BY MARK WEBER
Singer/songwriter Eric Dubeau is slated to perform in a house concert on April 8th on Birch Bay near Bentley.
Presented by Home Routes/Chemin Chez Nous, the show runs at a chalet in Birch Bay on the northwest corner of Gull Lake – 317 Pine Cresc. For further information about the show, those interested can call Annette St-Cyr at 403-273-3250.
From the get-go, anyone listening to Dubeau’s tunes will immediately note the richness and authenticity that resonates through his music. As his bio notes, they are inspired variously by daily life in a village in Northern Canada, local legends heard in Croatia, the tranquility of the landscape in Patagonia or the riddle of the Sphinx.
His music truly invites the listener to a musical encounter soft, intense and exciting.
Dubeau hails from the small community of Penetanguishene, Ontario.
In 1997, he released his first album, Par chez nous. From that album the song Les lumières de la ville was a finalist in Songs from the Heart of the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals. In March 2001, he launched his second album, Coeur et âme.
An interest in music was sparked early on – he started singing when he was about seven years old. Some amateur contests followed through his teenage years, too. “I then put out my first record when I was about 19 and the second one when I was about 25,” he said, adding that even back in his younger years, he was really tuning into music with folk sensibilities. Artists like James Keelaghan and Don Ross certainly left their mark as his own musical abilities were increasingly taking shape.
“It really was a family thing – my mom was the first person to start singing in our family. My brother also toured a lot in his 20s – he actually toured more out west than I have,” he added with a laugh. That was back in the late 70s, and his sibling was also passionate about music and expressed that through a number of genres from rock to blues to country.
For Dubeau, 41, he first picked up the guitar around the time he was 14 and he’s pretty much self-taught.
“I think my mom and dad got tired of driving me to rehearsals with different accompanists,” he said. “At some point, I remember having a conversation with my mom about buying me a guitar. So we went to the local music shop and we went ‘halfsies’ on it,” he added, chuckling. At around the same time, he was started to write his own music, too.
Even then, the creativity was kicking in quickly – oftentimes, lyrics and melodies would come to him at the same time. And that’s virtually always the pattern today when he composes music as well.
“Back then, I also had more time on my hands so I had more time to day dream and be creative,” he explained. “I’d write a song on my way to a baseball game.”
Today, it’s a more time-consuming process as he has to juggle those moments of creating with other responsibilities. But the magic is certainly still there.
Much of that passion stems from his formative years, too.
“My village had a population of about 350 people,” he recalled, adding it was in that close-knit environment where he spent the first 19 years of his life. “We have a lot of common ground with our Arcadian cousins, so the best comparison I can make is with Cape Breton. It’s also a water-based community, so there’s an ever growing tourist industry and economy.”
Lots of local bars and pubs featured ‘live’ music, too, and that’s essentially where Dubeau first started trying his hand performing publicly.
“You kind of had a couple of options – you could grow up playing hockey or you grew up playing music. It was sort of 50-50. I must have been the only French-Canadian kid in the history of Canada who can’t play hockey,” he laughed.
Music was the focus. Although, learning to be comfortable onstage wasn’t overly easy.
“Sharing it with family was comfortable because I had a musical family. But then getting up onstage and doing it – that was terrifying,” he recalled. As a teenager, he credits his folks with pushing him to get up there onstage and just do it.
“At the time, it would make me almost physically ill – people who write tend to be rather introverted and shy. I was a lot more like that back then – so combining the creative part of the writer with the performance part of it was really a stretch for me. I remember my first tour – I was 17 and I think I had just gotten my driver’s license, getting up in front of a few hundred or a few thousand people was just absolutely against my nature.” He’d even feel ill at times.
“That’s no longer the issue now and that’s comforting.”
Of course, it’s gotten easier. Today he treasures the time he spend on the road, and particularly enjoys performing in small, more intimate shows. Typically he performs with a band, but this particular trek it’s just him and his guitar.
“Without a band, there is nowhere to hide – it’s just the guitar, your stories and your songs,” he explained, while clearly relishing the concept, too.
“You can really engage with people and get a really good (feel) for what inspired the work,” he said. “I think it’s a nice way to share meaning with people. The arts bring us together. And that’s something that is more and more scarce these days.
“We forget sometimes that one of the things that is most important in our daily lives are these shared experiences.
“To me, it’s always around art – and I always enjoy that connection with people.”