Singer Don Amero’s latest disc, Evolution, showcases this gifted artist’s talent for interpreting terrific tunes in a whole new light.
Amero, who originally hails from Winnipeg, performs at The Velvet Olive on Oct. 10th.
The 10-time Juno Award nominee is thrilled with Evolution, which was produced by Bart McKay who has also worked with Gord Bamford and Brett Kissel.
From the get-go, he wanted it to crackle with more of an upbeat, fun feel as well.
The project indeed offers solid cut after cut, from the infectious disc opener Live While I’m Alive to the polished perfection of How I Feel to a truly heartfelt cover of Blue Rodeo’s smash hit Try. “I’ve always been a big fan of Jim Cuddy and Blue Rodeo, so I knew it was something I was going to record at some point. This seemed like the right time to make that happen.”
Smoke in My Eyes exudes sheer confidence while Give It To You revels joyfully in unforgettable ‘feel good’ sensibilities.
As is clear via his music, Amero is indeed an engaging storyteller who has been touring and speaking across Canada for the last 10 years.
Raised in the tough north end of Winnipeg, he also overcame poverty, drugs and violence to pursue his passion for music.
“The north end was sort of the tough and rough part of the neighbourhood,” he explained during a recent interview.
“That was what I knew growing up. My family was always sort of in the midst of the storms around us. But I also knew that my parents were good people – they loved us and then one day, things just sort of went awry. My mom witnessed a murder when she was working at a really seedy bar, and that was sort of the beginning of the end of my parent’s relationship,” he said.
He saw his mom later get involved in a relationship that included domestic abuse which of course wielded an impact on the children.
“My outlet became music and sports, when a lot of my friends got involved in drugs, gangs and violence,” he explained of those troubled times. “The thing that drove me was the pursuit of athletics and music, so I’m thankful for that for sure.”
As for his gift in music, he explained that it is kind of a ‘family thing’ indeed.
“My parents played and sang – my dad was from the east coast, so he brought the east coast kitchen party (sentiment) to Winnipeg,” he said with a laugh.
“Every payday, there would be a case of beer and a couple of guitars floating around,” he said. “They were both great performers – they had the performing ‘bug’. I think they both wanted to go out there and be entertainers, but because they had us (kids) so young it just wasn’t a reality for them,” he explained.
“They became sort of the weekend performers in the kitchen.”
Then a pivotal moment came when he was 15 – he liked a certain girl at school. “I wanted her to notice me, so I auditioned for the school play not knowing if I had anything to offer.
“But I thought maybe in those 30 seconds she would notice me, and so I went for it and I got the lead role in the play!”
Something clicked in him at that time in terms of entertaining others, and his sites became set on exploring the world of music and performing.
He even started writing his own songs, but didn’t really start performing until he was about 20. At first, it was a bit daunting.
“Even then, I would hide behind the music stand,” he recalled. “You are baring your heart and soul through your lyrics, so you feel like hiding a little bit.”
Finding his own style took some time, but past influences helped shape his approach as well.
“I think if you ask most artists, I don’t think that most of us aim to be put into a particular ‘genre’ box,” he explained.
“I think we just do what comes naturally to us. And through that, you end up ‘squeezing into’ a genre. I’ve always been sort of a rootsy, folksy guy – that’s where I kind of started, and I also think there is a close relationship between roots and folk and country music.
“For me, country is also something that came quite naturally,” he said, adding that ultimately it’s about staying true to what’s in his heart at the time. “I also think that if it weren’t for the obstacles and the things that I have gone through, my story wouldn’t be as strong as it is. Really, there is someone else out there who can draw strength from your experiences.
“At the end of the day, what comes out is what you hear on Evolution.”