Freshman Blaise Tangney may be fairly new to Geneseo, but he has already had a greater impact on the local arts scene than many students may achieve in their four years on campus. Armed with a raspy folk voice and bluegrass-inspired guitar riffs, the singer-songwriter has been playing at open-mic shows all semester and has no intention of slowing down. Tangney grew up in Rockville Centre, New York, where, according to him, “[There] wasn’t really a huge music scene.” He ended up drawing much of his influence not from the surrounding community, but from his own brothers who both played in bands while he was growing up. “They’re a huge inspiration and a huge influence on my work,” Tangney said.
His 24-year-old brother Simon Tangney still has a band now: Wilbur, a Philadelphia-based folk outfit that just finished up an East Coast tour. The younger Blaise Tangney even got a chance to see the band play in Rochester before its tour was over.
Although his brothers influenced both the style and content of his music, songwriting is a solo process for Tangney—often a challenging one. “In order to capture an emotion, especially one of appreciation or love, you almost have to get lucky with the lyrics,” he said. “It’s so hard to do it correctly and not come across as cheesy or forced.”
Tangney said that he often does end up writing about emotional things, including both family and romantic relationships. “Relationships are a funny thing,” he said. “Songwriting is similar in that it’s something you have to worry about and something you have to work at every single day.”
Music isn’t the only thing he writes, however. Tangney is an English and political science double major. As far as a potential career path goes, he noted, “There’s international politics, where it’s almost imperative for people to have a grasp on the creative mindset in dealing with those sorts of problems.” But he is far from sure of what he wants to do yet—which certainly comes as no surprise for a first-semester freshman. For now, he is just enjoying his classes.
Tangney is surprisingly academic for someone so involved in music. “To be completely honest, I came here to do my work,” he said. “I didn’t come here to play a bunch of shows. But even though it means having to stay up a little later on weeknights now, I’m happier this way. And everything keeps making me want to work harder and play more.”
It’s not that Tangney has never considered playing music for a living. He is concerned with making a living—and who could blame him? Things didn’t pan out with the record companies as far as his oldest brother Jack Tangney was concerned. Simon Tangney may have a gig with a real band, but he also has jobs at two Chinese food restaurants to pay the bills.
“I’m going to write music forever. That’s not [a] question,” Blaise said. “And if it starts seeming like something I could do, sure, but … pipe dreams, you know? What I write isn’t what’s being sold today.”
Although Tangney has a distinct folk rock style and has always identified as a solo artist, befriending Geneseo musicians has made him reconsider his habit of working alone. “When you come to college, you just meet so many new people and so many new influences in sound,” he said. “And now I’m starting all over again.”