Passion Pays Off for Local Musician

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At 13, Blake Allard played “to death” the Guitar Hero video game, where players match notes that scroll on-screen to colored fret buttons on the controller, which is essentially a toy guitar. After his dad taught him to play Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love,” on a real guitar, he started teaching himself how to read musical notation and instrument fingering online, using YouTube as a tutorial to learn technique.

Blake Allard in performance. Photo courtesy of Blake Allard.

Allard, now 22, and his Joyous Wolf rock band-mates have a recording contract on the Roadrunner label with Atlantic Records, his agent, Scott Frazier, said in a telephone interview. “I heard the music and fell in love with it,” said Frazier, principal of Overtone Music Group, based in Louisville, Ky. “Their live show is one of the best I’ve seen,” he said. “It’s like Deep Purple meets Pearl Jam meets James Brown.” A formal announcement about the signing is in the works, Frazier said.

Allard never had a “plan B.”

“If it wouldn’t have happened this way I would have kept working hard until something else manifested itself,” said Allard who said he has been writing music almost as long as he’s played guitar.

His first break was playing alongside his father and uncle in the family band. “They taught me to play my favorite music of all time, the blues,” said Allard, a 2013 graduate of Laguna Beach High School.

Allard took lessons at Danman’s Music School in Dana Point. After graduating high school and winning a Festival of Arts scholarship, he attended Saddleback College and continued to study music while fulfilling general education requirements.

The Musicians Institute, a contemporary music conservatory in West Hollywood, was to be Allard’s next stop. His path changed after a friend introduced him to former Guns N’ Roses drummer Matt Sorum, who hired him to work in a band he was forming for his wife.

“Blake’s dad and I were hesitant to have him put college on hold, but having someone like Matt Sorum tell us that our son is, in his words, a ‘rock star’… we didn’t want to have him pass up the opportunity,” said Diane Allard, Blake’s mother.

Joyous Wolf grew out of a chance meeting with Nick Reese at a Guitar Center acoustic room in 2014. After playing together and exchanging phone numbers they went their separate ways. Later Reese, who is the band’s vocalist, contacted Allard about starting a band.

With Reese’s childhood friend and drummer Robert Sodaro joining him and Allard, Joyous Wolf was getting off the ground. Soon Sodaro’s high school buddy, bassist Greg Braccio joined the band. They followed a familiar path, playing small local clubs and eventually bigger clubs in Los Angeles like The Whiskey and the Viper Room.

After hiring a booking agent and manager the band began to play a full schedule of festivals like the Sonic Boom festival in Janesville, Wisc., Louder than Life in Louisville, Ky., and Rock Allegiance in Camden, N.J. In January, Joyous Wolf played on the Shiprocked cruise from Florida to the Bahamas.

 

Allard’s advice for fledgling artists: “be extremely stubborn about their passion and to be relentless about their work ethic.”

Down the road, Allard would like to do studio sessions with other artists or support other artists on tour “after Joyous Wolf has become well-known,” he said. The band has over 3,000 Facebook fans.

Recently Allard became an endorsed artist for D’ Angelico Guitars, sharing the distinction with Kenny Loggins and Hank Williams Jr. among others. The endorsement “legitimizes my passion for music,” Allard said.

 

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