Je Suis Libre – by Vince Vaccaro

This is the link to a beautiful song called “I Am Free” by the very talented, Vince Vaccaro. Oddly enough, he posted this the same week I posted my rant about “Breaking Free”.

Click on the link and take a listen to some of Vince’s music as you read my post about him below. I’ve been listening to it as I write.

I met Vince Vaccaro in 2005. We were sitting in the kitchen at a mutual friend’s house. He was busy working on something on his laptop, a song. He had been writing and performing for a number of years but was not yet signed to a label or getting radio play.

This has certainly changed since then.

Vince and I crossed paths a few times over the years while I lived in Victoria. He was always very supportive, offering words of encouragement as I shared my dreams about filmmaking, dreams that have now shifted and changed.

At one point, I bumped into Vince on the street during a little music festival happening in Victoria. It was 2009. The festival was in its second year. Now going into its sixth year, Rifflandia has grown and is still going strong, bringing big name bands to Victoria and offering local musicians like Vince the opportunity to share their talent and grow their audience.

I had my video camera with me that day as I was working on a documentary about the arts. Vince ensured I was given a media pass so I could film and interview numerous artists both touring and local, and he was one of the artists I interviewed.

Vince invited me to film one of his performances. He expressed to me that it may be one of his last. When I asked, “Why?”, he said he had become disheartened with things, with the lack of success he felt with his music, with the constant struggle to make ends meet.

I expressed to Vince that I felt he couldn’t possibly give up now. He’d been working so hard and, the way I saw it, he was very successful. After all, when I’d met him four years earlier he’d been sitting at a kitchen table producing his own music. Now it seemed he had people in the industry working to help him, offering him opportunities to perform in front of large crowds, and he may even have had a local label interested at that time.

I did film Vince’s show that night, even chatted with he and the members of another band called ‘Maurice’ backstage. As I watched, I couldn’t believe he’d be serious about quitting. He clearly loved what he was doing, had so much talent, and the audience adored him.

The following year, I bumped into Vince on the ferry. He was with some of the members of Maurice. They’d just been to Vancouver to perform during one of the events at the Olympics. I had my video camera with me as I’d also been doing some filming around the event.

I interviewed Mark Lavoie, the bass guitarist for Maurice, in the old handy-dart-type bus they were using to get around. I will never forget when he said to me, “It’s so strange to hear myself on the radio while I fix vending machines for a living.”

This was ultimately one of the biggest things I learned about being an artist during those months of filming. Fame, success, radio-play, stage-time, none of it guaranteed an income. And being an artist of any kind meant always working.

Working to pay the rent by fixing vending machines. Working to produce your own songs on a laptop at someone’s kitchen table. Working to promote yourself, by far one of the hardest things to do. Getting up on stage in front of audiences big and small, even if it meant getting there in an old run-down bus. Struggling to keep the faith. Never giving up. And, most importantly, remembering to be free.

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