While travelling through southern Alberta on tour, Nelson musician Charlie Jacobsen was repeatedly faced with the destruction wrought by floodwaters. He met displaced, traumatized, struggling people. And it’s the community’s pain that inspired his blues debut Alberta Flood.
“I saw the effects of the flooding firsthand. Highways were closed, fences were floating down the fields, cows were displaced. People’s homes were flooded. I had a bunch of family and friends affected by that,” the 23-year-old Selkirk College grad told the Star.
“I figure my job is to tell the story of the people.”
So it’s those stories of Alberta’s pain and resilience he’s been taking back and forth across the country, sharing them with audiences from Vancouver Island to Ontario, as he tours three weeks on and two weeks off.
It’s a life he’s always aspired to, and one he’s worked hard to create since graduating from Selkirk in 2012, where he studied under Glenn Mitchell.
“Glenn’s been very influential in my music and my life,” he said.
And it’s thanks to people like Mitchell, and Jacobsen’s promotor Pete Davies, that his career’s where it’s at. He told the Star his leap to full-time musician was partially made possible by community support: his friends and promoters fundraised to buy him a camper van, and routinely pack his local concerts.
Now he’s celebrating by hosting a blues dance on Feb. 20 at the Front Room, a new venue that recently opened for community events on Front St. It’s the first in a series of Kootenay Blues Society events he hopes will becomes monthly with the help of local dance instructor Stelio Calagias.
“It’s going to be a high-flying, toe-tapping affair. Everyone will be looking sharp. We want to do a lot more of these blues-dancing events, with ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll.”
Calagias is also the frontman of the Baker Street Blues, who will open for Jacobsen.
The night will include all original material from Alberta Flood, which was influenced by artists such as Chicago blues legend Muddy Waters. Lately Jacobsen’s been touring with American piano player Kenny Blues Boss Wayne, and together the pair are cutting a record. And Wayne’s agreed to perform at their next event.
All of this momentum has left Jacobsen feeling grateful, and he gives a lot of credit for his creative development to Nelson.
“I’m so grateful for what Selkirk College and this whole city has done for me. I think it’s a beautiful template for people to flourish in.”
However, his interest in the area wasn’t exclusively academic.
“Well, I fell in love with Nelson, and then I fell in love with the girl.”
And there’s nothing to feel blue about there.