Localized: Megan Blue & The Bonfire
The blues is a cornerstone of American music, transcending time, location and station in life as it evolves and intersects with country, jazz and rock. It’s in that spirit that Megan Blue and the Bonfire and The Howlin’ Tomcats play their own brand of blues. The two groups will perform alongside opener Brother Chunky at Kilby Court on Thursday, October 19 for SLUG’s monthly Localized show (doors at 7, music at 8). SLUG Localized is sponsored by Riso-Geist.
I know the blues when I hear it, but if you asked me to describe it, I’m not sure that I could. The blues originated from African-American communities in the Southern U.S. and it’s since evolved into a genre that many find deep connection with. Megan Blue and the Bonfire‘s eclectic sound involves blues, soul, country, rock and anything else they decide works in their mixed-genre recipe. With Blue’s powerhouse vocals and a band that is always right in her pocket, their collaborative sound is something unique and musically delicious.
Megan Blue originally released a five-song EP under her name only, but her recent shift to Megan Blue and the Bonfire suggests a progression of some kind. “My band is fairly new,” Blue says. “We’ve only been playing for a year and a half. I recorded the EP, which was all songs I’d written by myself. Dylan Baker played guitar on it, and after that we started writing together. It’s great to write with someone who thinks as a musician first. I can hold my own on rhythm guitar, but he shines on lead guitar, so our newest stuff is him and I writing together. We have about 10 songs and we’re hoping to put out on an album soon.”
“It’s all very personal for me, so when I play my songs I try to talk a little about what they are about, because it helps [audiences] connect to it a little more.”
Performing her own songs comes with a certain vulnerability on stage. Using her personal life as inspiration for everything she writes gives Blue a deeper relationship with the material she’s conveying to the audience. “I’ve always been sort of a ‘HERE I AM!’ personality,” Blue says. “I actually moved [to Salt Lake] when I was nine and went through high school here, and the culture back then was more, ‘you should put on a happy face and not talk about your problems.’ I found jazz when I moved to New Orleans, and country and Americana when I lived in Austin. My time in Kansas City was all about the blues. Now, I don’t want to choose, so I do it all. Those experiences made me who I am.”
Blue has sung with many different projects throughout her career, and that level of experience means she judges musical success from a more interesting perspective than others. “I would say I’m living a successful musical life, except I still really struggle getting good gigs consistently,” Blue says. “It’s frustrating to keep banging on doors. I mean, I’ve been doing this for 20 years, so my bread and butter is teaching voice [lessons].”
“I found jazz when I moved to New Orleans, and country and Americana when I lived in Austin. My time in Kansas City was all about the blues. Now, I don’t want to choose, so I do it all. Those experiences made me who I am.”
Blue has a master’s degree in vocal performance, her own vocal studio and a passion for teaching lessons. For her, teaching “takes the pressure off making my living as a performer, which is a very difficult thing to do,” she says. “Local musicians definitely get the short end of the stick. It makes you have to hustle—and I have a kid, I have a husband—so I don’t have the time to be posting content on social media everyday. You have to be on your soapbox constantly, and I guess I’m too old for that shit.”
Despite the struggles, Blue has found pride in who she is after chasing these myriad music scenes across the country. “It’s all very personal for me, so when I play my songs I try to talk a little about what they are about, because it helps [audiences] connect to it a little more,” Blue says. “It’s so exciting and therapeutic for me.”
Megan Blue and the Bonfire will be tearing it up at Kilby Court for October’s Localized, so make sure to be there and follow the band on Instagram @meganblueandthebonfire for any updates. Blue(s) is the word, after all.