Sometimes you can look at a kid and just know. Everyone who saw Connor McDavid in minor hockey could tell he was on a track to the NHL. Everyone who saw Shawn Hook back in his childhood would find well used pianos and trombones not far away.
Hook's band teacher at Sentinel High School in Nelson, Rick Lingard, earned musical prophet status as his protege kept climbing and climbing until he was beyond the charts on the jazz band's music stands and was instead named on the charts marked Billboard and SoundScan instead.
Canada has produced a lot of international pop sensations in recent years. Some of the premier names are Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendes, Ruth B, Alessia Cara, Drake, Tegan and Sara but Hook's name is being mentioned in the same breath. That's pretty amazing for a kid from the rural Kootenays.
Perhaps Connor McDavid was also a promising musician with dreams of being a big rock star if the pucks stopped going in the net, but Hook was certainly a renaissance youth. He was on the region's rep hockey team, captain of the school volleyball team and captain also of the basketball team. (Two of his cousins, Tyler and Tanner, played for the Quesnel Millionaires then on to higher leagues, to give an indication as to the athletics around the house.)
His family was supportive of all his endeavours, but had a practical backbone they passed down to their multitalented son. They were forest industry and so, despite Selkirk College having one of Canada's great music schools at their Nelson campus, they sent Hook to the Castlegar campus to study economics and engineering instead. He would drive back to Nelson after class to play in Shag, the disco cover band he was vocalist for, backed entirely of faculty and alumni of the Selkirk music program. The irony was not lost on him.
"I was writing lyrics in my economics classes," he said, which echoed his teen summer job as the mostly stationary safety overseer for his father's forestry company. "I spent a lot of time writing songs in the truck."
Finally he broke it to his family, and they saw the wisdom, that he had to turn to music as his profession. There were hard times ahead, but he never regretted the choice and eventually those economic classes found traction as well when his sole proprietorship started to develop into a small business with contractors and staff.
The money started to trickle in when he got a job in Los Angeles writing songs for television shows and commercials. Then he scored a modest hit with the single Soldier he wrote with Remembrance Day in mind.
He filled in his spare L.A. time by taking acting classes and even got a part in an episode of Bones but the music started to catch on and it pushed away any aspirations to get in front of the camera. Except for music videos. Suddenly there was power in the people he was able to spend time with - Jann Arden, The Beach Boys, Wide Mouth Mason, etc. - and the snowballing was underway.
The biggest bits of snow have titles like Without You, So Close, Million Ways, Two Hearts Set on Fire, the peppy Every Red Light, the platinum-selling Sound Of Your Heart, the holiday hit Follow The Lights and others. His most recent single is Relapse off his most recent album Analog Love. They are all dancey, urbane, rock-tinged pop songs and they all have highly clicked videos as well.
He has gone to the heights of the Canadian music industry, he is among the future vanguard of the national industry, but he is still stumbling on fresh legs in some ways, and because he has personal confidence and humble upbringing, it makes him laugh more than anything. Even on this current tour, there have been comical gaffs.
"I was wearing a leather jacket, and I don't usually wear a watch on stage but this time for some reason I did, and it was so hot in the venue we were playing that I had to take my jacket off. It got caught on the watch and it would not come off. It was such an awkward moment to happen on stage. My bass player had to come help me take it off. It was pretty funny.
"And then the very next night, it was the second to last song, I was running around, the crowd was going up, I could see people had their phones in the air, waving back and forth, and I thought ok, I'm going to take a moment and sit down on the piano and sing. I broke the piano. It's not real, it's a shell with the keyboard inside. I fell, full-on, onto the stage, could not hide it, and I broke the lid of the piano shell. So, um, yeah. It was pretty comical. Hopefully by the time I get to Prince George I'll iron out all those kinks."
That'll be tonight. Hook is the supporting act for Marianas Trench at CN Centre.