Releasing a blues album during your most successful year may seem ironic. But next week, that’s what Sena Ehrhardt will do.
On Tuesday, Ehrhardt, an Austin High School graduate and Rochester resident, will release “Live My Life,” her third major-label album. The CD release comes after Ehrhardt toured the country with legendary artists such as late Johnny Winters, recorded an album with producer David Z (Prince, Buddy Guy, Jonny Lang), was nominated “Female Blues Singer of the Year” by “Living Blues” magazine and booked her first European tour.
So how does someone tasting success pen a blues album?
“I know that a lot of people think of the blues as sad music. I think of it more as emotional music,” Ehrhardt said. “It’s music that when someone listens to it, they can say, ‘I understand what you mean when you sing that.’ It resonates with them. They understand. And that’s not always a sad feeling. It can be a happy feeling, a feeling of remorse or remembering something.”
Ehrhardt started playing blues music professionally in father’s band, Plan B. In 2010, she started The Sena Ehrhardt Band with her father, Ed Ehrhardt. Earlier this year, Ed stepped aside, and Sena put together a new band, which is filled with experienced musicians. Paul Peterson plays the drums, Rick Roussell plays bass and Cole Allen plays lead guitar and provides vocals. Allen is also Sena’s boyfriend.
“(Cole and I) are just partners, and we’re intertwined in every area of our lives, and it’s just a true blessing,” she said.
Ehrhardt wrote six of the new album’s 11 tracks, two (“Did You Ever Love Me at All,” “Come Closer”) by herself and four (“Things You Shouldn’t Need to Know,” “Chilled to The Bone,” “Too Late to Ask,” “Everybody Is You”) with Allen, who wrote two songs himself, including the title track.
“I definitely want the majority of the material to be originals,” Ehrhardt said. “There are some songs submitted by songwriters. We give those songs a listen and if anything sounds interesting, we may choose to go that route, too. Then there are those songs that you’re in love with and you do your own interpretation of it, cover it.”
One of the covers on the album is “Stakes Have Gone Up.” The song was written by Bruce McCabe, an experienced songwriter and keyboard player. He also played on numerous tracks on “Live My Life,” and Ehrhardt said McCabe will play select shows with the band this fall.
All of the new songs are concert-tested, Ehrhardt said. The band played all 11 tracks live, and Allen said audiences enjoyed the new music.
“We’re not really playing cover songs anymore,” Allen said. “Our original music gets great responses, especially the newer stuff.”
“Things You Shouldn’t Need to Know” is the album’s first single and video. The band also opens each show with the uptempo song. Ehrhardt said “Live My Life,” has more rock ‘n’ roll elements than her previous albums, “Leave The Light On,” and “All In.”
“I think this album has a different flavor for sure,” Ehrhardt said. “I collaborated with different songwriters on my end, and the material that inspired the album was different. The experiences of this last year were just profound for me in many ways, and it gave me lots of different inspirations for writing. So many different songs came out of me in this last year.
“I am somebody who’s not a tried and true stick to one genre of music kind of person,” she said. “I’m influenced by many different kinds of genres: rock, blues, funk, soul. Many different styles of music influence our playing, our writing, so I believe you will feel that rock and roll flavor.”
While on the road, Ehrhardt is the unofficial, or maybe official, navigator and restaurant finder. She brings a big maps with her on every trip, and band members say she’s constantly on the lookout for cool, local restaurants.
“The rule is no corporate restaurants,” Roussell said. “We only eat at locally owned stuff that Sena searches out for us.”
Summer with Winter
This summer, the Sena Ehrhardt Band opened shows for Johnny Winter in North Dakota, Wisconsin and Florida. Winter died on July 16.
“It was very sad,” Ehrhardt said. “When we got the news, I got tears in my eyes. He was just such a gentleman, and for us to be able to join him on his tour for four of the last shows that he did in his life was a true blessing. … He will truly be missed, and I know he’s influenced myself and all of my band members, so it was a sad day for blues and rock ‘n’ roll to lose him. I’m very grateful we got to play with him.”
On Oct. 18. Ehrhardt and her band will play the Wicked Moose in Rochester. It’s her final U.S. show before heading to Europe.
“I’m so excited to play Europe. It’s long been a goal of mine,” she said. “Before this year started I could not have predicted we would have these opportunities. I’m just thankful for what we’ve had.”
In support of “Live My Life,” the Sena Ehrhardt Band will hold several CD release concerts in Minnesota, Nebraska and Missouri. The band will play Famous Dave’s in Minneapolis, 3001 Hennepin Ave., at 8 p.m. Sept. 19.
Meet the band
Cole Allen — lead guitar, vocals.
A guitar player like his father, Allen plays lead guitar.
“It’s a blues and rock background totally for me,” Allen said about his time before joining the band.
Along with touring with the Sena Ehrhardt Band, Allen also has his own rock group, the Cole Allen Band. Along with guitars, he also provides vocals and writes songs. He wrote or helped write seven of the 11 tracks on “Live My Life.”
Paul Peterson — drums
“I was a metal head with long hair and toured the country with a 25-piece drum kit,” Peterson said about his time before joining the Sena Ehrhardt Band.
Along with the blues, Peterson has performed country, rhythm and blues and disco. His says his diverse past helped him play the blues better.
“I’ve played super loud and I’ve played super quiet and it all helps me play this,” he said.
Rick Roussell – Bass guitar, vocals
One of the newest members of the band, Roussell played in hard rock and country bands in Texas, and worked with Jerry Jeff Walker and toured with the blues act the James Solberg Band.
Before joining Ehrhardt on the road, Roussell played in some very interestingly named bands, including Pork Chop and the Minnesota Barking Ducks.