When you walk through Whistler Village, perusing the patios for your après venue you might be drawn to the familiar lyrics to a familiar song. An acoustic guitarist will dutifully strike the chords of a classic rock song, doing his finest impression of the low lying bass voice of Johnny Cash or the high pitched wails of Robert Plant.
Mike Fromontreal has played his share of covers since moving to Whistler over eight years ago — it's good for the artist to hone their craft and the bar managers like to see crowds singing and dancing (if they are allowed to) to familiar tunes as they order another round in celebration. All musicians get their start by playing the music of the artists who inspired them.
But Mike seeks not just to put food on the table and drinks in his hand with his music; he is finding his voice in a community that has helped shape who he is.
"There are artists in this town that play music that is 100 per cent inspired by this area," he says.
"We live in the craziest place on Earth. There should be music that reflects that."
The music Mike speaks of is not the repetitive cover songs so endorsed by the majority of the venues here in town, but the original, expressive chords and lyrics that emerge from the artist's soul. Mike believes every artist has that potential but it is often stymied by demand for cover tunes in Whistler's live music scene.
"That's the most frustrating thing about this town," he says.
"There's just no budget and the bar managers just want covers. I find that definitely hinders the musicians in this town because they get very complacent."
Mike's tale of how he came to Whistler isn't the typical story of leaving the city to shred powder. After some delinquent years as a young adult in Montreal, he needed to uproot his life and travelled to Whistler for a fresh start.
"It was a weird time in my life. Before that I was really into drugs and alcohol, I guess you could say a life of crime," he says.
"I literally just left, I disappeared and I didn't phone anyone for a couple of years, I kind of discovered who I was as a person and tried to resolve all the past wrongdoings I've done in my life."
With a fresh start and his musical talent yearning for an audience, Mike began his quest to find his Whistler voice. He began where so many do at the open-mic nights at Blacks, The Crystal Lounge and Dusty's, performing along side the likes of musical veterans Sean Rose and Kostaman.
"You can't just go and get a show all of a sudden, because if you do, you're going to suck because you've got no experience," says Mike.
"I literally got the chance to play three or four times a week in front of people, work out what's good and what isn't good," he says.
With the determination to become Whistler's top original artist, Mike took his performance to the 2011 Whistler's Got Talent competition at the Crystal Lounge. He won that competition, claiming the prize of a brand new Takamine guitar and some studio recording time. But the biggest surprise for Mike was the calibre of his competition.
"It literally brought people out of the woodwork that I'd never seen perform before and they were really next level," he says.
"I was like 'Wow! This is how much talent this town does have!' They've just been tucked away all this time playing in their bedrooms."
It is these artists with amazing talent with little stage experience that Mike wants to see perform more often. He still respects the successes of bands like the Hairfarmers, but finds it strange that the most popular live band in town, year after year, is a cover band.
With the New Year Mike has many exciting prospects on the horizon. He has recently recorded three songs for an upcoming independent film produced in Montreal, and feels he is at the tipping point of finding a voice to truly represent Whistler.
"I want the vibrancy of this entire community to come through my music, and I'm very close to having that happen.
"When you wake up in the morning, when it has snowed three feet and you hear dynamite going off, I want that feeling to come through in my music."
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