Where Y'At Photographer/Provided Photo

Colin Lake

00:00 November 20, 2012
By: David Vicari

A piercing tone rings out through the audience shaking the deep soul of everyone in the enthusiastic crowd. As it gently slides from one note to another further grinding out that distant yet relatable feeling that makes your face twitch and goose bumps raise all over, the band kicks in. Then, the voice is heard. A penetrating voice that pushes through and opens up that ancient display of truth, heart ache, and joy as slide guitarist begins to sing his next tune.

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[Where Y'At Photographer/Provided Photo]
A self taught and treasured talent that seems to have naturally fi gured it all out by just by being himself, Colin Lake began his music career years ago but only arrived in New Orleans within the past few years. "The reason that everybody loves this city is because they're drawn to it and I was drawn to it in this way where I just kind of had this awakening. What I'm trying to do needs this," explains Lake on his move to the Crescent City.

Coming all the way from Portland, Ore. in 2009 the Washington state native decided to divert the long drive by making it into a solo tour through the Rockies, into Texas, and various other places on the way down. Scrapping by in his grey truck alone on the road was the beginning of his next musical journey that would lead the artist through his spiritual awakening as he patiently waited for the right pieces to come together following his arrival in New Orleans. "When I fi rst got here I did a lot of solo playing but I was reluctant to recruit band members until I kind of had my feet under myself a little better," comments Lake on starting off in a brand new city. He says he not only wanted to fi gure out how the music community worked down here, but he wanted to work with the right musicians who were talented and brought out the best in each other with positive attitudes.

Like so many great songwriters and musicians, Lake was attracted to New Orleans for its unique rhythms and overall world-renowned musicianship. "The way that rhythm sections around here approach the beat, you can't beat that. So, if you combine an honest song with that I feel that for anybody that likes roots music it can go a long way," he explains. This emphasis on quality songwriting born out of his attraction to the singer/songwriter approach comes at no surprise as Lake even admits having a knack for that style of writing. "When I bring a song to a group of guys like that and they go 'oh yeah!' and it's something they can dig into, it's one of the most rewarding feelings that I can have…it's special." His own approach to the process of song development comes with much hard work, not only to teach himself lap slide guitar and to sing, but in his dedicated craftsmanship to the song. It was only but about ten years ago that Colin Lake picked up the lap slide guitar and felt a resonating natural heartbeat between him and his new instrument. Inspired by style of Pacifi c North West player Kelly Joe Phelps, he then practiced with great enthusiasm mimicking great players like Phelps until he developed his own style and tone that people enjoy so much today. Still, with a voice soulful enough to compete with his sweetly fi erce slide guitar, it wasn't until 2005 that he began to really teach himself to sing mostly through the same process. "I would emulate the singers that I liked the most. What I realized was that the singers I liked the most or would move me the most were the ones who really pushed through their voice. Ya know, people like Howlin' Wolf and Elmore James with this powerful overdriven kind of voice," he says on developing his vocal technique. When he discovered that when he pushed his voice like these artists he idolized he could have more control over his voice and truly make it his own. Now, after going through the self-growth process of teaching himself lead instruments, he says he has a pretty good vision on where he wants to go, and truly enjoys the songwriting process. "The puzzle of writing has always been interesting to me. Writing is like this little algebra project…there are only so many options to fi ll that space and you got to fi gure out how to do it. That's always been interesting to me."

Looking forward to a prosperous career it seems that his recipe in developing well-written, honest material with a healthy dose of New Orleans second line rhythms, syncopation, and professional musicians has worked. His latest full album The Ones I Love is a true testament to his success. The quality of original music is not only incredible, but the list collaborating artists, such as Eric Lindell singing back up on "Lovin' Man", is in itself a testament to the amazing effect Colin Lake has on people through his genuine personality that is displayed through his songs. Looking at every artist on the album will put a local enthusiast in awe, and Lake says truly built up his own confi dence early on in the city. His inspirations have not been only through work or collaborating with musicians he's looked up to since childhood. The city itself has infl uenced him greatly and has provided the spiritual awakening that the artist was looking for back during his big move. "This city teaches you how to be yourself," he uniquely puts it. "Here all you got to do is be yourself to the max. From every notorious music character the city has, it is not necessarily because they're the best musician in the world, some of them are, but a lot of it is because they are the best at sharing whoever they are." Naming such fi gures as Professor Longhair or Dr. John, whose style and appeal could never be mimicked in the way they truly represented themselves. He feels the same quality has been brought out of him by the city allowing him to continually shed his skin, outdoing his own expectations.

"My music needed to meet the city in order for it to become fully formed," he further explains. Though admitting that he feels his music will continue to grow and be shaped, feeling that his own amazing style is still not fully formed, his life in the Crescent City was still a necessary move. "Stepping away from 'I should do this, I should do this' into 'I'm doing this. I'm doing this" was the biggest factor for the young talent's decision. Now, with a backing band of talented musicians consisting of Marc Adams on the keys, Bill Richards on bass, and switching between well-versed drummers like Erik Golson and Eric Heigle, the band is now gearing up for the future. Lake offers they're looking to start touring in the upcoming year, and are always working on fresh tunes though they're not planning the next studio session just yet. "I'd rather put out fi ve good albums over ten to 12 years then 12 okay albums just to make one each year," he explains. Personally, Lake is looking to pursue a well-balanced home life with his newlywed wife that he met on his fi rst trip down to New Orleans during Jazz Fest in 2008 as well as a healthy, focused career. Being the bright, loveable personality that truly shows through in his demeanor along with having an indisputable gift for bringing out the best in his own talents, Colin Lake's career seems to be just at its new beginning. As he sails into the future testing his own skills and the boundaries of roots music, it will now be his turn to infl uence the city that came to infl uence him in such a positive way.

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