Musician Sean Rose explains his family crest cast in his silver ring.
“It means constant and true,” he said.
Maybe that is why the young bluesman is so drawn to the music of legendary greats Brownie McGee and Sonny Terry.
“It’s true and raw,” Rose said of the blues. “It’s straight up. There is no smoke and mirrors. That is who I want to be. Truthful and straight up.”
Like the blues, Rose keeps his music real every Sunday night from 9 p.m. to midnight at BBK’s in the Upper Village — the only weekly blues set in Whistler.
There is plenty of elbowroom for pints and martinis at 9 p.m., but an hour later, it’s standing room only.
So wily with his blues takes on other music genres such as pop, no one notices his last song was Britney Spears’s hit single Toxic until he lets everyone in on his daring effort after the song.
“It’s got a whole different sound with the slide thing and having it all blues-ed out,” he said, laughing and adding, “It’s a catchy tune; I have to admit.”
Night Rider anthems shuffle themselves among blues standards by Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters as well as Rose originals. Rose’s musical staff is boundless. He looks past restrictive labels such as reggae, punk and rock and finds the blues the source from whence all great music sprouted.
“It all comes back to that source,” he said of blues. “It’s the purest form of music. The amount of pure soul that is coming from these guys (blues greats) is so pure and raw. People often misunderstand the genre as a sad thing. The blues is about acknowledging that, but overcoming it. As the saying goes, ‘Walking your blues away.’ It is a vessel to be more encouraged about moving past it.”
Rose was never able to move past his love of music. By 12 years old, he and his guitar were being smuggled into the backdoors of Toronto music clubs. From coffee houses to after hour jams, the son of a blues guitarist began exploring his own avenue, leading to the hip hop band Po-Phat. Rose explored the collaboration of guitarist, DJ, MC and keyboardist before seeking higher mountains. Only instead of lugging along his guitar, a snowboard was his talisman.
However, three years ago, he realized his escape into the mountains was a permanent adventure, so he decided to pick up his guitar again. Sets at the Crystal Lounge, Dusty’s, the Boot Pub and Merlin’s followed.
Like his sets, his passion morphed in multiple ways.
Sunday night is Rose’s solo blues act, but his guitar is a regular sound at open mic nights as well. The Gnar Boots founder began his music-in-the-round evening at the now bulldozed Boot Pub. He since moved his music tag team of Buddha, Mike Lunt and Jay McNeil to Merlin’s on Thursday nights. Grab a guitar or microphone to jam alongside the encouraging artist this November when Merlin’s opens its doors once again.
“We make it really comfortable for people to come on stage and it’s really open to style,” he said. “(Open mics) really get you to explore more musically than you might otherwise do with other groups.”
One minute he’s screaming punk, the next he’s playing the opening song for the Muppet Show.
From open mics, Rose was able to tune into other like-minded music troubadours, resulting in Rose’s newest project, the Blues Sparks.
The Whistler group is working on their demo album with a few fundraising events and private parties under their strings.
But for tonight, it’s a single Rose. Just a man, his guitar and a love of blues that can only be described as constant and true.