How a local indie musician’s artistry blossomed through the pandemic
By Astrid Cunanan, Arts Editor
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected us all in many ways. Learning to cope during a pandemic can be tough. For some people, they used the COVID-19 lockdown to learn new hobbies and rediscover themselves much like up-and-coming indie singer Duke Domino who turned to music in a time of uncertainty.
“[Music] gives me a purpose, it makes my life have meaning,” Domino said.
Domino developed an interest in music early in his childhood. His father heavily influenced his music taste by playing bands like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Seals & Crofts and Alessi Brothers on repeat. He recalls hearing his father singing and playing the guitar a lot and thought to himself “maybe I could do something like that when I’m older.”
He followed through and started taking music more seriously about two years ago — he taught himself to play instruments like the guitar and drums while the writing came to him more naturally. Before that, “singing was [his] main instrument.”
Songs he has released in this past year like “Lay Beside You” and “Clueless” were recorded in his makeshift home studio created during the lockdown, showcasing Domino as a “loverboy.”
His newfound passion for music urges him to stay up after his nine to five office job to busk on Calgary’s popular retail and entertainment district, 17th Ave.
“Every time I perform downtown I give a piece of my soul away,” he jokingly said.
Occasionally, Domino does an Instagram Live while busking; his kindness radiates off of the screen from some candid moments of people chatting with him. He never rushes to end the conversation and takes the time to talk and thank everyone interested in his music in an affable manner. During Stampede week, he even let strangers come up and join him to sing covers of songs like “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X.
Don’t be fooled by his outgoing demeanor. Domino keeps lots of aspects of his life private. In fact, Duke Domino is his stage name — only those who are close to him know his real name!
“It’s hard when you’re private to share certain aspects of your life,” Domino said. But he realized that part of being a musician is to share vulnerable moments and to give a glimpse of Duke Domino with his audience. He emphasizes that fame, money and likes don’t matter to him — the most important thing to him is “immortalizing [his] vision and ideas out into the world.”
Most of his rhythms and melodies unexpectedly come to him while doing the most mundane things like driving to work. Once he has a set melody then he will go ahead and start writing the lyrics.
His lyrics come from his own experiences of being in love. “Lay Beside You”, his most popular song, showcases a time in his life where he had someone he deeply cared about, “So much love in the air/ When you’re with me my dear/ Feel the beat of my heart, it’s beating hard for you my dear” — how romantic!
As for now, he continues to do local gigs with Alcove Centre for the Arts in addition to busking downtown.
One day Domino hopes to tour around Canada in cities like Vancouver and Toronto — where his listeners come from, and to collaborate with other indie artists such as Boy Pablo and Mac Demarco.