At first, nearly every song Chris Ho wrote, recorded and performed was done privately, in the comfort of his family’s Vancouver home.
Over the course of two years, Ho kept mostly to himself as a musician, recording in his bedroom on either his computer or old-school four-track recorder. As his catalogue of songs grew, so did his confidence. The singer-songwriter eventually found a comfort level in sharing his art with the public once he enrolled in the University of Victoria.
“I started burning CDs for people at UVic and eventually people followed up on what I would later on be doing — which is playing more shows,” Ho said. “Slowly, I developed a fan base that way.”
The soft-spoken 23-year-old moved here five years ago to attend UVic, where he received a degree in English. He was surprised to learn that the Garden City wasn’t simply flowers and an afternoon tea. Sleepy it isn’t, Ho says. In fact, he maintains that Victoria is more active on the music front than his hometown of Surrey.
“I had a good upbringing,” he said. “It was a little suburban, and there was not much going on over there. Things started happening when I moved here, interestingly enough. Other people consider Victoria to be pretty small and there’s not much happening, but as far as art goes, I’ve found a it’s a really great scene going on here.”
Ho has made a name for himself in Victoria with his upbeat indie folk-rock, a combination that sounds better than ever on his debut full-length, City of Dust. Ho will celebrate its release with a concert Friday at Victoria Event Centre, with help from guests Good For Grapes and Towers and Trees.
A career in music almost didn’t happen for Ho. While at UVic, he dabbled in theatre at the Phoenix Theatre, and worked on projects at two consecutive Fringe festivals. He imagined a future in theatre at one point, but he knew giving up music to do so wasn’t in the cards.
“I kind of put my foot in the door for that, a little bit, but I basically concentrated on music instead.”
The decision sort of took care of itself, Ho remembers. He mentions a gig at the Fort Street Café in September 2010, shortly after he had returned from a summer of working away from his adopted hometown, as the turning point.
“I went through a series of epiphanies and realized that it was something that I was going to perform,” he said. “I was away all summer, came back, and then suddenly friends and fans had shown up to this show. I was really surprised. I didn’t promote it that hard, and yet people came out. That was so amazing.”
Where were you born and raised?
I’m from a nice part of Surrey, but it sounds better to say Vancouver.
At which point did you know Surrey was not for you in the long term?
It was probably one year after I moved to Victoria. Nonetheless, Vancouver is something that’s on the horizon a little bit. I want to get back there eventually. But I consider Victoria my home.
When did you arrive in Victoria and what brought you here?
I came in the fall of 2008, right out of high school, when I was 18, to go to UVic.
What is your favourite thing about Victoria?
I like how there’s a nice balance between nature and city. There’s enough going on in the city so you stay in touch with everyone, but it’s also very beautiful. It really has the best of both worlds, I think.
What is your greatest accomplishment as a person?
Maybe this sounds cheesy, but I want to say overcoming the death of a loved one. Literally and figuratively as well. When you have a chance to open up to people about it, that seems to me like a really big one.
And as a professional?
It would be the same. Even when I think about my musical accomplishments, the personal strides, they feed the other aspects of your life.
First album you purchased?
I’m going to give you the honest, embarrassing answer: Backstreet Boys, Backstreet’s Back. It was on cassette, which is awesome.
Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. After listening to it countless times, everything about it — even the album art — is so iconic. Even though I have discovered many other amazing bands since then, it has a place in my heart.
First concert you attended?
Green Day at GM Place in Vancouver, in 2005.
Favourite concert you attended?
Death Cab For Cutie with the New Pornographers at GM Place. I knew all their songs already, so I could see the differences. That was inspirational.
If you had one motto, or rule to abide by, what would it be?
It’s an Oscar Wilde quote: “The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.”
Chris Ho performs with Good for Grapes and Towers and Trees on Friday at Victoria Event Centre (1415 Broad St.). Tickets are $10 at Ditch Records. Doors open at 8:30 p.m.
© Copyright 2013