Born to a fishing family in New Westminster and raised in Surrey, ordained non-denominational minister Gregg Hofstad began his musical journey when he was a young child. Gregg sang in church choirs and Christmas programs. Before he reached his teens, he was already playing the piano and guitar, writing his own songs and singing in churches, coffee houses and seniors’ homes. As far back as he can remember, Gregg says, he accompanied his parents whenever they showed films of their family in the fishing industry, films of sunsets, beaches, sharks and storms.
“I would push the residents around in wheelchairs when I was only seven,” he recalls.
As an adult, the former commercial fisherman performed in hospitals, cafés, parks and at many Vancouver Island Community events. Starting at an early age and continuing throughout his adult life, Gregg has recorded many CDs and full multimedia DVD productions. Recently, he returned from a four-week music tour where he sang in towns as far north as Prince George.
In the early days, Gregg took a few tips from the professionals but, mostly, he taught himself to read and write music; he now creates by ear.
“It goes much faster,” he says, “and it is best to memorize songs or else you will be stuck performing with pages in front of you.”
Gregg enjoys folk songs with simple lyrics and messages and are easy to sing along with. He has written many songs about the ocean, the countryside and the old homestead, which he mixes with songs from Bob Dylan and 19th century hymns such as “Peace like a River,” “How Great Thou Art” and “Church in the Wildwood.”
His music therapy incorporates faster songs while listeners use tambourines, shakers, and bells to sound along. In seniors’ residences, care attendants often help residents get up to dance. Gregg likes to hear stories relayed by the seniors, who “have had amazing lives and love to sing along.”
For many years, before becoming a full-time musician, Gregg and his wife, Benita, who he says was a remarkable sea person, operated a family business fishing in their 52’ Halibut longliner.
“We would halibut fish in nasty storms far off shore all over the West Coast as far as the Queen Charlottes, winter and summer,” says Gregg.
Finally, the couple retired from fishing. “The ocean has taken its toll on our energy and physical abilities,” says Gregg.
During their last few years in the business, the couple converted their boat into a station that bought and sold fish to customers in Ladysmith.
Gregg and Benita have four children, all of whom have worked in the seafood business.
When they retired, Gregg and Benita travelled and performed extensively in their 40-foot Greyhound RV bus. For 12 years, they’ve visited destinations in the U.S., South America, across Canada from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, through the Prairies, the northern cities through Peace River and the Queen Charlotte Islands. They sang in churches, seniors’ homes, hospitals, prisons and native reserves. Carrying his own amp, microphone and extension cords with him, Gregg requires little to set up, particularly in situations such as house concerts where people invite their friends and put on a barbecue. “It works in remote areas,” he says, “where ranchers live too far from town.”
The eclectic minister, singer and songwriter, spent time in Argentina, where he and others performed in various churches and theatres with crowds of over 4,500 people. He was impressed with the clean South American cities. “A very wonderful place to be,” he says. His group also performed in prisons. “They [inmates] love it,” says Gregg. “They really do. It’s like, you really feel like you’re Johnny Cash. They always treat singers well because it’s a special event and they don’t get a lot of privileges.”
Gregg will continue to share music, which he believes is not only enjoyable, but brings peace and healing.
For more information about Gregg Hofstad and his music, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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