A rocker from the Lake has been making waves on the music scene at the young age of 15. Despite his age, Damien Alblas is no rookie performer. He has been playing piano since he was in elementary school and even put out a CD when he was 12.
Shortly after releasing the album, Damien turned his attention to guitar and vocals and has been performing ever since. He took the stage on June 6 at the Boundary Country Relay For Life to perform several cover songs and a couple of originals as well.
It was his third straight Relay For Life performance in Grand Forks and he was happy to have the chance to perform at the fundraiser again.
“I love performing there and it’s such a great cause,” said Damien. “Within the last four years I’ve lost both my grandmothers to cancer. It’s an honour to play there.”
He’s also performed at other events including the Christina Lake Homecoming event.
Damien learned to play the piano from local teacher Joan Thomas. He then taught himself the guitar as well as vocals.
“I took group lessons for guitar but never individual lessons,” he said. “I learned how to play guitar off the piano. I’m technically trained in piano but I learned guitar by ear off the piano.”
Damien said he likes to watch YouTube videos and then mimic the performers.
“For cover songs, I listen to the song and then basically create my own version of the song,” he said. “It takes anywhere from a day to months or even years depending on the song.”
Damien has been performing in front of audiences pretty much since he began playing the piano.
He began by playing piano with his dad singing during open mic night at Kocomo’s Coffee House. “It was my dad’s idea,” said Damien. “I didn’t sing at the time so he sang and I played piano. We played a couple of Elton John songs.”
Damien’s father, Jay Alblas, played in bands when he was young and still enjoys singing. He and wife Cindy are very proud of Damien’s accomplishments.
The two have been performing at the Christina Lake Welcome Centre open mic night every Thursday for the past two years.
Jay recalls Damien practicing late into the night when he was first learning the piano.
“Even before he had lessons, he had a keyboard he would play around with,” said Jay. “I would go to work and when I would come home he would have learned a whole Beatles song in that time from start to finish from watching YouTube and other things. He wouldn’t know it when I went to work, eight hours later he would have it down pat. That’s when I knew there was something there.”
Jay said that his son is very motivated and does not need any encouragement to practice.
“If anything, I have to urge him to stop, ‘you’ve been practicing for 12 hours,’” said Jay.
Playing at open mic nights eventually transitioned into playing at events such as Christina Lake Homecoming and Relay For Life. He also had a chance to open for Canadian folk legend Valdy at Christina Lake. “It was a great experience. I got to play a couple of songs and actually got to meet Valdy.”
He also opened for Dustin Bentall at the Lake as well.
Damien, who attends GFSS and plays with the school band, likes classic rock, folk rock as well as modern rock. He counts the Black Keys, the Lumineers, the Arctic Monkeys, Pink Floyd, the Eagles and Led Zeppelin among his favourites.
Damien began to write his own songs when he was about 12. “The first real song I recall writing was called Beautiful Night,” he said. “It was good for 12 but not quite up to my level today but I do play it from time to time.”
Damien said that when he is writing a song he usually comes with a guitar riff first and follows that up with the lyrics. He adds that writing is very different from performing.
“It’s more your own thing; more personal,” he said. “Performing is public. You’re playing for other people, showing them what you wrote.”
He likes to write songs based on personal experiences but he also follows the news and likes to speak on world issues such as the environment and social interaction.
Damien hopes he can continue with a music career and make a living at it down the road. “I would love to carry on with it as long as I’m still motivated it’s something I’d love to pursue as a career.”
Damien will be opening up for The Static Shift at a Christina Lake Stewardship benefit fundraiser at the Welcome Centre on July 4.