Liam Docherty may be only 13 years old, but he’s already garnering attention from the Canadian blues establishment.
The young Qualicum Beach, B.C.-based singer-songwriter has been nominated for the New Artist of the Year category in the Maple Blues Awards, which recognize the best blues musicians across the country.
“It’s a really big deal,” Liam told host Gloria Macarenko on CBC’s On The Coast.
Liam first picked up the guitar when he was aged four, having been introduced to the instrument by his father. A concert by Australian guitarist Tommy Emmanuel in 2015 exposed Liam to the blues and the finger-picking style.
“I kept on practising over the years,” he said. “When I was seven, I learned some pop songs and I’d busk at the Salt Spring Island farmers market.”
Liam’s performances earned him the moniker “red-headed blues boy” from locals. He was supposed to perform at the Vancouver Island Music Festival and the Nanaimo Blues Festival before they were cancelled due to COVID-19.
Instead, he put out his first album, Modern Magic Melody, which earned him the award nomination.
“I never actually expected this,” he said.
Organic songwriting process
Liam says his songwriting process is something that flows organically from his love of playing.
“I always come up with new pieces. If I like them, I record them and start working on them and building them out,” he said.
For his lyrics, Liam collects phrases and words he likes from books and poems in a journal.
“They change during the songwriting process, of course, [but] those [phrases] can be a foundation for songs,” he said.
He also gets ideas from reading about his favourite blues musicians.
Reading about Robert Leroy Johnson, an American blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter, and how he was affected by the Mississippi Delta flood, inspired Liam to write his own song about the historic event, Wipe My Weeping Eyes.
“I pick up the guitar every day … I just love playing it so much,” he said.