Life could have turned out a lot different for Don Amero.
The award winning musician’s parents split up when he as around 11 years old in what he says was a “really bad divorce.”
Growing up, there was always music in the house. Both of Amero’s parents played and sang.
Life in the north end of Winnipeg was also rough where Amero says there was a high rate of poverty and a lot of broken homes.
As for his friends at the time, “they would get into gangs, drugs, alcohol, violence all that kind of thing and I could see those as dead end roads” says Amero.
For Amero, music quickly became his vice.
“It became that thing that I leaned on. Whenever I go through something emotional my response is to write a song about it and I realize that became my therapy and my outlet” says Amero.
“Thank god for music because if it wasn’t for that I know my life could’ve turned out in a different way.” says Amero.
A grade nine audition for the school production of Oklahoma also was a turning point for Amero whose performance brought his teacher and some of the students to tears.
He secured the lead role in the play and another seed was planted.
It would take more than a decade before Amero decided to jump in with both feet on a career in music.
At the time Amero was working as a hardwood floor installer.
One day, Amero’s boss told him he looked unhappy.
Amero told his boss that he was unhappy and wished he was making music.
That boss asked Amero “what are you waiting for?”
Amero quit the job, loaded up his vehicle with self made CD’s and hit the road on a coast to coast tour.
The tour made no money but Amero says he came home with a huge smile.
Amero applied for Canadian Idol and received a good ticket, making it all the way to the top 22 before being cut.
“It was devastating,” says Amero who admits there has been a few times over the years that he wanted to throw in the towel.
But he preserved and in the past ten years, he has released seven albums and racked up an impressive number of awards and nominations including three Juno Award nominations.
“It’s never been about the awards or hit songs,” says Amero who adds those are a by product of a successful journey. “They’re a nice pat on the back but have never been the be all and end all.”
But there have been some epic award wins.
The first award Amero ever won was for the Canadian Folk Music songwriter of year, beating out legends Buffy Sainte Marie and Vince Fontaine.
As shocking as that was for Amero, his favourite win was at the 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards.
Amero had never won despite numerous nominations over the years to the point it was a running joke in the industry.
When he name was called, Amero jumped up on his chair.
“It felt like pandemonium in my heart,” he says.
Amero Little Christmas
Amero has just wrapped up his Amero Little Christmas tour in Manitoba.
The show started roughly eight years ago in a small café.
This year it was hosted at one of Manitoba’s largest venues in Winnipeg, the Burton Cummings Theatre.
“It really shows that grassroots growth is a real thing, you make one fan at a time,” says Amero. “I’ve always said that this industry is more about making friends and connecting with people and if you can do that with your music and your stories I think that’s going to bring people along for the long journey and that’s always been my story.
“There’s no such thing as an overnight success, even the things that you think are an overnight success, its not really the case.”
Despite growing up with divorced parents, “Christmas was always a time to come together and love each other” says Amero.
“There’s something magical about that and for me the music is filled with nostalgia. It’s the pleasantry of the season that I love and want to share with people” says Amero.
And that’s one of the big reason’s behind Amero Little Christmas.
“Just giving people a real sense of not losing perspective about what its about. My kids love gifts, I can’t imagine saying its really about love, kids and having them believe that. But really, it’s a matter of just trying to encourage people to just spend the moments we have together because that’s all we have” Amero says.
“It doesn’t really matter what kind of gift you got, the best thing we can give to each other is being present in the moment.”
The musician hopes to take Amero Little Christmas on the road to venues outside of Manitoba in 2020.
Amero believes the representation of Indigenous music has been on a steady rise.
APTN recently conducted a National Indigenous Music Impact study that found the industry was booming.
“I think that’s such an incredible testament to how far we’ve come. I think, obviously there’s a lot more to do and can be done. But I feel like what a great time to be alive and to be doing this in this industry of music” according to Amero.
Fans of Amero can expect a new single coming out early in the new year.
The song, Morning Coffee will be followed by a video for the single in early February.