Every January, Memphis hosts the International Blues Challenge (IBC) where select blues bands from around the country come together for some great music and friendly competition. The IBC represents the worldwide search for those Blues Bands and Solo/Duo Blues Acts ready to perform on the international stage, yet just needing that extra big break. This year, Deuce n’ a Quarter and The Drew Allan Duo were chosen to represent the Columbus area at the IBC this month after winning the Columbus Blues Alliance challenge, per the Blues Foundation Guidelines. The band is a perennial favorite at Visit Gahanna’s annual Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival (June 14-16, 2019).
Recently, we had the opportunity to talk with Brian Peters of Deuce n’ a Quarter. Brian is the front man, singer, songwriter, harmonicist and manager for the band. He is also a longtime fan of Visit Gahanna’sannual Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival (CBJF), as well as a returning performer at the festival.
Have you attended/competed at the IBC before?
Yes, this is my second time competing with Deuce n’ a Quarter and third time being there personally. I was there the first time with the Shaun Booker Band in 2012 where we won the King of Beale Street! That’s a separate competition for those bands who didn’t make it to the finals at the IBC in order to see what bands they want playing in their bars. Beale Street is famous in Memphis for its history, as well as the history of blues.
After the 2012 competition, I decided I wanted to put together a band of my own. I achieved that goal in 2014 with Deuce n’ a Quarter, and in 2015 we won the Columbus Blues Challenge, which gave us eligibility to compete at the IBC in January of 2016.
For those who have never attended the event, can you briefly describe it?
It’s an absolute amazing time. The history of Memphis and Beale Street is something special. There are approximately 120-130 bands that show up to compete at the IBC to represent their blues societies. Each blues society has their own competition and the winners of those competition to go the IBC. When you’re down in Memphis for the event, it’s really like a huge party with great energy that feels like a high school reunion. You get to see old friends and make new ones.
As for the competition part — music is so subjective, you never know who is going to win! Before the competition, you don’t know the venue you’re playing in or what time you’ll be on stage. After the competition each night, most of the venues have blues jam where some of the best blues musicians from all around hop up on stage. It’s just a good time!
What are you most looking forward to at IBC?
This time around, I’m hoping to get the to finals, and I look forward to networking. I don’t look at music as a competition, I’m just a fan. Other than that, I just want to keep the band moving and book more gigs! Since this is my third time competing this year, I plan to go down next year as a spectator. When you’re competing, you don’t get a lot of time to soak it all in. It would be nice to be there and see other bands. Memphis is also rich with history, so I want to go down early this year to do some tours and enjoy the city.
What will you be performing?
We will be performing our original songs. The first round of the competition is a 25-minute set and the second round is 30-minutes. If you get to the finals, it’s another 20 minute set. I’m not sure what all we’re going to cut, but it will be 100% our original music.
The judges score you based on a points system. They will give you the most points if your music is all blues music and the second biggest thing is playing original music. You can do covers but you’re better off playing original music.
You are a perennial fan favorite at the Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival. What do you enjoy most about that event?
It has come full circle for me. When I first attended CBJF, I didn’t play music, sing or anything. It was a tradition – my son and I would go to CBJF for Father’s Day. After a few years of going with my son, I met a few people, picked up a harmonica one day and landed in the Shaun Booker Band. I have four kids and only one is left in the house. I have a 16 year old who still wants to go to CBJF with me and hang out, which means a lot to me.
My story starts at CBJF. To have the opportunity to play on the stage where I used to be spectator is amazing for me. I also love the festival’s variety. They have everything, not just blues music. I love to check out different genres and artists. The food and shops are really good too!
It’s also great when we have support when the band is in town. We’re on the road a lot, but my goal is to play here 3-4 times a year while also building a following in other cities. It’s always nice to get support from our roots in Columbus.