No contest: covers make way for singer’s originals

Chad Driscoll (photo supplied)

Local musician Chad Driscoll discovered his singing voice at the age of 10. But it took another couple of decades, and a string of talent contests, to uncover it.

As the frontman of SexBomb, a cover band that made its name playing the Peterborough bar circuit, Driscoll has paid his dues, singing the hits of popular rock bands from The Beatles to The Killers to Our Lady Peace.

SexBomb (named after the Tom Jones song) played “almost every bar in Peterborough,” says Driscoll, including a one-year stint as the house band at the Red Dog tavern in 2007, and performances at the Kawartha Lakes Wakeboard Open for two years in a row.

Now, after taking three years to write and record, Driscoll has released Unreliable Instincts, an album of eight songs, original compositions which prove he is more than just a pretty voice. Initially recorded at home with just an acoustic guitar, Driscoll emailed the songs to his bandmates in SexBomb and, after they learned them, the tracks were laid down one at a time, he says.

Along with Driscoll’s lead vocals and guitar, the album features Rod Darling (guitar), Chris Wade (bass, cello), Derek Driscoll (drums), and Mike Hurcomb (guitar) – all from SexBomb – as well as Barry Haggarty (guitar, vocals). The songs were recorded and mixed by Haggarty at his Peterborough studio.

“All the songs are original. I wrote the lyrics and the songs are my compositions. Rod Darling helped me write some of the music; he co-wrote three of the songs,” says Driscoll. Unreliable Instincts was completed in February of this year and released on June 24th, with a CD-release gig at The Gordon Best Theatre in Peterborough.

The 30-year-old Driscoll was born and raised in Peterborough, but moved to Orono with his wife, Melissa, in 2009. His father is also a singer and musician, who played in bands in the ‘70s and ‘80s. “He is a huge influence on me and my love of writing songs and singing,” says Driscoll.

Inspired at a young age to follow in his dad’s footsteps, he started singing and by the age of 10, he entered the Nintendo Search for the Stars singing contest, in which he finished second. At 13, he started to play the drums on his father’s drum kit, and in his high school years he joined his first band, playing drums before also learning guitar.

In 2003, Driscoll entered the competition for the first season of CTV’s Canadian Idol, after his sister let him cut in line at the Toronto audition. Performing in front of two separate judges in the initial, non-filmed portion of the tryouts with an estimated 10,000 other hopefuls, Driscoll was given the green light to proceed to the filmed segment.

“They chose 250 people to audition in front of the real judges, the four you see on TV,” he explains. “It was at the Royal York in Toronto, just like you see on the show. I sang ‘House of the Rising Sun’ and I got four yeses across the board from the judges, and I got my gold ticket [to go to the final Toronto audition]. They take 100 people from across the country to Toronto, and then they narrow it down to 30.”

Driscoll made it into the top 100 before getting cut. “I didn’t really take it as seriously as I should have. I have friends in Toronto, and we went out at night. On day three or four, I got cut. I had to check out of my free hotel room,” he recalls, adding that he has no regrets.

“It was good. It gives you good insight into that business. I would say singing is about 70 percent, looks is 30 percent – maybe even 60/40. It actually motivated me. I made up my mind 100 percent that I wanted to be a songwriter and performer, not just a performer,” he says.

“I love writing lyrics. You just get a better feeling when you’re singing your own lyrics. Everything else just feels like karaoke,” he notes.

Not completely averse to Idol-type competitions, Driscoll could not resist the Peterborough Examiner’s Song Contest in 2009.  He was one of five finalists with his song, “It’s Not Me,” which is also on his album.

“Lyrically, I have always admired Raine Maida [vocalist for Our Lady Peace] for his writing style, and I find Eddie Vedder [lead singer of Pearl Jam] to be an amazing songwriter. He always inspires me to write when I hear his solo work,” he says, also citing The Beatles and Blue Rodeo as influences.

He calls his original songs “more mellow” than the typical fare he played with his cover band. With a singing voice that is capable of channeling Bryan Adams and Jon Bon Jovi, Driscoll is in his element with the rock ballads that dominate Unreliable Instincts.

Strongest amongst those offered is “Home,” a song he admits is “probably my favourite.”  It nostalgically recalls, “…Late night drives/ down roads we didn’t know/ singing at the top of our lungs/ along with the radio/ So before you go/ and leave me here alone/ I want you to know/ that wherever you are/ I’m home.”

The album’s lead track, “First to Know,” and its closing song, “Raining in February,” also stand out. According to Driscoll, the latter is the most popular of his creations, outselling his other songs on iTunes, “It’s weird because I wasn’t even going to put ‘Raining in February’ on the album. It’s just an acoustic song, but I guess it strikes a chord with people.”

The album is available for purchase online on CD through his website www.chad-driscoll.com (local readers can also contact Chad by email through the site to buy a CD in person), and as a digital download on Amazon.com, iTunes, and Napster.

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