Music to Our Ears An Interview with Trevor Lubin - theHumm October 2021
Music to Our Ears An Interview with Trevor Lubin - theHumm October 2021
By Kris Riendeau
A few years back, I (along with my husband, our twenty-something kids and their twenty-something friends) were regularly rocking out to the high-energy music of the Ramblin’ Valley Band. They seemed to play any chance they got, and filled local venues with enthusiastic fans who knew the members by name and their lyrics by heart. Alas, the band is no longer together, but we were delighted to hear that the talented Trevor Lubin has been playing locally, often in the company of his former bandmate Joe McDonald. theHumm contacted Trevor to find out more about his musical plans.
theHumm: Let’s start with the good stuff — who have you been playing with lately, and what gigs do you have coming up?
Trevor Lubin: I recently had the good fortune of playing with my long-time musical compatriot, Joseph McDonald — not only one of the primary songwriters and guitar players from the Ramblin’ Valley Band, but also my first, and longest, musical collaborator. We first met and started jamming in Grade 9, and we’ve continued to play together since then, pushing one another to greater and greater heights with a friendly competition.
Coming up, I’ll be playing with the funk/soul jam band Mecca of Stank at Live on Elgin on October 3, and at Daniel O’Connell’s on October 30 and November 26. I’ll also be accompanying Ottawa singer Crystalena at a live virtual event at Algonquin Commons Theatre on October 8 as part of the Sounds of Hope Benefit Concert.
How have you weathered the pandemic? Have you been able to continue playing and teaching music?
Compared to many of my peers, I’ve been incredibly lucky in how my own business evolved over the course of the pandemic. Like so many others, I lost thousands of dollars in upcoming concerts when the first lockdown mandates were announced last year. I’m very grateful to Wendy Whittaker, my former boss and proprietor of Mississippi Mills Musicworks before it closed — she was incredibly kind and supportive to me after the store and school closed, providing me with a full client list of students that I have had the pleasure of teaching remotely for the last year-and-a-half. Unlike so many others, who had to move into new industries to make a living wage, I had, and continue to have, the privilege of teaching enthusiastic students of all ages.
The most difficult thing has been adapting to the new medium of remote lessons and trying to maintain a quality of instruction in spite of the limitations. It’s difficult enough to teach one-on-one, and I’ve only worked with a maximum of eight students in one session, so I can only imagine and respect the workload of so many teachers in the local school board who have had to teach classes of thirty or more.
On top of that, I began working earlier this year with Craig Cardiff as a recording engineer and session player for an enterprise that has us working with various school boards, teaching songwriting, how to use recording software, and helping young people to find their own voice and compose their own songs. In a strange twist, I find myself more busy than I was before the onset of Covid.
The trials of the last year-and-a-half have also been an opportunity to understand myself as an artist, and where my own strengths and limitations lie. I’ve discovered, among other things, how beholden I am to others, whether it be in a band or otherwise, to motivate my own practice and writing. Learning to be a solo artist, by necessity, and being my own taskmaster has proved one of the most difficult skills to develop. When you’re playing eight hours a day for others, whether as a session player or teacher, it’s quite a challenge to remain motivated to work on your own projects when all you want to do is take a break. It’s the old story — monetizing a passion puts one at risk of losing that very same passion. I’ve found that my own ideal way of decompressing after a long day has been revisiting my interest in the hard sciences and perusing old textbooks. If nothing else, this pandemic has given me an opportunity to return to some of the academic interests that animated me in my university days.
How are you feeling about the prospects for live music this fall and winter?
I’ve been very pleasantly surprised, both at the enthusiasm and gratitude of audiences who have been deprived of an opportunity to enjoy live music, and at many club owners and managers who have been more accommodating, both financially and otherwise, in sourcing local musicians to play their venues. I’ve been playing regularly since August, on average one show a week, with little sign of slowing down. Admittedly, I’m somewhat fearful of what a fourth wave might bring this coming winter season, but if mortality and morbidity indicators continue to trend downwards, I’m cautiously optimistic for continued growth in the Ottawa music scene, as performers and proprietors adapt to the latest safety measures and capacity limits. One of the things I’ve missed most during the pandemic has been keeping close contact with the local music community as it exists in music bars and concert halls across the city. There have been so many familiar faces and friends I’ve been glad to reconnect with, now that the spaces that host these events are open once more. Some of my favourite places, like Irene’s Pub and Live On Elgin, have weathered the storm, while other great music venues have not, and they will be missed. We can only hope that new businesses will be brave enough to fill the niches left open in the Ottawa scene.
If in-person performance opportunities become scarce again, are there other ways that fans can support you and your music?
Now that I have the equipment, infrastructure and skillset to record music, I’m looking forward to experimenting with livestreams and releasing content, both as a means to continue playing in the event of another lockdown, but also because it is a new frontier in how we consume music that’s here to stay. I’ve been inspired to watch a few friends commit to working almost entirely online, whether streaming their own daily performances, or connecting with artists and being hired to play on their songs via online marketplaces like Fiverr. What it means to be a working musician is even now being shaped in the internet age, where geographical barriers no longer prevent collaboration and transactions between artists, and fans, halfway around the world. That change is only being accelerated, and I’m very interested to see what happens next.
If people want to find out about other upcoming gigs, and/or contact you about lessons, where should they go to find you?
They can find show details on my social media, whether from Trevor Lubin on Facebook, or as trevorlubin on Instagram. And if they’d like to inquire about lessons on many a string instrument, whether guitar, bass, mandolin, banjo or ukulele, they need only send me an email at email@example.com .
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