Orono’s one-man blues band Bradley “Bradleyboy” Mac Arthur grabbed first place at the annual talent search competition hosted by the Toronto Blues Society (TBS) at Nathan Phillips Square on August 18th. Bradleyboy was one of six finalists chosen to perform a 15-minute set on stage in front of an audience, as part of the City of Toronto’s “Tasty Thursdays” series showcasing promising blues acts.
“It was pretty packed there,” said Bradleyboy, of the lunchtime crowd. He said some of his friends and supporters came downtown to see the show.
A panel of four judges, including CKLN radio personality Blues Doctor Julie Hill, chose Bradleyboy’s performance over fellow finalists Richard Henderson (second place), The Fraser Melvin Blues Band (third place), Nicole Christian, The Distillery, and Ken Yoshioka.
“The competition was fairly stiff,” said Bradleyboy. “There were people who’d played in previous years, and some other artists who had won awards.”
“It seems that the Toronto Blues Society is trying to give the blues a ‘new’ old face,” he said, explaining how his set might have edged out the competition. “They are looking for music that still has that traditional feel, but will bring out new people.”
“My music is grittier than what some people think of as the usual, slick guitar blues. I think that’s what kind of wowed them about my performance. It’s something different, but it still holds up to the criteria of the blues.”
Bradleyboy said he strives for an authentic, gritty blues sound, singing original songs, using retro-styled home-made instruments such as his suitcase kick drum and cigar-box guitar.
TBS president Derek Andrews said the 2011 Talent Search was a close call with strong acoustic blues artists and some fresh faces, including Bradleyboy’s. “He kind of came out of nowhere for a lot of us,” said Andrews, reached by phone this week in Toronto. “And yet it’s clear that he knows his way around, and is recognized in some circles.”
“Bradleyboy MacArthur took the top honours with a truly authentic set,” he stated. “He turned some heads with his growling rough and ready approach. We look forward to helping him reach a wider audience, and assisting his team in getting him out on tour as well as a higher media profile.”
As the winner, Bradleyboy will receive a professional development package that includes showcase performances at this year’s South Side Shuffle Festival, next year’s Orangeville Blues & Jazz Festival, and TBS’s own Blues Summit Six to be held in 2013. A photo shoot with jazz promoter/photographer Bill King, a performance at The Delta Chelsea Hotel Monarchs Pub (a room with a lot of blues history), and mentorship sessions with industry professionals are also part of the prize package, according to the TBS.
Bradleyboy won the judges over with four songs from his album Salt Gun, which was released in June as part of a 4-record/7-year contract with Toronto music label Awesome Productions, distributed by EMI. He said he is looking forward to getting acquainted with the TBS and getting his name out there, and he is also grateful for his fans.
“I have a dedicated following. I appreciate the support of all those people over the years,” he said, adding enthusiastically, “Things seem to be coming to fruition.”
Bradleyboy MacArthur will be performing at the Canadian Blues Pavilion at Memorial Park in Port Credit on Sunday, September 11th, with sets at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.; and in the front room at The Cameron House on Friday, September 23rd, starting at 10 p.m.
You can sample songs from Salt Gun at his website: http://www.bradleyboymacarthur.com.