By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Whether it is performing at a local coffee shop or taking center stage for a spot in the spring Trade Show, 16-year-old Riley Quinn is a regular voice in Morinville’s music scene. Six years after getting serious about music, Quinn is certain of one thing – he wants to make music his career. “Music is definitely going to be my career, whether it’s performing or teaching,” he said. “It’s definitely going to be something around music.”
Early fascination with music
Like many musically inclined people, Quinn’s introduction to music was early. But for Quinn that introduction was not being forced by his parents to take music lessons. The entry was on his own. He simply couldn’t keep his hand off the instruments.
“From as young as I can remember I’ve had a passion for guitars and piano,” Quinn said. “I remember being five years old and going into a room where there was a piano. I had to touch it. It fascinated me.”
But it would be another five years before Quinn started formal lessons; his parents taking the viewpoint that starting too young could lead to discouragement. A family trip would prove to be the tipping point towards Quinn’s love of all things musical.
“We were in Kelowna on holidays and somebody had a guitar at the fire,” Quinn recalls. “I was so fascinated by the guitar and my mom decided she had to get me one. I fell in love with it and I played every day. I started piano at the same time, and that branched off into drums and bass. It’s really taken over as my one main passion.”
Over the past six years as a serious student of music Quinn has learned to play eight instruments: guitar, bass, drums, piano, African percussion, ukulele, mandolin, and violin. Guitar and piano remain his favourites, but regardless of the instrument played, it is the outcome that is key for the 16-year-old musician.
“It’s the feeling that you get from playing music,” he explained. “When you listen to music it creates such a feeling inside. Then when you play it, it’s that feeling times a hundred. I think it is something that is very unique in that it makes people feel good. If you do that as a career, you have a career in making people feel good. I think it’s a really cool thing to have that.”
From singer to songwriter
The musician has spent the past while honing his voice. Recent lessons and rehearsals have focused on increasing his vocal range, allowing Quinn to do even more with his music.
After many years of listening and several years of playing, Quinn has turned his attentions to writing his own music, his ultimate goal to record his own album of original music.
“I just started in the last year writing,” Quinn said. “What I’ve mainly been doing is writing as much as possible and getting enough good songs. You can write as many words as you want, but to have something really good, that’s my goal.”
Quinn said each song is a different process. Sometimes the inspiration comes from a concept in another song, other times it begins with a guitar line in his head that drives the vocals in a particular direction. “It can come from any direction, especially for the start of it,” he said. “It’s mostly poetry in the first stage. They don’t need to make sense, even. It’s just write a whole set of lyrics, versus and choruses. Then I go back and comb through and adjust it so it all kind of makes sense and creates a story. Then you add the chords.”
The musician / songwriter had the opportunity to perform one of his songs publicly this summer as part of the Smith Music Advanced Band Camp. Quinn’s original song Here’s to the Night (We Break Free). “It was the coolest experience having the actual band there playing it,” he recalled. “I hadn’t actually heard it other than with my guitar. To actually hear my song – it came to life.” That song developed a collaborative aspect. Quinn said fellow band camp member Jean Luc Coupal wrote the drum parts during the rehearsals. “I wrote the guitar line and the main idea for the instrumentation and Jean Luc created the drum line for that. It was a really cool experience,” he said, adding the 11 members of the band working with him on the song gave it a real collaborative feel.
Editor’s Note: This is the first of a three-part series on young musicians in the area. Our next two instalments will introduce you to local musicians Emma Barrack and Luke Nolan.