When you go to C.C. Trubiak’s website, the first thing you see is a Joe Dallessandro/Peter Berlin-inspired photographer of the musician’s lower torso and crotch. The “Enter” icon wittily appears as your cursor hovers over the fly in his jeans. What you see when you enter – as 2B did when we visited his charming apartment in Ottawa’s Gliebe for a private concert in his living room – is an artist living a trunk-full of paradoxes: the sensitive diva, the exhibitionist introvert, and perhaps the most contradictory of all: the gay folk musician…
When I arrive at C.C. Trubiak’s charming home in Ottawa’s historic Gliebe neighbourhood, it’s the morning after a big show with collaborator Danniel Oickle at the Mercury Lounge. Dressed as satyrs in vintage fur pants with ornamental horns, the sprightly Trubiak had sung and read in Oickle’s song cycle Corruption of the Flesh. Readers may recall Oickle and Trubiak as coverboys for the Capital Pride special issue in a sexy series shot by Dan Ziemkiewicz. Over the past year, the two have evolved in tandem, each singing on the other’s albums – Oickle sings on the track “Blue” – and supporting their live shows. Though their styles may differ, their drive to create is their common ground. While Oickle seeks inspiration in Kate Bush et al, Trubiak workships at the altar of one great diva: Dolly Parton.
From Fags to Bitches
For the folkster and photographer, Dolly represents the contradiction “between something glittery and shiny to look at, but underneath there is so much more depth.” On this, he picks up a copy of Dolly’s autobiography, My Life and Other Unfinished Business, and reads a passage about her rags to riches story. “Materially lacking but more than rich in spirit,” is the mantra that Trubiak returns to when he’s mustering up the fire needed to make it as a queer musician. (We decide that our shared middle class semi-rural stories aren’t so much rags to riches as fags to bitches, possible title to a memoir, depending on who writes theirs first!). Icons like Dolly, mixed in with some Joni Mitchell and Peter Berlin, were the inspirations that helped the pensive songster overcome his emotionally difficult childhood in remote Flin Flon, Manitoba.
“The primary message that I learned from growing up in Flin Flon was ‘you’re different, you’re not welcome, you make us uncomfortable,’” Trubiak recalls. “What I learned from that was ‘don’t express yourself.’ That was where the birth of my art and writing started in high school, soaking in books and film, alone.” Trubiak describes growing up in the 80s in rural Manitoba as “living amongst the cultural detritus of the end of the Seventies,” which may be why so much of his music is imbued with a deliberate anachronism. Trubiak’s preoccupation with the analogue past is reminiscent of the nostalgia and eccentricity of certain other Prairie visual artists with tendencies toward the pre-digital. Is it about reclaiming the tough times?
“Back then, my influence musically was with folk and country: Joni Mitchell, Dylan, the confessional aspect of their music.” The otherwise mild-mannered empath says he sticks to folk because he loves the idea of being able to tell a story. “I’m in pain, are you in pain?” he asks in his plaintive but rich tenor. The pain of being a queer boy in an unforgiving rural place could have made Trubiak into a statistic: in high school, like so many who feel different, he struggled with feeling suicidal. “Prairie Boy” was written for the occasion of Victims’ Voices Matter, a conference he was invited to perform at by the GLBTTQ Community Centre and the Department of Justice. The pun on “fairy boy” is a part of healing his teenage self, much as his photographer side expunges any thoughts of shame around his sexuality. (Seriously, folks: check out his photos.)
The transition from loner to performer was a decade-long process, and one that paralleled Trubiak completing a social work degree, which may take him back to Flin Flon some day. The country influence on his music stays low-fi, including a Tammy Wynette cover – “Till I Get it Right” – that he sang to me live, finishing with the wet eyes of someone who lives the emotions of the song every single time. “One of the toughest things about performing live is that I feel like I could cry every time I sing,” he says as I wipe my own eyes.
Check out CC Trubiak’s “Lonely Blue Waves (I Want You)” on Youtube.
They Say I’m Different is available on iTunes or at www.cctrubiak.com