Interview: Jack DeKeyzer

The seductive combinations of crooning melodies and international award winning lyrics have easily given Toronto-based musician Jack de Keyzer the reputation of one of Canada’s most renowned blues guitarists. Described as one of the “last true-blue rock’n rollers” and as a “coveted super-hero in Canada”, de Keyzer returns to Peterborough this June after the release of his latest Juno nominated album Blues Thing.
Born in London, England de Keyzer moved to Hamilton, Ontario at the age of 10 and began playing professionally by the time he was 18 years old. Hamilton, a popular industrialized suburb of Toronto, may not have been the ideal place for a budding blues musicians like Jack growing up but, he catapulted his career against the odds from an early age. With the opportunity rich nightlife of Toronto so close by, de Keyzer began pinning the feathers in his cap and marking his territory on the on blues guitarist scene.
De Keyzer’s professional career has lasted decades. His first album entitled Hard Working Man was released in 1991 and it took only eight years before being officially recognized for his incredible talent, style and lyrics. Leading his own band since 1985 Jack has since released 6 albums earning two Juno nominations for Best Blues Album in 2001 and most recently in 2007 and the winner of a Juno in 2003 for his album Six String Lover released on his own label, BlueStar Records.
Jack’s songs have appeared in television programs, on video, on the rock n’ roll and blues radio charts and in major motion pictures. Along with releasing 6 albums de Keyzer is known for performing with distinguished artists such as Etta James, Otis Rush and Blue Rodeo and as a session guitarist on over a hundred recordings.
Possessing a career which any Canadian musician would undoubtedly aspire to, de Keyzer is currently crowned “Guitarist of the Year” by the Toronto Blues Society. The Toronto Blues Society has awarded Jack with seven Maple Blues Awards including two more Guitarist of the Year awards, an Entertainer of the Year award, Blues Album of the Year award and an honouring Lifetime Achievement award. The Maple Blues Awards recipients are nominated by a panel of Canadian blues DJ’s and journalists and are selected as the winner by a nation wide online vote. Jack’s repertoire of Maple Blues Awards are an obvious reflection of the power his music has over the hearts of Canadian Blues lovers.
Infusing soulful lyrics, elements of jazz, early rock and roll and electrifying guitar, De Keyzer creates a legendary sound gaining him an international reputation. De Keyzer’s most recent acquisition to his long list of awards is his first place finish in the blues category of the International Songwriting Competition. With over 15,000 entries in 15 different categories from over 100 countries, de Keyzer’s song entitled That’s The Only Time took home the prize. De Keyzer impressed the panel of judges which include Grammy award winner Tom Waits, rock n’ roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis, Grammy nominated Jazz Guitarist John Scofield, and U2 and Rolling Stones producer Steve Lillywhite—beating out thousands of both amateur and established musicians. Winning the International Songwriting Competition is an enormous achievement which has finally granted Jack the international accreditation he has strived for. The Wire reached Jack at his home where he spoke a bit about his personal life…

The Wire: So, Jack where are you right now?
Jack: I’m in Whitby.
The Wire: Is that where you live now?
Jack: Yes it is.
The Wire: I have here that you grew up in Hamilton?
Jack: Well actually I grew up in England until I was ten. Then I moved to Hamilton when I was 10 until 20, my high school years.
The Wire: And then you just roamed around?
Jack: Well, then I moved to Toronto. I’m based out of Toronto. I love Toronto, it’s got a great scene there.
The Wire: So you’re coming to Peterborough in June.
Jack: Yeah, we’re opening the show at the Holiday Inn Waterfront Blues Series. We’re the first act. It’s a blues series that goes every Friday for the length of the summer until Labour Day I think. We do the last one too. The closing one is the 29th of August. We’ve been the opening and closing band since the beginning of that series which I think it has been going, maybe seven years?
The Wire: Oh awesome, the waterfront is a great spot.
Jack: It’s so beautiful. It’s a great setting for music and we just really enjoy playing there a lot.
The Wire: So, besides all your Maple Blues Awards, your Juno and your newest acquisition, the International Songwriting Award, I was wondering what you feel is your biggest accomplishment, what you’re most proud of both musically and personally, besides all the awards you’ve won?
Jack: Musically, I guess I’d be proud that I have managed to sustain a musical career for, well since I was 18, so maybe for 34 years. I’ve managed to sustain a full time music career in Canada though all the trends and all the ups and downs of the music business and personal stuff. I’d have to say I’m proud of that. On a personal note, there’s two elements: one, my great source of pride is that I’ve managed to take care of my family and support them through my music- I have five children and they’re budding musicians too. My son is into everything he plays classical guitar, they all play classical kind of music, but also my son who is 17, he’s into rock and blues and jazz. I think the other thing that, I don’t know if its pride but I’m still very much turned on by music and I practice all the time. I don’t know whether that’s a source of pride or a source of inspiration but I just, I’m inspired by music still. And the writing thing is such more of an internal kind of thing. Thinking and trying out things, it’s kind of like being a painter or a sculptor, you commit your thoughts on paper.
The Wire: Definitely. Well Jack, you’re the front page story on The Wire’s next issue.
Jack: That’s fantastic! That’s really great, I’m honoured!