Singer-songwriter finds creative solitude in the ‘vampire hours’

Trevor Dubois spends sleepless nights writing music in his basement apartment

Trevor Dubois writes music in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood at 4:15 a.m. Remi Stephanie Rozario/Toronto Observer

It’s 4 a.m. and Trevor Dubois strums his guitar in the basement he rents at a home in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood. It’s pin-drop silent outside as a cool mist settles on the city.

“During the night, there’s a sense of solitude where you don’t have any distraction,” says the 23-year-old Canadian folk and indie singer-songwriter.

A passionate artist, Dubois pays his rent by covering other artists at gigs at local bars and restaurants. He also performs original music at bigger venues such as The Mod Club, Horseshoe Tavern, and Rivoli. Dubois was a participant in February on the second season of CTV’s reality music competition “The Launch.”

He caught the music bug at age 11 when he got the rock guitar simulation video game “Guitar Hero.” He thought to himself, “This is cool, I’m gonna do this for a living,” he says.

Dubois isn’t only skilled at playing the guitar. He’s a one-man band who also plays the ukulele, piano, bass and drums.

Dubois goes by the pseudonym “Charlie the Kid.” He chose the name after a professor at Fanshawe College in London, Ont., where he completed a Music Industry Arts degree, told him that he had a “lame name.” Dubois said “Charlie the Kid” sounded more like the way he “wanted to sound like as an artist.”

While he has a deep-rooted love for The Beatles, his original work falls predominantly under the folk category.

“The limitation (of) playing primarily acoustic guitar and singing leads one to sound more ‘folk’ and therefore sort of puts you in that box,” Dubois says.

Vanessa Markov, 34, an owner of an artist management company called Black Lamb Music, says that folk music — especially modern folk — is very popular in Canada, as the country has a general folk-leaning culture. Folk music has been around since settlers arrived in this country from France and Britain in the 16th and 17th centuries. Contemporary folk music exploded as a genre in the 1960s and 1970s with many Canadian artists leading the way, including Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Leonard Cohen.

“It’s about telling a story; it’s lighter music, very emotional, something that has always had its place in the music industry,” she says.

Dubois says his life consists of “a lot of bar culture.” Since he spends a chunk of time either making new connections or performing at bars, he gets home around 3 a.m. and typically writes music until 5 a.m. He said creating music late at night is healthier than spending that time browsing social media. He also likes the fact that he doesn’t have to worry about phone calls or meetings like people with regular jobs.

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“It’s a lot easier to get into something called a ‘flow state,’ which is when you’re working on something … and then you just zone in and you kind of forget everything else is going on. And that’s a lot easier when no one else is awake. It’s just you in your living room.”

-Trevor Dubois

Like Dubois, Markov also gets most of her work done in the overnight hours because she finds it easier to focus and write when the world is quiet.

“The majority of musicians I know have what we call ‘vampire hours’ where they sleep all day and are up all night,” she says.

As for the music industry in general, people measure success differently. Markov believes that there’s never a guarantee that one can be successful. There’s always an element of luck, timing, circumstances, and political climates that tend to dictate the kinds of music the audience will listen to, she says.

“If you come into this industry expecting to be successful or just assuming that you’ll be successful, you’ve basically already dug your grave,” she says.

To Dubois, success is more about getting his name out there and sharing his love of music with the rest of the world.

“I’m at a point where I’m playing shows and people I don’t know are singing the lyrics in the audience, (and) that’s dope,” Dubois says.

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Posted: Jun 10 2019 12:30 pm
Filed under: Features Toronto at 4 a.m.