Calgary-based singer-songwriter and teacher Alex Labbé has always had a knack for all things music. But he has also been able to prove that with dedication, a childhood hobby can lead to a lifelong career.
Labbe was born in Montréal but around age two moved to Calgary. From the start, music was always a significant part of his life.
“I started, more than anything, singing melodies. I’d pick up from tapes my mom was taking from the library and started singing that,” Labbé says. “Then my mom put me into lessons when I was nine or 10, so I started on that and I got my formal training.”
Beginning with piano and later adding guitar into his budding resume, Labbé remembers showing an unusual amount of skill during his lessons.
At 17, after only a few years of lessons, his guitar teacher saw his musical potential.
From student to teacher
Following some behind-the-scenes discussion between his guitar teacher and Music Makers management, he was requested to become a teacher himself.
It has been his dream job that he has continued for the past seven years —turning his childhood passion into a career.
Ryan Harte, Labbé’s boss at Music Makers since his post-lesson employment, says he has received nothing but positive feedback after the initial gamble to hire a student right after a lesson.
“I’ve been working alongside Alex for quite a few years and I can’t be happier about hiring him,” Harte says.
“I really admire Alex because he cares about his students getting better. He makes them work and expects them to practice but you can tell he incorporates some fun, humor and connection with them… We’re lucky to have [him] working with our school.”
Working with child and adult musicians of the future, Labbé hopes to inspire the next generation to take on the same serious pursuit of music he did.
“They’re going to be creating the music that I’m going to be listening to in 20 years,” Labbé says.
For Labbe, watching his students transform is “the most gratifying thing.”
“Knowing you’re involved in some level of their development, you see them go from having zero knowledge of music, to a year or two later and they’re ripping through songs,” he says.
“I could get more money working as an engineer but that doesn’t fuel what I love to do. I have a job that I show up to every day, and I love it. And that makes me happy.”
The creation of Mindseed
However, raising the next generation of rockers isn’t all that Labbé has used his musical skills to accomplish.
Frequenters of bars and local music performances may be familiar with Labbé’s passion project, Mindseed — a three-piece alternative rock band that has been playing venues such as, Dickens, The Blind Beggar and Broken City.
“I’d been writing songs since I was about 14 years old,” says Labbé. “I just came up with the name at that time and have been writing music ever since. A couple years ago, I came back to what got me started with my songwriting and found a home for the material I was working on. Mindseed seemed to fit the bill.”
Labbé recruited a fellow music teacher to play the bass and through a Kijiji ad found a local drummer; creating Mindseed.
With Labbé at the helm on guitar and vocals, the band has been rocking hard since 2016 — building up a committed fanbase regularly at their shows.
While Labbé had performed in other short-lived bands prior to Mindseed, none of his previous efforts came close to the accomplishment of his new and current passion project.
He says that a key part to Mindseed’s local success is due to the musicianship of three passionate players and the personal touch from past experiences in the lyrics he writes.
“I would describe it as a therapeutic experience, to go up there and sing these songs that I’ve written about struggles in my own life,” Labbé says. “People respond and allow me to get it off my chest.”
Battling the small Calgary music scene
But the future of many local acts may be in jeopardy. Bands from Calgary are feeling the repercussions of setting up in a comparatively small, Canadian music scene.
Venues supporting live music continue to close their doors, as fewer and fewer concert-goers show up to support the city’s homegrown talent. Labbé on the other hand, is optimistic about Mindseed’s future.
Grant Howarth, a Calgary-based producer, has worked with dozens of bands during his production career. He has been working with Labbé and Mindseed on their upcoming EP, as well as during the band’s previous album.
“I don’t know why people aren’t flocking to see these guys,” Howarth says. “They’ve got a really, really good sound going, with good energy and interesting lyrics. If they continue on their path, they’ll be attracting a lot of people.”
For Labbé, as long he can still teach the next generation — and there are still people showing up to his band’s performances — he is content with where he is, as he believes he is making a positive impact.
“I could get more money working as an engineer but that doesn’t fuel what I love to do. I have a job that I show up to every day and I love it. And that makes me happy,” says Labbé.
Editor: Holly Maller | firstname.lastname@example.org