Generating a combination of boyish, Hollywood good looks, a humility beyond his years and a penchant for smooth, melodic delivery, Christian Hudson has taken the central Alberta music scene by storm in 2015.
With his mini Martin guitar and handful of cover and original songs, the Airdrie balladeer played winning notes at the mid-summer Calgary Stampede Talent Show.
An empathetic musician who had endured a few homeless nights himself, it didn’t take much thought for Hudson to donate the $10,000 prize to those less fortunate. Raised in a Mormon home, Hudson embraces a personal philosophy of caring and charity.
“Spending the night on the street conceived the fantasy of donating the money,” says Hudson, who gave his winnings to the Calgary Drop-In Centre.
Playing local venues and charity events, Hudson – who in September was named the winner of Airdrie’s fourth annual SLAM (Supporting Local Area Musicians) on Air finale – has set his sights on a full-time musical career, with the intentions of maintaining a bearing on making the world a better place to live.
“I always want to ensure that I maintain a relevance to the world, contributing in a way that offers progression for communities,” he says. “However, my favourite statement, one that has led to many stupid, reckless and wonderful experiences, has been, ‘When presented a crossroads, take the path that offers the better story.’
“I never invested too much hope in the idea of winning, simply to avoid disappointment, but I did enjoy playing with hypothetical situations in my head. I’d have countless daydreams about the possible stories I could have from success,” adds the 19-year-old minstrel.
Through both competitions Hudson flowed down the river of success using an amalgamation of hip hop and Motown tunes, including Thriller, Superstition and Chet Faker’s No Diggity, as well as his original composition The Bus Song.
“I like to take classic songs, deliver a revival and go into the unorthodox and pick songs you wouldn’t expect a 19-year-old male to be singing,” he says. “By choosing the weird stuff that isn’t predictable, that’s what keeps audiences engaged.”
A hit with Stampede competition judges and audiences, Hudson delivered a personal favourite in Nina Simone’s Be My Husband without any gender-bender lyric changes.
“I’ve heard some versions performed by guys where they would switch the lyrics up, changing the pronoun to [make] more sense,” he says. “But I decided by keeping it the way it was initially it would catch people’s ear more – it might weird them out but at least it would hold their attention.”
The young bard recognized early in life the ‘cool’ of playing guitar. He spent months begging for a six-string solution, waiting through several birthday and Christmas dates before finding the coveted instrument under the tree.
“When I was 14 years old I found a little guitar under the tree. I locked myself in my bedroom and didn’t come out for days,” he says. “I think because I was deprived for a little while that’s what made the music stick.”
A fad among his middle-school classmates, Hudson continued to strum the six-string, striking a chord and eventually finding his own sound.
Now influenced by singer/songwriters Damien Rice, Jack Johnson, John Mayer and latest chart-topper Ed Sheeran, the local talent has been cutting his musical teeth at live venues for close to a year.
If Hudson isn’t playing at local pub Bambino’s, he can be found at several venues offering stage time to new talent, including a few favourite Calgary locations such as Cafe Koi, the Atlantic Trap and Gill and Bonasera.
“When I do any show I like to keep the ratio about 60-40 (per cent) in favour of the covers because people always like to listen to things they can be familiar with. At the same time you have to introduce your own,” he says.
Apart from cash, winning the local SLAM competition offers up two days of studio recording time. Hudson, who personally books his own shows, is looking forward to this opportunity and maintaining a full performance schedule.
“Recording time is something I would really, really want to capitalize on. That’s my biggest downfall at the moment is that I’m having a ton of fun playing live,” Hudson says, “but I don’t really have anything on the Internet or anything that I can distribute and market. That’s the next priority.”
Ironically the generous performer could have used his $10,000 Calgary Stampede Talent Show winnings to cut a few singles instead of donating to the Drop-In Centre. That fact, though, doesn’t phase the big-hearted teen.
“That way I get to earn it,” says Hudson.