"Yeah, I know, like, they won a CEA, but who cares? I mean, it's Cincinnati, for crying out loud!"
We're having Coronas at a downtown bar, half-eavesdropping as the local music scene is bemoaned by a couple of strangers, when Chase Blowers turns to me and says, "See? That's why I don't want to be in a Rock band."
So, for starters, Blowers is not in a Rock band. He chooses to steer clear of organized groups, opting more for individual instruction through private lessons and regional band camps. But don't get it twisted -- this is certainly not your average "those-who-can't-teach" scenario; he can. Having recorded three full-length albums with the Celtic group Knocknagael, provided session drumming for Mind Ignition studios and contributed drums to local Rock recordings by bands like Crybaby, it's obvious that Blowers' passion for percussion is alive and kicking.
Although he's currently enrolled for his third year of Jazz Studies in Percussion at UC's College-Conservatory of Music, his future remains unclear. "I just don't know at what point it was determined that to be a 'serious' musician, you have to completely overpower the guy next to you," Blowers says, responding to whether being a student of music has helped or hindered him. "Music sounds so much better when all the players recognize the job they're there to do."
It's funny, as I listen to Blowers give a brief overview of his musical academics (and "brief" is an understatement; its geography ranges anywhere from West Africa to Ireland to Afro-Cuba), I have to keep in mind what is perhaps the most interesting aspect of his musical character: he's just 23 years old.
He's easy to spot in his groups of choice. See, Blowers is the one wearing bright red Puma sneakers and terribly trendy jeans while the "heavy cats" -- as he has affectionately nicknamed his cohorts -- are more likely sporting bowties and shoes of the orthopedic variety. "Don't get me wrong, I like going to see shows at the Mad Hatter and Northside Tavern as much as anyone else," he says. "But if I'm going to play a Jazz gig, it probably won't be with anyone under the age of 55. They just ... get it." He laughs shyly at the floor and adds, "I guess it's safe to say that I've become a bit of a snob."
He's quick to admit, however, that music is the only area of his life in which he strives to be seen as "older than his years." His impressive repertoire of gigs ranges from shining instances in the Celtic band that opened for acts like The Chieftains, The Young Dubliners and Rod Stewart (yep, Rod Stewart) to not-so-proud moments like the time he was so drunk he puked into a pint glass while playing. By no means does Blowers contest the fact that he still has plenty to learn in this business.
He feels pretty good about the career that he's building in music. He enjoys being a Clifton homeowner and revels in the fact that he doesn't have to work part time at Barnes & Noble to make ends meet. Music is his only job.
"Through CCM and contacts in these (Jazz and World) music communities, I've been very fortunate," Blowers says. "I'm happy in Cincinnati, and I've found it easier to make a living here than in other cities. But it's comforting to know that, if an opportunity arises, I can move around fairly easily."
Bemused conjecture is another luxury afforded by a musician who isn't tied to any specific genre or grouping. Maybe he'll start a Ray Charles cover band, he contemplates, or perhaps he'll find a way to incorporate his love of playing Jamiroquai-esque dance music into a money-making scheme. Who knows?
He's come a long way from the 11-year-old who was astonished to realize he could play the intro beat to Tone-Loc's "Funky Cold Medina" on his cousin's drum set. And now, for Blowers, the future is wide open.
CHASE BLOWERS can be seen Sept. 24 playing the Cincy Celtic World Festival at Coney Island with Knocknagael.