Qualicum Beach teen Liam Docherty, nicknamed ‘The Red-Headed Blues Boy’ aspires to bring a Maple Blues Award home this year.
Docherty, 13, was nominated for the New Artist or Group of the year Award, where the winner will be be chosen based on public voting from Nov. 5 until Dec. 1.
His debut album Modern. Magic. Melody., with tracks already nationally played on CBC Radio One and CBC Music, was nominated after he sent all 60 different nominating committees copies of his album.
“I’m at a bit of a disadvantage at this point,” said Docherty. “My social media page is fairly new because of my age.”
Nearly all social media services, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, require users to be at least 13 years of age to access and use their services.
The teen has extended family in the United Kingdom who are not able to vote in the Canadian blues award, but any Canadian resident with a valid email address is able to support him by visiting mapleblues.ca and casting their vote online.
“I would like as many votes from the [Parksville Qualicum Beach] community so I can hopefully take the Maple Blues Award back to the Island.”
Since the release of Modern. Magic. Melody., Docherty was invited to play at the 2020 Vancouver Island MusicFest and the Nanaimo Summertime Blues Festival. Unfortunately, both festivals were cancelled this year, due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Last year was Docherty’s first introduction to the festival circuit when he performed at the Texada Blues & Roots Festival on Texada Island. He played a solo set, then partnered with Gerry Barnum for several more songs and an encore.
“When we did our last song, we started playing and everyone in the seats got up and started dancing – that’s probably one of my favourite memories,” he said.
It was after the Texada Blues & Roots Festival that Docherty started to write his own original work, which he considers as the beginning of Modern. Magic. Melody.
Being home-schooled all his life has given the youngster plenty of time to fine-tune his talent.
As a four-year-old, he showed an interest in his father’s guitar which was “always around the house,” and took off from there. At seven he started to learn songs by R.E.M. and Guns N’ Roses, and would often busk at the Salt Spring Island farmer’s market. At eight he saw Tommy Emmanuel in concert, and was then introduced to “finger-picking” blues music, and immediately decided to learn.
Docherty recalls his first performace was at eight years old for an open mic night at a cafe on Salt Spring Island.
“I was just so nervous I couldn’t go on,” he said.
“I eventually worked up my courage to do it, and my little brother was just astounded that I was so nervous. After the first time I went on I realized that after the first couple of minutes the nerves just go away. And that has prompted me to keep playing.”
Docherty admits to still getting nervous before a gig, but said that as soon as he goes on stage the fright wears off.
“Now I really enjoy being on stage as much as I love playing guitar.”
The teen aspires to one day play on the variety show Austin City Limits, in Austin, Texas, where such notables as Johnny Cash and Neil Young have performed.