Musical notes are in this 17-year-old’s DNA. His father, Eric Surette, released an album in 1988 and was the first Acadian in southwestern Nova Scotia to record professionally in Nashville. Jacques’s uncle, Gilbert Surette, is also known for his musical aptitude.
Jacques says when he was young he always sang in his room with the door closed but wasn’t quite “out of that shell yet.”
In August 2011 his father damaged his spinal cord in a trampoline accident. Five weeks later he finally took his first step. But there were more setbacks. During his hospitalization a 40-foot trailer containing his musical equipment and everything associated with his musical career over the past 40 years was lost to fire. Then he was diagnosed with acute pulmonary embolism. It was a dark time for the family.
“It was such a tragic event. It took everyone by surprise and everything was going downhill,” said Jacques.
A year-and-a-half after the accident, Jacques started playing the guitar, an acoustic Martin.
His talent surprised and pleased his father.
“I think it cheered myself up and cheered my family up,” said Jacques.
He started writing on pieces of paper and laying out fragments of his thoughts. He refers to his genre as folky music or alternative folk.
“I remember the first time I heard Old Man by Neil Young. That was a very intense song and had a lot of meaning to it. It sparked up that influence to start writing some of my own stuff,” he said.
Meanwhile, Eric slowly began to feel better and others began recognizing Jacques’s talent.
He wrote Le Chemin en Acadie (The Road in Acadie) and performed it for the Star Acadie competition at Par-en-Bas in July 2015, winning first for original song. He composed another one called Dans L’pays De L’acadie for the 2016 event and won first prize, public choice and original song.
“I came home with $800. Dad wasn’t too surprised, that’s what he said, but I sure was.”
Last year he performed a 25-minute set in Lunenburg for the Young Folk Festival. He’ll be returning on Aug. 11 for another performance, then scooting across the province to perform at a giant 150th celebration at Grand Pré on the same day. He’ll also be playing there for a Mi'kmaq event.
“I’ve got to get up early on that day,” he laughed. “But it will be fun.”
He performed during 2017 SARMU,. This summer he’s also playing at the National Day for Acadians new theatre in the Halifax Library. Catch him locally at Seafest, the Coal Shed festival and maybe a few restaurants. Plus, CDs (French, English and bilingual) are in the works.
Although this École secondaire de Par-en-Bas Grade 10 student has already had several offers from managers to further his career, his goal is to finish school.
“They think I’m 27. I have to let them know I’m not an adult yet; I’m just an adolescent.”
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