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Behind the Band: Blonde and the Bohunk

Country-covering duo can't imagine their life without music.

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Sara Severson and Brian Chlian perform live on stage as Blonde and the Bohunk.
Contributed photo.
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ALEXANDRIA — For Sara Severson and Brian Chlian, better known as Blonde and the Bohunk, music has nearly always been a constant in their life and they plan to keep it that way.

"I can't even imagine not being able to sing... I can't imagine being without (music)," said Chlian.

"I can't imagine it either. It's therapy," said Severson.

Chlian is a carpentry contractor by day and a six-string-guitar-picking, Garth Brooks-inspired frontman by night.

Nearly always accompanying him on stage is the Blonde to his Bohunk, Severson. She spends her days providing healing through music for those who are terminally ill as a licensed music therapist for Knute Nelson Hospice.

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Together, with guitars in hand and voices at the ready, they put on over 50 shows a summer as the country covering duo, Blonde and the Bohunk.

The duo has been performing in the Alexandria area for the last 10 years.

The Blonde

For Severson, 44, music isn't just a hobby, it's her career and a way of life.

Born and raised in Brandon, music came to her at an early age. At around 5 or 6, she sang her first solo in church. She reckons her musical interests came from her grandfather and mother.

The first time she felt validated as a singer, however, was when she won a karaoke contest.

"I was like, 'Oh, hmm, other people think I'm an OK singer. That's kind of cool.' And then it just took off from there."

Severson went on to join her first band, Dixie North. A little while later, she joined her second called Incognito.

About 6 years ago, she took her love and passion for music to a new level; she became a certified music therapist for Knute Nelson Hospice.

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"It's the best career that I've been gifted," she said. "I'll have it till I retire and probably keep going after I retire."

She says music can heal the mind, body and soul; mentally physically and spiritually.

"It's healing through air...even if you can't hear anymore," Severson said. "Our bodies are made up of what, 70, 80% water? So when you're playing guitar, or you're singing, it goes right through your body up into the main nerve in your brain, the vagus nerve, and that controls all of your vitals... Your heart rate and your blood pressure and all these other things."

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Blonde and the Bohunk began performing together 10 years ago when Brian Chlian and Sara Severson both felt the performance "itch."
Contributed photo.

Severson was inspired to go into music therapy when a close friend of hers was losing a battle with cancer.

Her friend had been unresponsive in a hospital bed for some time and at her friend's husband's request, Severson grabbed her guitar and gave her friend a visit. After playing her friend's favorite song, she started to move her mouth.

She left the hospital that day with a purpose and a mission. A few years later, she became officially confirmed as a Certified Music Practitioner.

The Bohunk

Chlian, 44, an Alexandria native, says music is in him.

He has always been a hummer and a singer. His kindergarten teacher told his parents, "He just loves singing; He's the best one we have."

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In high school, Chlian sang in the choir, and by 21, he got his first guitar. He joined his first band, "The Foolish Boys," not long after.

He taught himself to play guitar by using a Garth Brooks' songbook.

"My brother-in-law introduced me to Garth Brooks when I was 13 years old," said Chlian. "That's what got me hooked...He turned on Garth Brooks' 'Friends in Low Places' and I was like, 'Oh my God, I love that.' That brought the country into me. You know, kind of the twang and everything else."

Chlian agrees with Severson about the healing power of music. He said there have been many times when he is feeling low that he will bust out his guitar and simply play the blues away.

"I've been through a fair amount of stuff... you know, not fun stuff. But, (music) pulls me out."

Blonde and the Bohunk

How did Blonde and the Bohunk come to be?

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In the last few years, Blonde and the Bohunk has expanded from a duo to a full-fledged band. From left, Scott Mallin, Sara Severson, Brian Chlian, Ray Noble and Aaron Provance.
Contributed photo.

"Well, back in February 1978, I was hanging out in the nursery and I heard this baby bawling. I was like,'Oh my gosh.' Here was the bohunk trying to check me out," Severson joked as she and Chlian are just five days a part in age and both born at the Douglas County Hospital.

In reality, the two didn't meet until their twenties when both were working the local music scene in cover bands. And still, the two didn't actually join forces until about 10 years ago.

Severson described it as the "itch" — the wanting to get back into the music game. She had taken a few years off from performing to start a family but her passion for music had her yearning to get back on stage.

She wanted to keep it simple, though. No late-night stuff. An acoustic duo thing sounded cool. So she called up Chlian.

"'Hey, Brian, what are you doing? You got the itch?' 'Yep, I do.' 'All right let's do something,'" Severson recalled.

Their first gig was at Sixth Avenue — now The Garden Bar on 6th.

"It was so fun," said Severson. "We were like, 'OK, we could get hooked on this.' Then it just expanded from there. Local people just kept coming and listening to us. The crowds got a little bigger and a little louder and danced a little more."

While the duo still does their acoustic thing, today, just like the crowds, Blonde and the Bohunk has expanded. They are often accompanied by Scott Mallin on lead guitar, Dale Danter on drums and Ray Noble on bass. They even have their own sound engineer, Aaron Provance.

With over 200 songs in their back pocket, they average over 40 to 50 shows a summer and have performed at notable festivals like Moondance Jammin Country Fest and KIK- FM's Rev'd Up Country Fest.

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Aaron Provance provides the sound engineering for Blonde and the Bohunk.
Contributed photo.

But, out of all the big partying crowds they have performed for, Chlian says some of the most memorable are the performances at numerous funerals.

"You feel like you gave a part of yourself but you're happy that you did it," he said.

They both agree that when they first started Blonde and the Bohunk, they had no expectations for the journey it would bring them on. They just loved music so much that they wanted to share it with their community together.

Right now, at 10 years and counting, Severson and Chlian do not foresee an end to Blonde and the Bohunk.

"We're just lucky. I think most bands just tend to bring in a lot of drama and we don't have any drama, not even an ounce," said Chlian.

Neither of them can imagine their lives without music. It is their therapy, their escape, their provider of "fun money." It is a part of them, it is who they are.

"It's always unknown. But, I just honestly feel with the friendship and the family that the group of guys that I get to do this with, I have no intention of ever ending anytime soon," Severson said. "I have this picture (in my mind) of us with walkers and canes."

For booking inquiries, contact the band through their Facebook page , calling 320-808-3448 or emailing saraaseverson@outlook.com

Thalen Zimmerman of Alexandria joined the Echo Press team as a full-time reporter in Aug. 2021, after graduating from Bemidji State University with a bachelor of science degree in mass communication in May of 2021.
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