Maybe you've heard that local singer/songwriter Amer Diab has just released his debut solo effort The Year of the Apology. Or perhaps you've heard and not even realized it. After all, Diab tends to have his name butchered with alarming regularity. "I've heard everything… Ammer, Aimer, Omir, Omar. Kevin Sylvester played one of my songs on CBC radio and I happened to be listening at the time, and he said my name totally wrong. So I sent him an e-mail and he was really good about it. The next day, he read the entire e-mail and talked about my website and the record so it turned out to be a bit of an opportunity."
The Lebanon-born, Toronto-raised Diab is a veteran of a number local outfits—most notably country/pop combo The Pedestrians. However, years spent towing the line caused Diab to retreat and really take stock of the reasons why he started playing music in the first place. "With The Pedestrians, we started to play the type of music that I would never listen to and I needed to change that. It got to the point where I really started hating music so I took two or three years off where I really didn't do anything musically. I knew I'd want to get back into it sooner or later but during that time, I just wanted to listen more than I wanted to play. Listening to guys like Steve Earle and Elvis Costello made me realize that I wanted to do simple songs all along."
This realization resulted in The Year of the Apology, an album of Diab originals that has already begun to turn heads. This is due in part to Diab's warmly familiar odes to love and loss and in part to some famous "Scenesters" that helped out with the recording. "My friend Michael Johnson, who used to play trumpet with Big Rude Jake, was a big help," says Diab. "He produced it and got Brendan Canning and Andrew Whiteman from the Broken Social Scene to play on the record."
While Diab was grateful for the chance to work with two of Toronto's most collaborative artists, he points out that musically speaking, there isn't that much common between him and his hired help. "My disc is nothing like the Broken Social Scene stuff at all. I remember Andrew said when we were recording that it was really nice to just play some simple rock and roll again. Having them on the record is great because it will open doors when I'm sending stuff out to labels or to radio but truth be told, I rarely ever see those guys. They played on the record and played really well and had some great ideas and that's pretty much it. Now, I've got a live band that I'm playing with so when I do the next record, I'll probably use these guys."
When not making hearts swoon at boozecans and coffee houses in and around Toronto, Diab has a couple of unique hobbies that he uses to kill time between performances. "I'm a big boxing fan and I've trained as a boxer since I was in my late teens. A couple of years ago, I had my first amateur fight—which I won, by the way—and I sent this really descriptive, round-by-round e-mail after the fight to some friends who couldn't make it. Somehow, this e-mail started getting passed around and eventually reached all these people I didn't know. I began getting these weird congratulatory e-mails from people I'd never met before and then somehow, it crossed the desk of this guy who worked for that dating service, Lava Life. He really liked my style of writing and he asked if I'd be willing to write this on-line advice column. So it was a really strange way of finding a job. Of course, I don't even use my real name so it's OK."
Diab remains optimistic about the doors The Year of the Apology will open for him and is clearly willing to promote his efforts in any way possible. He has already played Hamilton, London and Windsor in support of the album and is scheduled to perform at celebrated Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield, Quebec on June 3rd. With this steady groundswell of support at home and a willingness to reach out to other cities, Diab hopes that the album will serve its intended purpose. "I think of the album as my 'Hey, how ya doing?' I want to get some people interested in me, whether it be labels or booking agents. Hopefully, I can get them to fund my next record because it's going to be hard for me to do it on my own. It would be really nice to not be so poor all the time but hey, that's the business." (Cameron Gordon)
For more information about Amer Diab or to purchase The Year of the Apology, please visit his official website at www.amerdiab.ca
Writer: Cameron Gordon