With a quiet and relaxed demeanor, Charlie Nam is an almost unexpected performer. That is, until he picks up his guitar.
With his fingers moving along the instrument’s neck, summoning notes from its strings as easily as plucking a colourful blossom from a stem, Nam begins to move in rhythm with his music. Toe tapping, he lets out a soulful croon, and—for a few moments—loses himself in his music.
“Music takes me away and lets me not focus on (stressful) things so much,” Nam says, twiddling away on his shiny black guitar, filling his Chilliwack Secondary School’s music room with a cascade of soft notes.
At only 18-years-old, Nam’s music possesses a skill and maturity that earned him a nomination in the second annual Fraser Valley Music Awards (FVMA) in the Excellence in Performance by a Youth Artist category. And although he didn’t win, it put him on the same stage as artists twice his age or more.
Astoundingly enough, Nam’s only been playing for five years. He first picked up an electric guitar while living back home in Korea, but since moving to Canada for school three years ago, he’s switched to an acoustic, learned to play piano, and, as of last year, has begun singing.
Nam says joining Chilliwack Secondary School’s jazz school elevated his natural talents, allowing him to expand his musical repertoire.
“It really brought (my music) to the next level. Now it’s perfect. I play in a bunch of places, and people love hearing my music,” says Nam.
However, it was Nam’s discovery of indie rocker, Damien Rice, that finally pushed him to become a performer. And he’s now strummed his guitar for audiences all the way from Chilliwack to Vancouver, where he occasionally busks, singing covers as well as things he’s written himself.
As for the FVMAs, Nam says he wasn’t even expecting a nomination. “I saw it advertised on Facebook, so I clicked the link and followed the instructions. I filled in an application and sent in videos. I didn’t think I’d get a nomination.”
The morning the nominees were announced, Nam says he logged online to see who was listed. “I went on the website not expecting anything, and saw my name on the list. I was so surprised, kind of excited, and at the same time, very, very happy,” says Nam, describing the moment he saw his name listed.
The Fraser Valley Music Awards ceremony was held during Nov. 25’s AbbyFest, a one-day celebration of Abbotsford and its diversity. From 12:30 to nearly 4 p.m., the FVMAs alternated nominee performances and the final Battle of the Bands competition between giving away the awards.
Almost 2,000 people visited AbbyFest this year, and as part of his nomination, Nam was given a spot to perform during the FVMA show in front of the crowd.
In total, there were 15 awards up for grabs, 14 FVMAs and the $750 Dakota Leslie Live Performer of the Year Award, which went to the Battle of the Bands winner. All in all, more than $100,000 in cash and prizes were awarded to last year’s winners, and the prize list for this year’s nominees is just as impressive.
And while Nam had hoped to win, at this point in his life, music’s still a hobby. Graduating high school this year, Nam says his plans for the future involve going to university, but for what, he’s not sure.
“I won’t major in music. Maybe for business … or geography. But I’m going to keep playing, though. I love music,” Nam says with a big smile.