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Student carves out niche as local folk, blues musician

Lauren Smith

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Seamus Turner brings a refreshing modesty and laid-back attitude to the local music scene, in which he is now quite well known.

His musical upbringing differs slightly from the typical force-your-child-to-play-piano setting. His parents, neither of whom plays a musical instrument, put a fiddle in his hands at 5 years of age.

“My parents had me start playing bluegrass because they thought it would be more fun than learning classical music,” Turner said. “After that I picked up the mandolin. Then I picked up the guitar in late middle school.”

As far as his entry into the local music scene, it began his freshman year. He originally came to Chico State to study nursing, which didn’t last long.

“I’m not very good with sticking needles in peoples’ arms,” Turner said.

It was in his first year that he met another staple in the local music scene, current roommate and bandmate Clay Finch, someone who would turn out to be pivotal to his music career as well as a close friend. After a year of jamming in the dorms, it was Finch that convinced Turner to switch from nursing to a music degree.

“He was the one who got me really excited about getting into the music program here,” Turner said. “I look up to him a lot.”

Turner now holds a place as a notable member of the local music scene. He is a guitarist and singer for the folk-rock group Dakota Cree as well as a budding solo acoustic artist.

In both of these projects, there’s a blues influence that is inherently visible, complete with slide guitars and pleasantly rhythmic strumming patterns. His vocals bear a remarkable resemblance to Lou Reed in the Velvet Underground song “Oh! Sweet Nuthin.’”

Turner juggles a lot with having to balance his music career with his academic responsibilties, he said.

“I grow white hairs. That’s how I balance it out,” Turner said, with a cheeky grin on his face. “School is something that is very time consuming, which is why I can’t wait to get out so that I can focus a lot more on the music that I play. … I’ve been playing music my entire life and don’t know if I have the knack for it quite yet, but there are certain signs that point me in that direction.”

As for musical influences, Turner said he goes through many phases. He draws inspiration from old blues music as well as Grace Slick & The Great Society, and more modern artists such as the Stepkids and Mac DeMarco.

From the local music scene, he lists common collaborators Clay Finch, Don Parrish, and Josh Hegg as his influences and inspirations.

In a day and age where the music industry is characterized by business-oriented goals and a hunger for fame, the most refreshing aspects of Turner’s personality are his unpretentiousness and the clear indication that it is his love for music that keeps him going.

Turner’s band Dakota Cree will be playing their next show alongside fellow local musicians Burning Loud and Big Chico Creek at the DownLo on 13 February. The show is free, and all ages until 10pm.

When talking about music, the corners of his eyes start to crease as his lips pull back in a genuine smile.

“The feeling that you get from it, and the people that you play with, definitely,” Turner said. “It’s a feeling that you just don’t experience with anything else. It feels like your chest is about to burst open. … I mean, not in a very gory way, but in a way that has butterflies and flowers coming out of it.”

Lauren Smith can be reached at [email protected] or @reginechassagne on Twitter.

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Student carves out niche as local folk, blues musician