CORNWALL, Ontario – We always knew Paul Deslauriers was an amazing musician – now the world knows too.
The Cornwall native and leader of the Paul Deslauriers Band, returned from Memphis, Tenn. on the weekend with a second place finish at the International Blues Challenge.
The competition is known as the Super Bowl of blues-related acts and performances and while Deslauriers has made headlines here and in Quebec where he now makes his home, the band’s performance in the U.S. has landed them a spot on the worl stage.
“The offers are pouring in,” Deslauriers said in a phone interview as he made his way back to Montreal from Cornwall Monday morning.
Don’t worry, he has hands-free for his cell phone…and those hands are still smoking from wowwing the crowd and blues industry leaders in Memphis.
“We were really proud to have represented Canada,” Deslauriers said. “This is the biggest thing that’s ever happened to us. It’s taking it to the next level. Now our names are in the ears of people from all over the world.”
And those people like what they’re hearing.
Deslauriers made it to the finals of the event four years ago when he entered as an acoustic duo with Dawn Tyler Watson. He returned with the Paul Deslauriers Band (PDB), which includes Greg Morency on bass and Sam Harrisson on drums, this year after winning the Quebec To Memphis Challenge sponsored by the Montreal Blues Society in October.
The October win springboarded PDB to Memphis where the band adopted a simple philosophy.
“We didn’t want to change or modify anything for a new audience,” said Deslauriers. “It really confirmed a lot for us. We wanted to do what we do best.
“If you try to change for a certain audience…then you’re not being honest with your audience or yourself.”
If the early returns are any indication, Deslauriers and his bandmates shouldn’t change a thing.
The bluesman was born and raised in the Seaway City and it was only a matter of time before he picked up the guitar – Deslauriers had already run through a number of instruments by the time he reached his teenage years.
He invested time on the piano and the classical violin before his teenage years when the thunder of the electric guitar came calling.
“I grew up in the 70s and 80s…guitar music was really prevalent back then,” he said in a previous interview. “My brother Jacques was bringing home records.”
Thank god for Jacques and his love of rock and roll, because it spurred his brother on to take up the guitar and parlay his playing into a musical career that all blues fans can enjoy.
PDB is undeniably part of Canada’s musical elite. All three members were nominees at the 2015 Maple Blues Awards; DesLauriers for guitarist of the year, Harrisson for drummer of the year and Morency was not only nominated but won the award for bassist of the year.
DesLauriers is already the winner of two Maple Blues Awards in 2014, including guitarist of the year.
“It’s been a very busy time,” DesLauriers said. “I’d say this is a return to my roots in a lot ways. Playing a lot of blues rock, power trio stuff.”
He went public in Cornwall with his playing at school dances and area clubs.
“I really learned my craft playing in and around Cornwall,” he said. “I’d be at high school during the week…and then playing all weekends, four sets a night.
“By the time I left Cornwall I already had four or five years playing behind me.”
DesLauriers’ efforts, and that of the band, resulted in their most recent self-titled album skyrocketing to number one on the iTunes Canada Blues Chart within a month of its release.
The guitarist said the band is looking to build on its already solid foundation.
“They say music chooses you – and that’s very much what it was like to me,” he said. “It was my dream. I have trouble imagining doing anything else.”
– With Seaway News files.