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Sena Ehrhardt’s heart is in the blues

Sena Ehrhardt_photo by Haley Waller.jpg

When singer Sena Ehrhardt decided to launch a solo career, she only had to look to her then-band — and her family — for a steady collaborator: guitarist Edward Ehrhardt, her father.

Considering that she got her start in the Minnesota-area blues band Plan B, going solo and taking another member (parent notwithstanding) could have easily rubbed the group’s remaining musicians the wrong way. Ehrhardt says that wasn’t the case.

“They all had full-time jobs and didn’t really want to travel a whole lot with the music,” she explains. “That was something I really wanted to do, and so I think they were extremely understanding and supportive. So on that front, I think they were aware I wanted to reach new audiences and expand my travel radius quite a bit farther outside of Minnesota.”

Ehrhardt stayed within the confines of the North Star State to record Leave the Light On, her 2011 solo debut for Blind Pig Records. She describes it as an organic, piecemeal project, done on weekends and after she finished work at the Mayo Clinic.

“We had no essentially overdubbing; it was very true to what you would hear if you came to one of our shows,” Ehrhardt says. “That’s what I wanted to be my introduction to the blues scene. I didn’t want it to be a whole lot of bells and whistles. I just wanted it to just be the songs, and I think we captured that.”

For her latest album, All In (due March 12 on Blind Pig), Ehrhardt headed south, recording with veteran blues and rock producer Jim Gaines over a two-week period at his studio outside Memphis, Tenn.

“There were no distractions; it was music and recording all day, every day,” she recalls. “I’ve grown up listening to my father play for my entire life, and I never knew he was capable of some of the things that Jim pulled out of him. And I feel the same way about some of the vocals that I was able to achieve down there because of Jim’s way. He’s very gentle but has a way of articulating things in a way that’s not intimidating.”

Ehrhardt, who continues to work full-time as a case coordinator at the Mayo Clinic, sees a connection between her day job and her music.

“I think the blues is about being able to relate to another person’s experience,” she says. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be a sad experience for it to be blues. So just in dealing with the patients who I interact with every day, with my colleagues in my office, with the surgeons, you definitely see all different levels of human experiences. A lot of our patients are very sick and they’re grappling with different emotions and fears, and I would say subconsciously, that probably does influence my songwriting.”

— By Chris M. Junior

Sena Ehrhardt on tour (schedule subject to change):

* March 9: Blues Café — Rothschild, Wis.
* March 15: Wilebski’s Blues Saloon — St. Paul, Minn.
* March 16: Trinity Restaurant and Hall — Fond du Lac, Wis.
* April 20: The Wicked Moose — Rochester, Minn.

Photo by Haley Waller