Getting Along Great
Profile by Jane Ledwell
He’s been a Strawberry, had Eyes for Telescopes, been an Orb Weaver, and has hit roads with In-Flight Safety, but summer finds Island musician Pat Deighan at home behind the counter at Back Alley Music flogging other people’s CDs and vinyl in the last remaining music store in Charlottetown.
“I feel like a bartender here, except I’m not selling alcohol,” Pat laughs. “I hear a lot of problems…. The store is a hangout for sure. People come in here for conversation—and I try to get work done in the middle.”
Back Alley Music is a Charlottetown institution, started by Chas Guay and saved from becoming a non-musical business by Michelle Morrison and Ian Forgeron. “Michelle is the reason that place is there,” Pat says, “but I loved it right off the bat.” He began working there, “and eventually, Michelle and I just naturally became partners in the business.”
Pat was not new to the music business. He began as a teenager booking all-ages shows, on a DIY ethic. When he emerged in his own first band, Strawberry, it was to play and record original songs as the Atlantic Canadian cover-band bar-band scene was fading and the post-Sloan, post-grunge scene “put the spotlight on Halifax,” Pat says.
After Strawberry broke up, Pat took a break before “Eyes for Telescopes popped up,” as Baba’s Lounge was looking to book more bands. “We were a loud, somewhat heavy melodic band, I guess you would say. But we got people dancing. The crowds were growing along with the bands, and it grew into a music scene.” A Maritime touring circuit came to life, from bar to bar. But the tours
didn’t leave the circuit.
“Nowadays, for music to be a career, touring is a big part of it. We maybe weren’t doing the right things to make it a career,” Pat confides. “What was missing then that bands have now is Music PEI, a music industry association that… helps a lot of musicians getting off PEI.”
Pat’s most recent band, the Orb Weavers, is no longer active. “I think I lost a little of the love of being the front guy in a band,” Pat reflects. But during slower seasons at the store, he joins Halifax-based indie rockers In-Flight Safety on tour. “I feel like I lucked out playing guitar for In-Flight Safety. I’ve been friends with those guys for a long time, and it felt right.
“As long as you can play guitar, that’s great,” he says, “but 80 per cent of being in a band is just getting along in a van together.”
Vans and airplanes have taken Pat on his first coast-to-coast cross-Canada tours, across Europe, to South-by-Southwest in Texas, and on multiple trips to New York. “I’ve gotten to get a feel for music scenes in a lot of cities,” he says, and PEI stacks up. “There are so many young bands here that blow me away… It’s almost too much. There are shows every night, and the local bands bring out the crowds.”
At the shop, local music is the hot seller, too. “We’re not into the hard sell, but there are CDs that you just put on, and people buy them. Meaghan Blanchard’s CD is like that right now,” Pat says.
Back Alley Music also supports the local scene with in-store shows, including the popular Soupy Saturdays that bring together soup (“everyone likes soup”) with acoustic music and donations of food for the food bank. “We book different bands, everyone brings something to the mix,” Pat says. “You have to have a good feeling at the end of that.”
In the future, Pat may eventually buy Back Alley Music outright or try his hand at concert promotions. He’s in no rush. “I tend to move pretty slow,” Pat smiles, “Most things I stumble upon, or it’s just luck. I’m a late bloomer in a lot of things, so we’ll see.” Pat Deighan may not know where he’s going, but he’s happy where he’s been.