The first time I heard street musician Jacob Lavigne-Ippersiel was back in early November, when he was busking outside of Birk’s at the corner of Government & Fort.
Being a fan of country-rock singer/songwriter Gram Parsons’ music, it was not surprising that hearing Jacob singing one of Gram’s songs In My Hour of Darkness would catch my attention. When Jacob finished the song, I tipped him and asked if he knew any more, and he played Return of the Grievous Angel, which he told me was his favorite.
On a number of occasions over the next few weeks, I ran into Jacob busking in the library courtyard. It was there that I had the opportunity at the end of November to interview him before he headed back home to Québec.
Jacob is from Lévis, which is located the south side of the St-Laurence River, across the bridge from Québec City.
He first picked up the guitar when he was 15, and almost immediately thereafter, began taking his music to the streets. Although he had lived and busked for a couple of months in Ottawa and Toronto, most of Jacob’s busking experience has been in Québec City.
“I’ve been busking for seven years now, [and] I’ve been able to support myself for sometime with that, sometimes not, but that’s part of life, huh?”
He has played many of Québec’s uptown and downtown locations, however, he said he feels most at home on Rue St-Jean.
“When I was a kid, my father told me everytime I asked what was there to do There is always something happening on Rue St-Jean,’ and it's true, street musicians, festivals on the Carré d'Youville, outdoor stalls, speciality shops and restaurants. It's a little bit like Government [Street], only with more space, as it crosses a big square.”
This past June, Jacob packed up his guitar, and spent the next month and a half crossing Canada, making stops and hanging out along the way. He busked in Ottawa and Toronto (again), and also in Calgary and Vancouver.
He finally arrived in Victoria in mid-August, rented an apartment, purchased a city busking permit, and spent the next few months trying out various spots on Government and Douglas Streets, until he found what would become his favorite spot, the library courtyard.
“I am pretty much the kind to stick to one place that I like, and go there all the time, [and] the library must be the best place. The sound is awesome, there’s a big echo, [and] you can just sing softly and be heard anyway.”
Having busked in “pretty much every big city in Canada”, I asked Jacob which one was his favorite. His answer: “Well, Québec holds a big place in my heart. It’s the one I played the most, and I’ve got all my friends there.”
“Toronto was great,” he said. “I found [in] Toronto, there was a big respect accorded to buskers, like the kind of commentaries that I would get there, is ‘Wow, you work hard.’ It’s cool being told that you work hard, and people acknowledge that you’re doing something, like busking was a job.”
Jacob also said that he really enjoyed Victoria. “It was a great place, people were laid back and fun, and I had a lot of good times here. I’m really sad to leave in fact, [but] I hope I’m gonna come back here soon.”
Jacob arrived back in Québec the second week of December, but hasn’t done any busking as “it is too cold here in Québec. Maybe in a month or so.”
Jacob also writes his own songs and has recorded a demo under his pseudonym Buckingham. The demo is titled Something Exciting Coming Soon, and you can listen to samples and purchase tracks at Songster Records.
Jacob busking in the Victoria Library courtyard
Much better quality video of Jacob busking in Québec City