The wild west


Don Amero recalls his times with the BreakOut West Festival and talks about his newest album

Kyle Leitch
A&C Writer

This weekend, the tenth edition of the BreakOut West Festival will occur in Regina. The current incarnation of the festival evolved from the “All Indie Weekend” festivals that were held in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba from 1995 through 1999. The Western Canada Music Alliance –member groups from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, British Columbia and Yukon — puts on the BreakOut West festival annually. As its name implies, BreakOut West is meant to be a showcase of Western-Canadian music and artists. One such artist is the quickly-rising star Don Amero. From humble beginnings in Winnipeg to BreakOut West and beyond, Don Amero is always looking ahead while never forgetting his roots.

“I started songwriting when I was fifteen or so,” Amero recalls fondly. “I picked up my dad’s old Gibson guitar, learned E minor and C and played that for about six months, and I kind of felt the melody take over. That was about 17 years ago, now, so I’ve been at it ever since.”

In 2006, Amero decided to make music his full-time career, beginning with his first release, Change Your Life. Now in 2012, Amero is gearing up for his fourth studio effort, Heart on My Sleeve.

“This one hearkens back to my first days when I first began, when I produced and engineered myself,” Amero explains. “Only now I’ve got six years of knowledge in the industry, in the engineering department.”

Amero wrote, recorded, produced, and engineered both his first release and his upcoming album, and the evolution he’s undergone in six short years really shows.

“This one, I kind of did it myself, and I really wanted it to be more of my voice than ever before, and I don’t just mean literally, I mean figuratively as well. Having producers and engineers involved, you get their voice as well. You can get a nice compilation sound, but for this one, you’re getting the real me … the heart of the artist is what I’m really hoping people will get on this one.”

Amero’s passion for songwriting and performance really shine through on the singles that have thus far been released via his YouTube channel.

“Like with anything, with a little bit of time and experience you become more refined, and I feel like this is the best album yet,” Amero explains. “I’m hoping that it’s still far from the best album I’ll ever release.”

Speaking of the album’s release, Amero and company are tackling that in a very unique way. Those who are able to catch Amero on his current tour will be able to pick up the physical copy of his new album.

“That’s the only way to get the album right now, is on my tour,” Amero is careful to explain. “But that’s it; you can’t buy it in stores, you can’t buy it on iTunes, anything, until October 24.”

This is one of the ways Western Canada celebrates its own, so we can continue to grow … It builds camaraderie between us. It’s just another reason to network and do business between us.” – Don Amero

On October 24, the full album will be released on the Aboriginal Peoples’ Television Network (APTN) website as a streaming live concert shot in Amero’s neighbour’s house.

“Because this album is way more intimate, I feel like I would love to have a house concert with thousands of my friends across the country, but that’s not possible,” Amero laments. “Unless, that is, you get a bunch of cameras in there and film it, and I thought that that was a way to unify everybody in a cozy area, in a log cabin in the heart of downtown Winnipeg which is an unbelievable spot.”

The difficult thing about a streaming release is accessibility to a wider audience. Amero and company considered an official CD release in one of the many theaters in Winnipeg, but felt that an intimate house concert would remain true to the intimate feel of the upcoming album.

“This is a real gamble,” Amero admits, “but this is an opportunity to get to some of those places that I can’t get to on this tour.”

Before he had to run, Don Amero also had time to discuss the history of his involvement in the BreakOut West festival.

“My first year was a few years ago in Winnipeg, and I was so new to it, that I sat there in awe watching so many musicians that I’d heard about and seen, and I basically stood in the corner and didn’t say anything to anyone. [In the] next years, I kept going and applying to showcase and I got in and got to perform.” When asked about the importance of festivals like BreakOut West, Amero couldn’t say enough about the importance of these festivals.

“Basically what [BreakOut West] is is a huge networking event for people across North America: entertainment bookers; publishers; licensing people. This is one of the ways Western Canada celebrates its own, so we can continue to grow … It builds camaraderie between us. It’s just another reason to network and do business between us.”

When asked about the influence of his music, the easy-going Amero suddenly became a little bashful.

“It feels weird saying “Yes, I’m an influence,” because you never know. It’s the stories of the people that will reflect that, I guess. I feel like I’m incredibly honoured to be the guy who gets to go into communities, and share my stories and my music, and that might encourage and inspire. I’m trying to help the hearts of those that need to be encouraged.”

You can see Amero live at the BreakOut West festival this year. He’ll be playing at the Gaslight Saloon on Friday, September 28 at 9 PM and Saturday, September 29 at The Artful Dodger at 8 PM. Festival wristbands are included as part of a Delegate Pass or Executive Pass while additional festival wristbands can also be purchased with either Pass for $20 each. Don’t forget to catch the streaming release of Heart on my Sleeve on Wednesday, October 24 at 8 PM central time on APTN’s website.

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