If you've ever walked the streets, subways, music venues, galleries, coffee shops, and parks in Somerville and beyond, you have seen and/or heard the work of Dan Blakeslee. A prolific visual artist and musician, Dan has not only illustrated a plethora of album covers, a beer label series, over 600 rock posters, and an image that raised thousands of dollars for victims of the Boston Marathon tragedy, he also writes and performs country folk songs as Dan Blakeslee while his alter-ego, Dr. Gasp, spirits into Octobers with scary-folk songs for all the ages.
With songs that take listeners on fantastical journeys on a ship of buoyant melodies that keep afloat good wishes in a vast ocean of yearning for home, Dan has graced many stages near and far with his angelic voice and a genuine, enduring spirit. And whether his work is in your ears or in your eyes, he is one of those unique artists who constantly carries his talents like treasures, never leaving one behind, while wearing his fingers to the bone, while wearing his heart on his sleeve.
Can you give a brief overview of what you do?
I am a traveling artist and musician very happy to be residing in Somerville among picture frames and instruments.
Who is Dr. Gasp? How is he different from Dan Blakeslee?
Doctor Gasp and Dan Blakeslee are two different people entirely...sort of a Jekyll/Hyde situation. Doctor Gasp plays all Halloween themed ragtime folk songs about vampires and candycorn while Dan Blakeslee writes country folk songs about true life adventures.
What projects are you most excited about that are on the horizon?
I have a new (Dan Blakeslee) album coming out in the spring of 2014 called "Owed To The Tanglin' Wind" that I recorded with members of the Low Anthem at the Columbus Theatre in Providence, RI. I will also finally venture over to Europe to do a tour. A book of my Rock Posters will be in the works!
A full-time profession in the arts can be difficult. Can you talk about some of the challenges?
I am very passionate about what I do...every aspect, every detail of my art and music is a reflection of me. If it is to be put out there in the world I like to take the time to get it down just how I envision it...no matter the time involved. I struggle like any self employed person with getting paid what is fair, getting paid on time. If you ask a plumber to come and do some repairs on your house, you expect to pay them right away, how come with art it takes a crowbar to get paid on time and fairly. Maybe I should get a monkey wrench?
What inspired you to pursue the arts?
With art it was a reduction woodcut by Don Gorvett I saw displayed in a gallery. At the time I was juggling the idea of going to music school, art school or culinary arts. But when I saw his work I new the direction I wanted to pursue. As far as music goes, my father Dave Blakeslee has been a huge inspiration on me. He was a traveling jazz musician throughout my childhood onward. He is now just getting ready to retire as an engineer so I am hoping he will get back to playing music...he is tremendous.
Any thoughts on the local Somerville or Boston-area creative scene?
This is my 3rd time living in Somerville. I ended up moving away many times because of relationship ventures. I can't say enough how wonderful it is being a Somerville resident for a long stretch over the past 10 years, this city inspires creativity! I love how within the music and arts communities people are working together like a family, I am honored to be a part of it.
Can you name off some of the people/places/things in this world that you find amazing and want us to know about?
Local Somerville artist, designer, silk screen wizard James Weinberg is one of my favorites. He and I have worked the past couple years on many projects. I am glad he shared his knowledge of screen printing with me. Michael Hurley is one of my favorite musicians, his quirky, heartfelt songs inspire me to no end...Snock! Go and visit Monhegan Island in Maine (my home state), it will open all of your senses in ways you will never forget...