Liam Titcomb: Young Talent, Big Dreams

"I got a little excited that he was on stage and I wasn't," recalls Liam Titcomb of his first on-stage performance as a toddler with his father. "I hopped up there with my ukulele and postured away and played while he was playing. I acted as if I was playing along. It started then and that was the beginning of the end."

- Sheila Busteed
Photos by Dara Hakimzadeh

posted July 30, 2007

Liam Titcomb: Young Talent, Big Dreams

With only a month to go before his 20th birthday, Liam Titcomb hasn’t been doing the regular things with his summer, like making party plans or spending his time with friends. Instead, he’s spending the hot days of the season touring to support his sophomore album, Can’t Let Go, including a stop at the Ottawa Bluesfest to play to a packed crowd in the Barney Danson Theatre.

     But Titcomb is not a stranger to this hectic and unusual lifestyle; at the age of 17, he embarked on multiple cross-country tours with Great Big Sea, David Usher and Tom Cochrane.

     He sat down with PlugInMusic.com after his set in Ottawa to talk about the influences that have followed him from a young age and the pressures of growing up as a child star in the entertainment industry.

     “I got a little excited that he was on stage and I wasn’t,” recalls Titcomb of his first on-stage performance as a toddler with his father. “I hopped up there with my ukulele and postured away and played while he was playing. I acted as if I was playing along. It started then and that was the beginning of the end.”

     His father, Canadian folk artist Brent Titcomb, has played a major influence in his life, he says.

     “There’s a big chance I wouldn’t be a musician if my dad wasn’t one,” says Titcomb. “I might not have been introduced to it in the same way. I was always around it. It was always there; from the day I was born, there was music. All of our friends are musicians. It’s kind of unavoidable.

     “I find that he’s one of the best human beings that I’ve ever known,” he continues. “He’s an unbelievably generous man, really compassionate, and I kind of feel like I’m blessed to have the parents I have. I really lucked out with them.”

     Because his father was so involved in the Ontario folk scene when Titcomb was young, he also grew up listening to its music. He says most of his musical influences were in their prime long before he was even born.

Liam Titcomb feature

     “I grew up on singer-songwriters; that was the meat and potatoes of what was being played in my family. It was a lot of Southern Ontario singer-songwriters from that folk circuit. There are a lot of great ones that nobody knows,” he says, adding that his major mainstream influences include The Beatles, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens and Bob Dylan. “I have choices from my own generation, but it seems like a lot of my inspirations have come from that early ’70s surge of really great music.”

     Growing up from a child to a young man working in the industry, Titcomb says he is really thankful for the opportunities given to him so far but admits that things haven’t always been positive.

     “In some ways you’re forced to grow up pretty quickly,” he says. “I wouldn’t say it’s not beneficial. Sometimes people say, ‘Oh, aren’t you sad you missed out on being a teenager, not doing things and getting into trouble?’ I can still get into trouble. I’m not too sorry that I missed it because the experiences I’ve had have been so rich.

     “I feel really blessed. I got thrown into this different world and got to experience unbelievable things that people my age rarely ever get to experience,” he continues. “There’s definitely a lot of pressure though because it’s a machine; it’s a business. The way it works right now is that the artist is the least cheered about person in all of it. We’re the front of it all, but we’re also the people doing the most work. In that sense, it’s easy to get down and wonder why the hell you’re doing it.”

     But, compared to big-name child stars like Lindsay Lohan, Macaulay Culkin and the Olsen twins, Titcomb says he’s had it relatively easy.

     “I don’t think I had a quarter of the fame they had poured on them and entrusted on them at a young age. I think it takes a remarkable human being to get through it and still be a grounded and normal person. I think it’s pretty damaging in some ways,” he says. “I sometimes wonder how they deal with it. I haven’t quite had the pressures they’ve had. I like to consider myself fairly normal – as normal as a musician raised by hippies.”

     While his child star days weren’t nearly as tumultuous as those experienced by others, he does get tempted once and a while to quit it all but says that the music keeps him going.

     “I’ve considered many times how easy it would be to get a job that actually has a regular paycheck,” he says. “Sometimes you feel really overwhelmed and go, ‘Oh my God! This is way too much for me to do right now. I’m way too young. Why can’t I just go and skateboard?’ You get those moments. Not anymore; I’m getting older so it’s not the same feelings as much.

     “You definitely have those burnout times, a couple of times a year,” he continues. “You get depressed and weak and then you pick up a guitar. It’s kind of unavoidable if it’s what you love. You’re going to do it until it kills you.”