Stepping Into The Spotlight
By Charelle Evelyn on March 10 2016
Like all great Romantics, Jack Van Somer is a one-man show who adores a love song.
Trained classically on piano from the age of seven, Van Somer was drawn early to the Romantic composers like Chopin, Debussy and Liszt. “Those love songs, they definitely had a strong impact on how I approach music now,” said Van Somer, the stage name of the life-long P.G. resident better known as Keith Poulin. As an early 19th century movement, Romanticism was about heightened emotions, but it was also about individualism. In that vein, Van Somer also sings, plays the drums, bass and guitar and writes his own songs. “I’m an only child. As much as I love people, I love my alone time,” he said. “I don’t mind being along with my thoughts and as a writer, you kind of hyper-analyze those moments to really bring them out in the song.” From the age of 14, Van Somer used those talents to back up other musicians, from his teenaged church band to playing in bar bands, including in support of his cousin, country artist Rick Stavely. About three years ago, Van Somer finally took the step forward into the spotlight. A career change into being a Class 1 truck driver meant he had to quit playing the bars and it left Van Somer hungry for a musical outlet. His downtime was spent making music on his own and eventually, the pressure to play in public was constant. Van Somer credits former College Heights Pub DJ Steve Smoch with forcing him to finally make the leap to the stage as a solo act. “He would berate me to come out (to the pub’s open mic night),” Van Somer recalled. “He pushed me, he dragged me, he pestered me. I was super uncomfortable and it wasn’t super enjoyable.” But the audience didn’t seem to mind his discomfort and clamored for more. He eventually continued to say ‘yes’ to gigs, and began playing open mics at Nancy O’s and taking the stage at Shiraz. Watching Van Somer on stage today, you’d never know he wasn’t keen on taking the stage with his guitar in those early days. Now, whether he’s playing alone or backed by a band of equally talented artists, Van Somer is making a name for himself at Prince George venues. This year alone (as in 2016), Van Somer and his band have played a pair of successful Coldsnap shows, entertained at AleFest and opened for Juno-awardwinning artists Stephen Fearing and George Canyon.
The Jack Van Somer Band consists of Bradley Brekkaas (lead guitar/ vocals), Curtis Abriel (keyboard/ vocals), Terrence Moonie (bass) and Benjamin Primus (drums). An only child who was fully content to listen to his family’s old records as a kid, Van Somer now has a band of brothers.
“They’re a fine group of mature musicians with excellent taste,” Van Somer said, praising his band mates’ lack of ego and work ethic. The group is working up new songs and aiming for a full concert’s worth of material. “I’m very grateful that people are willing to take a listen,” Van Somer said. “For me, as a songwriter, stepping out on his own at this time in his life is still nerve-wracking.”
Keep up with Jack Van Somer and his band on Facebook.
REPORTER FOR THE PRINCE GEORGE CITIZEN
Journalist, west coast native, music lover. Made in Canada.