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Have suitcase, will keep the beat

Travelling Bluesman Sean Michael Simpson performs at the Mallard Lounge

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Chances are if you see Sean Michael Simpson playing around Whistler, he'll be knocking out rhythms on his old Samsonite.

"I use a suitcase kick-drum; we use a microphone and a special mallet to hit it, and it sounds incredible. It's my signature," Simpson explains.

The Langley-based singer-songwriter has been a working musician for years, performing anything from reggae to rock, and did not hone in to a single genre until he embraced "foot-stomping blues music" with a modern twist, a hip-hop drum feel.

"I love every genre, but I feel I do the best at the blues. My guitar playing is my strong point, for my solo act I'm like a one-man band," he says.

His blues band Johnny Bootleg is releasing its first album, Blood Moon Blues — the final touches are just being put on it before its release in October.

"I'm really excited about it and really proud with how it turned out," Simpson says.

"They're modern-day blues-rock songs. I'm looking to get it released on vinyl; it will be online within the next month."

It was his first release after taking the plunge and going into music full time.

"It makes a difference when you play music five nights a week and do it every day. The performances are all there," he says.

The album was a year in the works, with Simpson recording it in his home studio, but the songs came from a deeper well.

"They're a collection from the past 10 years of song writing. One is called 'Motel Blues,' and it's about always trying to get back to your girl, but you're always on the road. That conflict," he laughs.

"It's an ode to Stevie Ray Vaughan, kind of like that. Texas blues style."

Simpson performs a mix of covers and original tunes at the Mallard Lounge in the Fairmont Chateau Whistler on Tuesday and Wednesday, Aug. 22 and 23, at 8 p.m.

He is also a regular performer at Sidecut in the Four Seasons Resort.

"Playing lounges like the Mallard, you don't want to be super loud and blow people away. You're there to add to the atmosphere, not take over," Simpson says.

"I love that room so much. There's always a good reception and the dance floor can get packed, even with my suitcase drum and my kick pedal."

With 180 songs in his repertoire, and as someone who knows the difference between playing onstage in clubs and in a lounge, Simpson says he prefers the latter when it comes to learning how to please an audience.

"There's a huge difference. Playing in clubs, selling tickets and getting people to come down, it's almost impossible to make a living doing that route because of the inconsistency of the gigs. Bands like that are on the road touring constantly," he says.

"Playing covers in a hotel, you are playing to a transient crowd. People come and go, and I'm there to enhance their time there. I love doing that."

For more information, visit www.seanmichaelsimpson.com.

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