Finally taking centre stage

(Photo by Jody Waardenburg)

Last week, Kitchener-Waterloo’s music scene was in full swing, taking over multiple music venues from Wednesday to Saturday for the first-ever Kitchener Music Festival.

Saturday night at the Chrysalids Theatre, a mixture of local and national musicians had the chance to perform alongside a growing pop-radio star, Toronto-based Jesse Labelle.

With years of song writing behind him, Labelle has worked with some of Canada’s most popular radio artists, including Alyssa Reid, Hedley and Marianas Trench. After years of being behind the scenes in the music industry, he decided it was time to step into the spotlight with a solo career.

“I’ve been included as a writer almost more than I’ve ever done any of my own music” Labelle said. “My own project is just kind of starting. People know my writing they just don’t know that I’m writing it at this point.”

“I was never really into performing,” Labelle recalled. “I was just into writing and being this guy in the studio who played behind the scenes. [The record label] asked me if this was something I’d want to do and I thought sure, why not. I’ve nothing to lose.”

Most of the songs Labelle performed Saturday — one of his first headlining experiences —were from his second, and latest, album, Two. “That’s the first record I was ever proud of,” he said.

Hoping to have his third album out by the summer, Labelle is excited to release it to the public. “I’m trying to use the backbone that the record label is to really push forwards and continue to create,” Labelle noted.

A natural on stage, Labelle had the audience enthralled from the first song. Even with horrible sound quality and a very quiet piano, for a piano driven album, Labelle performed with a professional demeanour while creating an emotional connection with the audience.

A highlight of the performance came when Labelle dismissed his band and covered Toronto-native and old classmate Drake’s hit, “Take Care”. A minimalist, acoustic version of the song; it was hauntingly beautiful.

Introducing his most famous track, “Heartbreak Coverup” he advised, “I tell all musicians don’t stop. It took me 15 years to have a song that people recognized.” The crowd loved it and appraised him with shouts and cheers.

With years of experience, Labelle tells future talent to stay positive. “I signed a lot of record deals that never went through. You have to take a lot of rejection as an artist you need to be able to go and hear someone say no.”

“No one knows what’s going to be successful, people just think they know what’s going to be successful,” he added.

People come to see headliners and placing them in the middle of a set usually means that everyone will leave after the headliner has played .

On Saturday night, the 100 people, who were there to see Labelle, all filed out of the auditorium before the band had finished stripping the stage.

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