by Jane Ledwell
Dave Skinner’s life in the music industry as a music store manager and recording producer and engineer have come as a surprise to family and friends who knew him as a top-notch teenage hockey player, but Dave has a talent for recognizing what will give him a fulfilling life. “I was a sports guy who switched to being a music guy,” Dave says. “When I was 15 years old and started playing guitar, I was still playing on three hockey teams.” But off the ice, he says, “I lived and breathed guitar.”
Dave recalls, “I knew I wanted to do music. I just didn’t necessarily know what I wanted to do in it yet.” Out of high school, Dave went out west to work, and he says, “I had a four-track [recorder] and an acoustic [guitar] with me everywhere I went, even through minus fifty temperatures.” When it’s that cold and you grab your guitar instead of your hockey stick, you know what you want.
So Dave went East—to the College of the North Atlantic in Stephenville, Newfoundland and Labrador, where he took diplomas in recording arts and in music industry and performance. The program “opened my eyes to a lot of new music and styles,” Dave says, and surrounded him with the “best musicians… Basically, Newfoundland is PEI with a bit bigger landmass,” he says.
At college, the performance program “pushed me out on stage,” something Dave was shy of. Soon, he was getting recognized for his original work, with a music industry showcase, attention from radio stations, and kudos from artists such as Great Big Sea and Crush. But his career veered away from the life of a touring artist when in the last year of college, his son was born. “My gears changed right there,” he says. “I even named my studio Lukas Raine Recordings after my son.”
He and his partner Melanie moved to PEI, and Dave put his skills to work close to home and family. “I hounded [owner] Dave MacDonald for a job at Sobers [Music Store] until he finally had to give me a job. I think he mainly gave me a job because I had a van and could move stuff from one location to the other when Sobers was moving,” Dave laughs. But Dave soon showed what he was made of, and after just three months was offered a job as manager. He remained manager through Sobers Music’s sale to Long & McQuade and took over from Dave MacDonald when he retired.
Into his second year at the music store, Dave’s daughter was born, and his career took another turn. As late nights performing with bar bands got harder, Dave’s off-hours work in his recording studio began to take off. Some of the success came from “knowing a lot of the guys, and from playing with them in bands. They know they can trust me. They know I will work my ass off for them,” he says.
His original songs are long on “the backburner,” but Dave says he “really likes the producer’s hat. I really like the engineer’s hat. I get work with songs that are already great to begin with. Having been in that position where I knew I could get places with my original material in the past, I really feel I can offer something.”
Dave and Melanie have another newborn, and though Dave adapted his career when his first two children were born, he isn’t planning more changes. His work continues at Long & McQuade and at home at Lukas Raine Recordings—in the very well sound-proofed attic of his child-filled home.
“The music industry on PEI is changing all the time. People are getting better at their art, and Music PEI is such a great marriage between the industry and the art,” Dave says. He loves being part of it all. He says, “I welcome anything to meet other people I can learn things from.” Likes his family, like his life, he says the music here—“it’s just getting bigger and bigger.”