2017 Telluride Blues Challenge Winner Russ Chapman Records on the Gondola

Witty lyrics, theatric delivery, and skillful acoustic-blues picking all contribute to Russ Chapman’s original style. He is a true entertainer, and, to steal a phrase from Chapman, does a good job at keeping his audience on the edge of its ears.

We met up with Russ Chapman to record some music on the final day of the 2017 Telluride Blues & Brews Festival, the day after he won the Telluride Blues Challenge. Along with winning a slot on the main stage next year, a short slot on it this year, a Martin guitar, some money, the recognition of his peers and some publicity, Chapman also got the invite to record on the gondola with us.

2017 Telluride Blues Challenge Winner Russ Chapman plays guitar on the Telluride Gondola

Russ Chapman plays guitar on the Telluride Gondola during his Gondola Session

The Telluride Blues Challenge

The Telluride Blues Challenge is an annual competition at the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival. For the competition, previously unsigned blues musicians go through a submission and selection process, and a select few are invited to play a few songs in front of a crowd and judging panel. In the last 4 years that I have been, it has always been at the Elks Lodge. The festival teams up with them for a “Blues for Breakfast” event that always seems to get the Saturday of the festival weekend started just right.

Russ Chapman receives a guitar on stage

Russ Chapman is announced as the winner of the 2017 Telluride Blues Challenge

This was the first year that we officially sponsored the Telluride Blues Challenge, though last year we were able to record some videos with Steve Itterly, the 2016 winner. Which is where the idea kind of came from. It is great to work with up-and-coming or lesser-known talent, and help get their music out there on the web. Pretty much we’re stoked to be a part of the event, and stoked that Russ Chapman won this year’s competition.

Russ Chapman Gondola Session Videos

These Russ Chapman videos will give you a good idea of what one of his live shows is like, though the shows are made a bit more entertaining simply because there is an audience.

I mean to say that Chapman is probably the closest thing to a comedian that we have recorded, and a comedian performing to a camera just isn’t the same as to a live audience. Music blurs these lines sometimes, like when live shows make you really feel the artist. But, then again, sometimes you can really feel an artist by listening to their music at home, or on the radio.

“Exercise Your Demons”

“Jesus On The Beach”

More from Russ Chapman

In this TEDx Talk with Russ Chapman, he goes into some reasoning and psychology behind lyrics, sounds and music in general. Have a watch for a behind the scenes look at how he thinks, and how he has created such an entertaining style of music.

Russ Chapman TEDx Talk

Songwriting: the confluence of words and music

Congrats, Russ, for winning the 2017 Telluride Blues Challenge. Hopefully we’ll be able to continue filming the competition winner with some type of consistency in the future. Thanks for watching.
-John