Evan Rotella is 19 years old, in his second year of the Media Communications program at Brock and a graduate of Saint Michael.
He’s also just dropped his first album, Happy to Be Here.
And he absolutely is.
Rotella can’t remember a point where he didn’t love music. It comes from spending time with his father, Dave, who organized the Light of Day Festival in Niagara Falls for many years.
“It was always around the house; I was always around musicians,” he says. “I think it would’ve been really hard not to grow a love for it. I remember twice in my life when I looked around and realized this is something I wanted to do. The first time was in Buffalo to see Springsteen, and the next was in Buffalo to see one of my favourite songwriter Brian Fallon at the Town Ballroom. From those two shows forward, it felt like it was really full steam ahead from there. I don’t know what it was specifically about those shows but (they) changed everything.”
Fast-forward a few years, and the younger Rotella is a gigging musician as well as a student.
Somewhere, in the busyness, he found time to write and record an album. How did he make that happen?
“It definitely can be challenging,” Rotella says of the process. “I think there’s always this weird itch for me on song writing, and I think that’s in part to the mostly unattainable goal that most songwriters have, to write the greatest song ever. Obviously, the odds of writing the greatest song ever are slim to none, but I think that crazy goal is what makes it so easy after a long day to go the piano and mess around with some thoughts. When it comes to balancing school and music, I think there’s some areas I could be better in, and that’s definitely something I’m working on this year to make sure I finish the race.”
Most of us hold out the faint hope of meeting our favourite pop star or musical hero, but Rotella has met his. Having face time with Springsteen (IRL, that is, not on an app), was a defining moment for the aspiring musician. And it’s one he doesn’t take for granted.
“I’m extremely lucky to have had the opportunities and experiences I’ve had already just at 19. In terms of just life experiences being around Bruce and having the experiences I’ve had with him would definitely be number one,” he said. “That’s my hero, and the reason I do what I do so it’s hard to beat that. Playing the Stone Pony in Asbury Park (New Jersey, the Boss’s hometown) was surreal, I’ve played there three or four times now, and it never loses that magic.
Rotella also has other music icons who have helped him along the way.
“In terms of music, it felt like my music life started to change for the better a little under a year ago, when my good friend, and a huge inspiration of mine, Dave Rave from Teenage Head, brought us backstage for the JR Diggs acoustic Christmas show and a lot of bands I really love were back there like, The Trews, Sum 41 and The Dirty Nil,” says Rotella. “But one of my favourite bands is the Arkells, and Max Kerman, the lead singer, was backstage and we talked for a couple minutes about my album, and he was a really cool guy, and seemed genuinely interested, so that was really cool.”
What’s next for Rotella?
On September 27, he opened for hometown legends Honeymoon Suite, which he described as “really cool.”
And the next album is written, although he plans to wait a bit before heading into the studio. “But I’m already excited for that because I think it’s probably the best songs I’ve written yet. Hopefully by the time this comes out we will have some other cool news to announce, if not stay tuned cause we have some cool things up our sleeves.”
For the foreseeable future, though, it’s all about being happy to be where he is with Happy to Be Here, playing anywhere that will have him, and mastering marketing on TikTok (evanrotellamusic) and balancing school, music, and “whatever else comes along.”