Lucknow's Scott Chow next up on Fired Up Fridays roster
BY SCOTT STEPHENSON
On Aug. 18, Lucknow-based musician Scott Chow will be the latest musical performer in this summer’s hottest culinary event/concert series - Fired Up Fridays at Grassroots Wood Fired Pizza. The evening will feature Chow’s musical stylings, accompanied by local beer from Grand Bend’s Torched Brewing and, of course, delectable pizzas from the Grassroots crew. The Citizen sat down with Chow ahead of his upcoming performance to learn a little bit about the man behind the music.
Born in Hong Kong, Chow came with his family to Canada in 1979. “When I started Grade 1 in Thornhill, I didn’t speak a word of English,” he explained. “Eventually we settled in Markham, Ontario and that’s where I basically grew up.”
The musically-minded Chow attended Humber College for jazz, which led to a career teaching and performing music, with a minor life detour into retail. “Retail was pretty much my life for 15 years - I started working for a big chain of music stores called Walters Music. We used to have a store in every shopping mall… I worked my way up to General Manager, and then one day I just realized, ‘Hey! I’m in the music industry but I wasn’t playing any music!’ Within two weeks I resigned from my job.”
Meeting his wife Karissa led the two back to her hometown of Lucknow two decades ago. It was a big change from a life spent largely in urban areas, but Chow is happy he made the leap. “Lucknow is awesome! There’s just something about being up here that’s peaceful. Even when it’s hot and humid, it’s not sticky.”
He started teaching private music classes, going on to educate hundreds of local youths. In an area where sports reigns supreme, Chow hopes that offering an option for musically-inclined kids has had an impact on his community. “Music lessons were only half music lessons, and it was half just talking with the kids, trying to break stereotypes. You can be artsy and score 50 goals… you don’t have to just be one thing; you can be five things. And I hope that it did make a difference.”
Coming to Lucknow also brought Chow back to another one of his passions: live performance. “There used to be a restaurant called the Fireside Café [near Wingham], and Dave and Linda Phillips were gracious enough to let me play there every Thursday and Friday night. I really got to hone my skills and build up my repertoire again, so I really owe a lot to them. We still keep in touch.” Dave was also a jazz drummer, and the two would often perform together. In a charming convergence of moments in the flow of Wingham’s musical history, CKNX Barn Dance regulars like Kenny Ducharme and Ernie King could often be found in the audience of their shows. He remembers that time as a singular one in his life so far. “There’s a lot of times that you wish something would be like that forever, but then it wouldn’t be special - turning points are meant to be exactly that. The time is now, not later.”
Fireside Café may be closed now, but the experience he had there made the artist vow to always keep musical performances as part of his life, no matter what else he has going on. “During the day, I’m a carpenter and a general contractor… but I’ll never let music fall by the wayside like I did when I was younger.”
Chow also spent a spell performing with Kincardine’s Lighthouse Swing Band, playing big band and classics by the likes of Duke Ellington, an experience that he found both enriching and edifying. “They are all fantastic people and great musicians… the music scene out here’s not as active as the bigger hubs… but for such a small population in such a massive piece of land up the peninsula here, we have some top notch, like, world-class musicians.”
One such musician is sax player Jason Hunter, who is an operator at the Bruce Power plant. “He’s one of the top 50 saxophone players in North America,” said Chow. “If Michael Bublé came through town and was short a saxophone player, Jason might get a call, that’s the calibre he is!”
Chow is also excited about the calibre of musical talent emerging in his own family. “Our daughter Lachlan is following in my footsteps. She’s actually playing up in Paisley this weekend… she’s also performed at FIG Restaurant in Ripley - the food there is just great, as good as anything you’d have in the city! I’ve actually opened for her a few times which is kinda nice… it’s a dream come true as a musician and a father to have your child beside you.” Their family has a long, local musical history as well - Karissa’s grandfather was a fiddle player who entertained the citizens of Lucknow many years ago.
Being a performer in a rural area is not without its challenges. Pay can range from low to nonexistent, the post-COVID landscape has fewer venues geared towards live shows, and there is the ubiquitous competition of a flickering TV with the hockey game on. “Culture can still be a bit hard out here,” he remarked. “But there’s hidden treasures everywhere. Down all these concessions, each one has its own beach, and each beach is different. You should adventure!”
His upcoming show at Grassroots is a great example of one of the area’s (semi) hidden gems. Tucked down a tree-lined driveway, the farm reveals itself slowly to visitors as they drive up. The welcoming alpacas, the farm store, the vegetable gardens and the fields all lead guests to the barn where the main event goes down every Friday night of the summer. “Places like Grassroots are great for giving a venue for artists. A lot of the younger folk you see playing have been my students, like Natalie Irwin, who just performed there. She’s excellent. What they’re doing, pairing food and drinks with music is a great way of bringing people out.”
If you want to make the scene this summer, check out Scott Chow at Grassroots on Aug. 18 - grab a pizza, catch up with friends and neighbours and enjoy the sights and sounds of a summer evening in Huron County.