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Blake Braley pivots to solo work and ‘Live From the Lodge’

Jan. 28, 2021 Updated Thu., Jan. 28, 2021 at 3:30 p.m.

By Julien A. Luebbers For The Spokesman-Review

As the music industry hobbles along preserving all it can in the wake of COVID-19’s damage to its financial and artistic structures, independent artists like Spokane’s Blake Braley are forced to find in themselves new ways to interact with their art.

Braley released his self-titled EP in April. It is a creative and well-executed intersection of hearty lyrics, soulful twang and engaging vocal – well worth a listen. But that album, while technically an emergence of the COVID-19 era, predates it in most respects.

It’s from a period of Braley’s career in which his creative efforts were far more intertwined with the efforts of a group, an atmosphere constructed of many minds in one physical and mental space. Needless to say, this is not the world he lives in now.

“During normal times, a lot of what we do in the writing process comes from rehearsals and little bits and pieces that someone comes up with that we’ll test out live at a cover gig or something.”

Without gigs, without a real “we,” Braley was left to turn toward solo work, which he did with definitive intention. “When all this started, I set some goals, I opened up a notebook and set some goals, for however long this thing lasts, like things that I need to work on or things that I wanna work on to get better as a musician. Just practicing all the time and working on writing. And working on writing by myself as opposed to with other people.

“Writing on my own, it’s a lot more difficult to get something on wax,” Braley continued. “The self-doubt monster comes out, and it’s hard to shove that back under the bed sometimes. Questions arise such as, ‘Is this good?’ ‘Does anyone wanna listen to this?’ Questions musicians no doubt face in all circumstances but which, when alone, seem to more readily leap up into their minds.”

The results of these difficult hours spent improving on the techniques and skills of his craft are not yet on full display, as while Braley has music in the works, there is not an expected release date for his next track. Based on his EP, though, there could be something really special on the way.

When he’s not at work or home, playing away at the keys or the pad-and-paper, Braley’s music life has – as with any in this time – taken a new form. He has been the session keys player for fellow local Allen Stone’s weekly “Live From the Lodge” livestreams.

“ ‘Live From the Lodge,’ that has been a huge blessing,” Braley said. “It’s allowed me to continue to have material to practice and to be able to get together with the guys in a safe, socially distanced manner and do music.” And being able to pick Stone’s brain about his work doesn’t hurt, either.

The Liberty Lake-based group have been featuring local and out-of-state guests, with more big names on the way. Each livestream (available by subscription for $5 a month on Patreon; past episodes are on YouTube for free) features covers and performances by Stone, Braley and other local musicians. There’s no shortage of entertaining banter, either. It’s a concert and more from the comfort of the couch, and it’s constantly being tinkered with and evolved by its creators.

“There’s no comparison doing a live show or a livestream,” Braley said, but “Live From the Lodge” has been “the nicest thing through all of this.” That and “just being able to see my friends, like once a week, has been really helpful to remind me that these are real humans that love and care about me, and they are around.”

“I am not alone in this endeavor, I’m one of millions and millions of people who are in the same boat as I am.” It’s an affirmation many could do to hear right now, a comfort exceeded only, perhaps, by Braley’s soulful singing.

Julien A. Luebbers can be reached at julien.luebbers@gmail.com.

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