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Slow and steady wins the race for Burnaby artist Luca Fogale

Luca Fogale plays the Capital Ballroom on Friday. MACKENZIE WALKER


Where: Capital Ballroom, 858 Yates St.

When: Friday, March 3, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $32.96 (incl. taxes and fees) from

Music is a pursuit — for some musicians, that is. For singer-songwriter Luca Fogale, it’s a purpose.

Here’s why. While he was studying to receive his psychology degree from the University of British Columbia a dozen years ago, the urge to create, and to share, was eating away at the Burnaby native. With little experience in music at the time, let alone as a songwriter, he suddenly quit school, during his second year, in order to become a full-time musician.

“Music wasn’t a huge part of my life when I was growing up, so when I when I decided to drop out university and I quit my job and just told everyone I was going to be a songwriter, no one really knew where that came from,” Fogale, 32, said with a laugh.

That’s purpose.

To friends and family, including his parents, who are both from Italy and did not listen to contemporary music when Fogale was growing up, it was not a well-reasoned plan. He didn’t have a strong connection to music when was young, for starters. It was as if the decision came out of nowhere.

“I was having a tough time for a number of reasons, but one of them was that I just didn’t feel connected to anything. So I started to write songs. When I mentioned that to [my parents], they didn’t understand it because it just wasn’t a part of my purview. As far as they knew, I wasn’t a songwriter — so how was I going to be a songwriter? I kept a lot of things secret.

“Music was sort of my outlet for a couple of years, where I would just sit and write songs and neglect any schoolwork that I had in university. Music came to me at a time when my grades were dropping. It just sort of swept over my existence in a very bizarre way that I still can’t really understand.”

Fogale bet on himself, and has been rewarded handsomely for it. He earned his first Juno Award nomination last year for 2020’s Nothing is Lost, his second full-length, and has had his music played in episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and NCIS: Los Angeles, among others. Though he’s not what many would consider to be prolific (he has just two studio albums over seven-year period), Fogale is as thoughtful as they come.

That’s a valuable character trait in a busy with its share of unenviable ones.

“Music has just swept over the last dozen years of my life in a way that I never expected. It was never a part of my consideration when I was thinking about what I was going to be when I was a kid.”

He took “obligatory” piano lessons as a child, and played in his high school band, but that was pretty much it in terms of backstory. “Music in general wasn’t really a part of my family’s life. We didn’t ever listen to music in the house. The only music I heard was in the Catholic Church. My mom and her sisters, they all sang in the choir. But we just never had music on. It was always pretty quiet.”

It took Fogale years to find his voice as a songwriter. Playing live was his priority early on, and he found gigs playing in hotel bars, pubs, yoga studios, and coffee shops — anywhere he could get work and make a living. Folk music became a reference point, especially Nick Drake’s spare, largely acoustic Pink Moon album from 1972, he said.

“I remember that being one of the records where I couldn’t figure out why I loved it so much, but I was affected by it. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It did something to me that no other music had before.”

Better opportunities came his way in 2012, when he began releasing original recordings. His pace as a performer picked up speed both in the Vancouver area and on Vancouver Island, where he’s been a fixture for the better part of a decade. He is signed to Amelia Recordings and managed by Amelia Artists, both of which are based in Victoria, which has led many to believe he’s based here.

“I’m like an honorary resident at this point,” he said of Victoria.

Fogale has performed more than 600 shows since 2012, but few can match the significance of his concert at Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom on March 9. It will be Fogale’s first-ever headlining show at the historic venue after years of supporting slots. He’s been there dozens of times to watch concerts, and has dreamed of having his own concert there. That makes this one “really special,” he said.

“In my mind, it’s one of the rites of passage in Vancouver. It’s going to be pretty surreal. Every show that we’ve played on this tour, I’ve thought at least once about about what it’s going to be like to play at the Commdore.”

He still hasn’t fully digested the accomplishment, or what that says about his career arc. Perhaps he never will. Fogale said his fateful decision to withdraw from university and pursue music is never far from his mind, so perhaps he will always be an underdog.

“It’s so surprising to me that something I needed at a time in my life, when I was very purposeless and couldn’t find any sort of meaning in anything, the thing that helped me find myself in that rut is now supporting me as a career. It’s a pretty bizarre thing. I have this profound gratefulness for it now because I feel like it’s taking care of me in a way. I try really hard not to take that for granted.”

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