Don Amero is a singer, a songwriter, and musician; his music is engaging, powerful, and honest. Don Amero is also everyman, and definitely a family man.
Perhaps that’s why he has had 17 nominations at the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards since 2007, when he left the hardwood flooring business and took to making music full time.
Since the success of his personally prophetic debut album Change Your Life in 2006, Amero has released two more albums, Deepening (2009) and The Long Way Home (2010), which won a number of awards, including Aboriginal recording of the year at the at the Western Canadian Music Awards in 2011, and best folk recording at the 2011 Nammy’s (Native American Music Awards). Amero himself was again nominated for Aboriginal songwriter of the year at the 2011 Canadian Folk Music Awards, an award he won in 2009.
The country-flavoured first single from the award-winning The Long Way Home is “Right Where I Wanna Be.” It’s the first official video release from Winnipeg-based Amero, and was co-written with fellow Winnipegger Jay Tooke.
Amero’s music is inspired by his life and family, and focused through the lens of his own experiences and surroundings. He talked to CBC Music about how he got started, writing in Nashville and being a hard-working Canadian musician.
Q: What is it like these days for a good Canadian musician?
A: I can't speak for anyone else but myself here, but for me it's been amazing. I am still selling tons of albums from the stage and I am playing about three to four shows a week. I had the best money-making year last year, and this year is going to be better than that. It's all about hanging in there and just working hard during the slow/down times.
Q: You broke out in 2006-7. Have you always been singing and playing?
A: At 15 I picked up my dad’s old Gibson Hummingbird guitar and began with Em and C [chords] and spent the next six months writing a song called “Next to Me” about a girl I had a crush on. I would ask my dad and older brother for guitar chords now and again, but I'm truly self taught on the guitar. For voice it was Mr. D. in high school who really taught me how to use my voice. At the same time, I auditioned for the lead role in the school play and got the part. That's where it all began.
Q: Is writing a new tune hard work? Or does one reveal itself fully formed? Take us through it.
A: It usually starts with some chords on the guitar and I develop the words around that. I believe the music is already saying something before a word is even written. It's about really listening to find out what the music is already telling me and doing my best to put the words to that emotion.
About five years ago a song fell on my lap. It took me about 15 minutes to write and I've never changed it from that day. It's called “Life Gets Better” and it's all about living life together with the people that love and support you.
Listen to Amero’s latest single,"Turn These Grey Skies Blue"
Q: Tell me about your new one, "Turn These Grey Skies Blue."
A: It's about the building anticipation of the one you love coming home. I was in Nashville last September… writing with an amazing writer, Kris Bergsnes (Tim McGraw, Emerson Drive.) I'd been sitting on this tune for a while. Kris thought it sounded a little like a train and we just built it around a guy waiting for his love coming home on the train. Kris wrote so effortlessly. It was the best co-writing experience I'd ever had.
Q: I hear you and your wife Pam have a new baby. How is it going? Can he play or sing yet?
A: He can rock ABCs like nobody’s business... no not really he's only six-and-a-half months. Oscar's the best toy I've ever had! As soon as my son was born my stock went up. It takes a really good gig to pry me away from him now. I feel like home and life are all I have to really draw from when writing new material.
Q: Musically, what is next for Don Amero? When can we expect new tunes?
A: New album out this fall. I am about 50 per cent done now. The last few [albums] I've done feeling like I was aiming to please others. This one I'm kinda doing for me. Not in a selfish way, but more of a "this is deeper to the core of who I am" kind of way. I hope people can appreciate how much I wear my heart on my sleeve. And I am producing my next album, too.
Q: Do you have time for touring this summer?
A: I have quite a few shows coming up this summer. I am really looking forward to the Atlin Arts Fest in northern B.C. Touring is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get and sometimes it's sweet and sometimes it's those gross waxy ones you'd rather not try again!
You can find Don Amero at many festivals this summer. Check out his website for where and when.
CBC Music honours indigenous artists on National Aboriginal Day
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Don Amero at CBC Music
Don Amero Vlog Feb 2012
on Jun 21, 2012