Blues isn’t just a genre of music. While it has been popular for some time now, the style is just now propelling itself into the ears of unsuspecting listeners - and artists like Sena Ehrhardt are leading the way.
There are two things you need to know about Sena Ehrhardt: It’s never too late to start a career, and she’s not afraid to let someone know about her passion for music.
About half an hour before opening act Funky Mojo Daddy planned to take the stage to open for the Sena Ehrhardt Band on Saturday at Memorial Opera House, Ehrhardt and her band prepared in the basement before the lights dimmed for their show. Ehrhardt was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, sitting cooly on a red deco sofa, and was ready to tell the tale of her three-piece blues band.
Raised in Minnesota, Ehrhardt was brought up by a family that was passionate about music.
“Growing up I went to all-different, all-ages concerts. I really enjoyed seeing live performances and we always had music playing in the home,” she said.
It wasn’t long until blues grabbed a hold of her and didn’t let go.
“Blues is always something that I’ve gravitated toward. I think it’s really an emotional music and I think that strong emotional connection is important. Realizing that someone and saying, ‘Hey, I’ve been there’ is what keeps me going.”
Although she had been passionate about music and had already started becoming a burgeoning singer/songwriter at a young age, Ehrhardt decided that education was going to come first. She started her music career after gaining a Master’s degree in Health Administration.
“I went through school as a very dedicated student, I was a ‘science and math nerd’,” Ehrhardt joked, “I’m very proud of and happy that I have my education.”
Soon after, she joined a small band located in Minneapolis, which comprised of members who played music as a hobby. Having a day job, children, and being nonchalant about playing music in bars and grills wasn’t what Ehrhardt had in mind - so she left to be on her own.
“I was young and hungry to start my career for real,” she said.
Since leaving to go out on her own, she transitioned into an artist with a backing band, which she has headed for several years now. “We’ve had this line up for about a year. These guys are absolute pros.”
Looking back, Ehrhardt says she doesn’t have any regrets for starting her career later in life. In a way, she thinks it has actually helped her in the long run.
“I’ve definitely matured," she said. "I think as a songwriter, from writing only about my own personal experiences to maybe writing about broader topics, like things I’ve witnessed by friends go through, or commenting things through a broader sense, really helps. I developed that way.”
Ehrhardt has now released three CDs, all of which have helped the group develop into their own brand. Ehrhardt’s band has had a heavy influence on how she has shaped her music from where she started. Her guitar player, Cole Allen, in particular has brought forth a new type of sound.
“We co-wrote this record and he’s got a bit of a rock edge to him, so it’s kind of an amalgamation of blues, soul, rock, a little bit of funk, and you can feel all of that into one,” she said.
Even though her sound can be described as a melting pot of all of those genres, it is primarily informed by the blues. Blues today can be heard through a under a thick arrangement of more popular sounds, but it’s still a rather excluded class of music. That’s something Ehrhardt is determined to change.
“I think that blues is definitely worth a listen. Once people give it a chance they can see why it’s been around for so long, why it’s such an enduring genre. It’s easy to love. It’s obvious that blues has influenced so many other genres and I love the fact of that,” she explained.
And she’s taking it one step at a time. A few hours after my introduction to Ehrardt, her band finally took their place on stage and put on a great show. The group has been touring across the country, playing music festivals, and has opened for BB King four times within the past year. Soon, the band will be doing a 15-stop tour across Europe. Making their first stop in Northwest Indiana is just as exciting for them as all the rest of the places they’ve been - and will be.
“These opportunities have enabled me to get to places I’ve never been before and let my career take off are definitely things I’m very grateful for. I don’t think I’ll ever view a gig as a little gig. This is night is big for me, every night is big for me,” Ehrhardt said.
It certainly showed. The band played big, she sang big, and the audience responded big in return. Once the band walked out from under the lights and left Valparaiso for the first time, it’s off again on the road in the US before they make their first stop in Hamburg, Germany. It’s only up for Sena Ehrhardt and her band, so you’ll have be quick to see her before she’s too loud to stay silent.
You can find out more information about Sena Ehrardt on her website: http://www.senaehrhardt.com/