By Kathryn Stocks

Talented young musician Al Rowe launched his first solo album of original songs, called Life to Live, at The Pilot in Yorkville on August 22. It was a rockin’ evening with great music. Al and his band, Will Hebbes on lead guitar, Mark Rynkun on bass, Rich DaSilva on drums, Giovanni Campanelli on keyboards, played the seven original songs from the record as well as a few cover songs.

The enthusiastic audience was filled with family members and friends. “It means the world to me to be sharing this music with all of you folks and also to be sharing it with the fellows on stage,” Al said between songs. “I really appreciate your support in coming out tonight.”

Al lives in Markham now, but he grew up in Centennial and his parents, Kathy and John Rowe, still live here. He started taking piano lessons at the age of 5. “That’s the foundation that got everything going,” he said in an interview. His piano teacher, Roberta McDowell, was in the audience at the launch.

He continued piano until the age of 13 when he took up the guitar. “My dad had an old drum set that belonged to his dad. He brought it down for me and my brother to jam on. I started out as the drummer in my first band, but because I could sing I started playing guitar,” he said. Al noted that it was easier to sing with a guitar than to sing while playing drums. He continued playing guitar and singing through high school, then went to Humber College where he studied voice.

Al’s first paid gig happened at the age of 18 when he performed at Millie’s Pub on Kingston Rd. and played acoustically all night. When he was in college, he had his own band called Aberdeen.

“It’s tough to make a living doing original music,” Al admitted. So he was also producing for other artists. “I’ve only felt like I’ve been making my own way financially over the last two or three years.” He’s now 31.

“Now that I have my feet under me and I feel more stable, I don’t feel that negative pressure to produce.” He said he’s more relaxed at this point and feeling more engaged with music as a whole.

Life to Live is a collaboration between Tom Hanley and him. He said it was a boon to have great players and producers in his inner circle to help produce the record. He’s had 1,000 CDs made and hopes to have a second printing. But since most young people no longer have CD players, he’s looking at platforms that stream music. “Spotify and Apple are the big ones but also iTunes for downloads,” he said. His songs will be coming out one at a time on those digital platforms.  

Al appreciates all the support he received from his parents growing up and added a thoughtful  message on his CD cover: “Special thanks to my mother Kathryn, my father John and my brother Ian for your unwavering support throughout all the ups and downs of my musical journey. I am luckier than I will ever know to have you all in my life.”