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.
Although I am back in the recording studio and focused on new material, I do have to take a moment and reflect on an album I think many people still need to hear. That album is THEY SAY I’M DiFFERENT and it is my independent debut release, recorded in 2009-2010, released independently last year by Torrid Productions.
At the time I began recording tracks for THEY SAY I’M DiFFERENT, there really was no album to speak of. In fact, CLAUDE MARQUiS (of The PEPTiDES) had me over to record what could have been my one and only track: DOLLY PARTON’S ‘THEY GRASS iS BLUE’. I have always had a strong affection for folk and country music; growing up it’s what I lived on. PARTON’S music is and always has been influential to me, so I took the opportunity to record with MARQUiS on what I initially took as a one-chance opportunity. I’ll never be able to thank MARQUiS enough for that gesture, because once my THE GRASS iS BLUE cover leaked online and I began to share it – I was baffled at the reception it got. I was mostly touched by how many people reached out and shared their connection to me or the beautifully written tune. It was encouraging for someone very shy like me.
From there I began to envision what it might be like to continue working on music: recording it and laying it down in a way that I could extend it to other like-minded people. On top of that, I performed at a few weddings over the summer of 2009 and again, the response I received from the crowds was so positive – how could I not consider pursuing music more?
Enter DANNiEL OiCKLE, founder/producer of TORRiD PRODUCTiONS. Much like MARQUiS, OiCKLE generously invited me into TORRiD PRODUCTiONS as a resident artist, where we developed the idea for a full length grass roots/folk album with original material as well as covers of some of my favorite tunes. OiCKLE is another major force behind what soon became THEY SAY I’M DIFFERENT – and over 2010 we were in and out of the recording studio laying down potential tracks. For someone like me, who was used to singing alone in my living room and playing solely for my cats and boyfriend – the concept of coming into a recording studio and laying down raw music was completely foreign to me. I’ll be honest and say that I have ton of learning to do; although I do consider myself a singer/songwriter – I also know my limitations. Every week OiCKLE and I got together, I used our sessions as opportunities to flex myself and push what it is I think I can do. Before I knew it, we had laid down tracks for all of my original tunes: LONELY BLUE WAVES (i WANT YOU), iLLUSiONS, SAViOUR iN A CAGE, BLUE, SAiL AWAY WiTH ME and THE GENTLEMAN. The results are admittedly mixed but I will say a valuable lesson learned is that much like children, a song needs time to grow and develop into its full potential, and so while I can appreciate that there is major room to grow – these recording are very representative of a certain time and place for me as an individual and artist. They are my first recordings.
These recording sessions at TORRiD PRODUCTiONS were very affirming to me as a musician – and I also jumped on the opportunity to cover some of my favorite songs by other artists. HOPELESSLY DEVOTED TO YOU, originally a NEWTON-JOHN number from 1978’s GREASE remains a song close to my heart. It made sense for me to re-work it and present it in a stripped down manner where listeners could hear the beauty of JOHN FARRAR’S lyrics. Additionally we recorded TiLL i GET iT RiGHT , originally a TAMMY WYNETTE song done in the early 1970’s. Her version is a classic that moves me even today – but getting to put my own twist on it as well as include it on THEY SAY i’M DiFFERENT meant a lot to me because the song reflects how I feel myself – ‘If I fly my wings/ and if I try long enough/ I’m bound to learn to fly/ so I’ll just keep on falling in love/ till I get it right’. This is the essence of THEY SAY i’M DiFFERENT.
As the tracks with OiCKLE kept adding up over the year, I was able to return to MARQUiS’ for some additional recording with him. MARQUiS has an ear for music, as is clearly evident in his work with THE PEPTiDES – so having him lend his touch of talent to TOMORROW iS FOREVER and my own PRAiRiE BOY further fueled the reality that I truly was on my way to putting together a full-fledged/full-length album. Wrapping up with MARQUiS we laid down a cover of STEViE NiCKS ‘AFTER THE GLiTTER FADES’, this time he also invited THE PEPTiDES member OLEXANDRA PRUCHNiCKY in to add her beautiful harmony (making it my first official duet), as well as accordion player JUDY JiBB. AFTER THE GLiTTER FADES remains one of the songs people refer to most and I can understand why. PRUCHNiCKY (also a member of TORRiD PRODUCTiONS) and I have continued to work together on numerous other projects since our time on GLiTTER, including OiCKLE’S very own baby, THE CORRUPTiON of FLESH. I think it’s pretty safe to say that I wouldn’t even be involved with CORRUPTiON had I stayed playing guitar in my living room. This goes to show that making THEY SAY i’M DiFFERENT was as much about extending myself to the world as it was about making a folk record.
THEY SAY i’M DiFFERENT may have wrapped up recording at the end of 2010, but a lot of work was put into its release in 2011. Again, I am so thankful for all of the people involved in making this project happen; I have since watched it be received in a way that I really can only be thankful for. We held the CD LAUNCH party at ELMDALE HOUSE TAVERN in July, to which I faced a big fear of public performing. I’ve done a hand full of other live gigs since then; including THE RAiNBOW, BACKYARDS of CHiNATOWN and even played up in Manitoba’s NorVA Centre, where I also had an exhibit of my photography. Ottawa’s Xpress even nominated me and THEY SAY i’M DiFFERENT for BEST ALBUM and NEW MUSiCAL ACT in their October Best of Ottawa 2011 Contest. I’m no fool and never expected for a moment that I would win either category – but it was yet another source of encouragement; someone out there heard potential. Besides, I’ve only just begun!
Everything about THEY SAY i’M DiFFERENT; leading up to it and after wards has been incredibly rewarding. Reviews, although slightly mixed – do indicate to me that any flaws aside (and I do recognize a great deal of flaws) there must be something good. If anything, THEY SAY i’M DiFFERENT woke me up to my own potential. It’s not the sum of who I am but it certainly should be seen as a work in progress.
As I move forward and continue to record new material – I take these experiences with me and strive to evolve even further as a singer/songwriter/performer and artist. Going forward I will take my time and collaborate with like-minded musicians who want a piece of the CC TRUBiAK experience – creating intimate, grass-roots folk and country-tinged music full of hope and optimism. Fortunately for me I have peers like DARREN HOLMES, iSAAC VALLENTiN, JENNY NASMiTH, KETURAH JOHNSON, SHANE NORRiS along for the ride – I can assure you that anything you see from me next will be a labor of love – for if I’ve learned anything from these past two years; take you time and be proud of what you do but always strive to outdo even yourself. Stay tuned!
In the meantime – take a moment to check out THEY SAY i’M DiFFERENT, which you can find on iTUNES here (http://bit.ly/zQFwDg). Below are youtube vids for several tracks, and stay tuned for what will be my first official music video release this spring; I’m currently working on a video concept with TORRiD pals OLEX and DANNiEL for an accompanying video to AFTER THE GLiTTER FADES. It will be beautiful I can assure you!