band to Atlantic City back in 1970. He remembered my dad and asked if I played," Dussault stated.

"I said 'yeah,' flew home got my harmonica played Johnny B. Goode and some other standard. And the bass player said 'there's these guys called the Delgados that play up at Newman's Corners. So I started showing up every Friday night sitting-in with the Delgados. I did Newman's Corners every Friday, just kept bugging 'em and bugging 'em, and they're good guys. They're like "get your own (expletive) band." So, I did."

Fellow Musicians
The line-up's changed quite a few times over the years. "This is the best band I've ever had," Dussault says. "Jimmy's been with me all along, Greg (Hurd, on keyboards) started in 1998, Fred (Tobey, the bass player) started four years ago. Everyone except the drummer, Fredo (Perez-Stabile) here," he says with a laugh, gesturing towards the drummer, "the rest are a great bunch of guys."

With the change in lineup comes a change in sound. Dussault believes he's finally found the right group of musicians to take his music where it needs to arrive. "We're basically doing the same tunes we've always done, but we're doing them right, now," he says.

He has a healthy respect for many local artists. "I like Kristine Jackson quite a bit. Mary Bridget Davies has a lot of potential and raw talent. Other than those two I don't really get a chance to see anyone else as we are always working! They are very talented and have that youthful zeal that is yet to be tested by the rigors of constantly trying to make it."

Future Directions
Dussault also writes, though not professionally. He did write an article on a band called "The Tiffany Shade", an old, obscure Cleveland band with a British-influenced sound. " I shopped it around and found a magazine out of California interested in it. My great-grandmother on my fathers' side was a published poet (Sarah Dussault). I guess I inherited some of her love for the written word."

Not particularly concerned with what the future holds, Dussault's says he's just enjoying the ride. That's obvious. It's reflected in his recording the 'story' part from "Dead Skunk (in the Middle of the Road), one of the band's semi-original tunes. He recounts it much as during live performances, but emphasizes more, embellishing here and there, stretching it out, having fun with it.

"I make a lot of money locally. I get a little sprinkling of road work and then build a following in Pennsylvania and New York, but I'm not starving. You know, these guys are all older. I don't have any misconception that I'm gonna be world famous and a millionaire, but I pay my rent and I have cable, and I'm happy. I don't lay awake at night wondering what's gonna happen."

After nearly 20 years as a professional musician, Dussault has settled into a good groove. It shows.

(Created 3-28-07)
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