One fateful Christmas Day, Kyle Brubacher received exactly what he asked for, a guitar. Now 12 years later and armed with a shiny Taylor guitar, the 19-year-old is singing his way past other young hopefuls in a new Waterloo-based singing competition called The Shot.
The Shot held auditions on November 1 and call-backs the following day at Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo. The finale is November 8 at the Conrad Centre for the Performing Arts in Kitchener.
The Elmira native is in his first year at Laurier studying health sciences.
“I almost didn’t enter it,” Brubacher said. “My parents kind of coerced me into it. I’d heard about it at an open mic night I was playing with a band at. I was considering it for a long time, hemming and hawing about it. I finally signed up 10 minutes before it closed because I figured I should at least give it a try.”
He started fooling around on his dad’s guitar when he was really young and his parents used to be in church bands. He says he’s only been playing seriously for a few years now and only been singing for two years. Since he started singing, he’s only done so in front of other people three times.
More than 40 people auditioned for the competition and 26 made it to the callbacks. From there they cut it down to 12 acts who will be performing at the finale.
“I played an original song and I also sang the a cappella intro to I See Fire by Ed Sheeran,” Brubacher said. “I was comfortable with them. I See Fire wasn’t in the plan but they asked me to sing something without my guitar. The song I wrote was a little more focused on guitar than vocals.”
He describes the original song he performed as “ambiguous.” He says his songwriting style allows for the songs to have meaning to him, but can have different meanings for other people. The song, which is untitled, isn’t quite finished.
“The songs are really close to me and it’s hard for me to consider one completed,” Brubacher said.
For the callbacks five acts were grouped together. They had to choose a song from a pre-set list and arrange it however they liked. His group chose Somebody That I Used To Know by Gotye. He and one other person from the group made it through to the final 12.
Brubacher plans to do a John Mayer song for the finale and the second song is still up in the air.
The judges for the competition are musicians Mandippal Jandu, Stacey Zegers, Joni Nehrita, and talent promoter C.J. Allen. They also are acting as mentors for the final 12 performers. Jandu is Brubacher’s mentor.
“He told us that beyond the competition he wants to do songwriting with us and help in any way he can no matter who wins,” Brubacher said.
He said that’s similar for the other mentors, who told the top 26 people to add them to Facebook and they’d help them.
Brubacher’s been told his songwriting is similar to Ed Sheeran or Dallas Green, two of his favourite artists. John Mayer, Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson inspire his guitar playing. He also draws inspiration from U2 frontman Bono.
“Whatever I do in music I want to enjoy it,” Brubacher said. “I don’t want to sell out for any reason. If people like my music then I appreciate that. If they don’t, it’s still going to be my music.”
The winner will receive the chance to perform on stage at the Arts Awards Waterloo Region, a $500 gift card for Fairview Park Mall, the opportunity to have a track passed on to Universal Music Canada, studio and recording time with Trackhouse Studio, vocal coaching with a professional coach, music marketing coaching with Circus Music Co. and mentoring from the panel of music industry professionals.
The finale starts at 6:30 at the Conrad Centre and pre-sale tickets are almost sold out. To purchase tickets visit www.singfortheshot.com. Tickets are $10 in advance or $20 at the door.