Tracy Wells is a natural blues singer — she just didn’t know it for a long while.
“I grew up with rock ’n’ roll. I didn’t know a lot about blues music,” admitted the Red Deer woman, who performs with her appropriately named Overdue Blues Band on Friday and Saturday at Fratters Speakeasy.
After studying jazz/blues piano at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, Wells realized that virtually every rock song she ever loved was really a blues songs at heart — whether the artist was Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, or the Rolling Stones.
“All my life I was actually listening to blues music,” said Wells, who relates to its raw, emotional quality.
“It makes you feel something … it really shakes you to your soul, and touches people in different ways.”
Eventually, she figured out she was born to sing the blues — but it took her a few more years.
First Wells taught piano after leaving university, then she went back to school and switched careers, taking an architectural technology job that brought her to Red Deer from her native Sherwood Park.
Just like her mom, Wells always loved to sing — but she and a friend would satisfy the desire by frequenting local karaoke bars after work.
The friend, always blown away by the power of Well’s voice, pushed her in the direction of singing with a band.
In late 2011, Wells and some local musicians scrambled to formed a new group to perform for a New Year’s Eve party. It would become the Overdue Blues Band.
She recalled, “After we played together, we thought, man, this is a lot of fun! We’ve got to keep it together.”
While it took Wells a long time to discover her natural affinity for blues singing, other people get it the minute she opens her mouth.
For instance, the singer was accepted on her first try to an adjudicated vocal camp in Calgary in 2012 — then, through this experience, won the chance for her band to perform in that year’s Calgary International Blues Festival.
“I thought, holy cow! We’ve barely been a band and now we’ve got to put together a demo!”
The Overdue Blues Band went on to become a finalist in the Edmonton Blues Society’s Memphis Blues Challenge. The group has also performed at various Red Deer bars, the Central Music Festival, the Ross Street Patio and headlined at Canada Day celebrations.
The next big step is recording a full-length debut album, which Wells hopes will happen by next fall.
The band is also made up of Dean Bruce on guitar, Marcel Meijers on bass, Curtis Romanick on drums, and Nick Partridge on keyboards.
Many of the original songs are collaborations between Wells and Bruce. She said, “Someone will start playing a riff and words will come into our head . . . or one of us will get an idea based on life experience or observations.”
Bruce first wrote Come On and Love Me when he was 14, and the song has gone through many permutations, said Wells. “It’s a teenage guy’s view on women. He’s just starting out in the world and he’s an awkward teen, and it’s like, ‘Come on, give me a chance.’ ”
The tune Dirty Dawg comes from a more worldly, female perspective. Wells wrote it thinking about some of the shenanigans guys try to pull on their girlfriends. “It’s saying, ‘I know what you’re up to. You can’t pull the wool over my eyes.’ ”
The Overdue Blues Band performs 9 p.m. shows at Fratters. There’s a $8 cover charge both nights.