Memorable Moments

By Kevin McKay

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In his 67 years on earth, Phil Moriarity has been a lot of things, but one thing he has most definitely not been is boring! From his earliest days to the present he has been a rebel, a rogue, a choirboy, a military engineer, a real estate agent, a private eye and so much more. And now, he is living the good life as a singer/songwriter in the Lower Mainland.

Born and raised in Paris, Ontario, Phil spent most of his early years doing his best to avoid his studies. He says, “Growing up I hated school. I did like sports, especially playing pool in the local pool hall during school hours. The downside is that I received no formal music lessons as I was busy avoiding school and classes. My only singing, at that time, was in church as a choir boy.”

At 18, he joined the army and served three years as a military engineer in BC and Germany. While receiving training in Vancouver, Phil met Catherine, the young woman he married upon his return from Germany. The couple moved to Phil’s hometown, where he went to work as a real estate agent in his dad’s company. Despite getting married and starting a family, something was still missing.

“After a few years, we moved to Windsor, where I ran a few businesses and hit as many bars as I could,” says Phil. “Eventually, we moved back to Vancouver and I became a Private Eye, but was still really restless. I took some university courses and became a policeman, first in Delta, then later in Vancouver.”

Before retiring in 1994, Phil was in charge of the International Organized Crime Portfolio in the Intelligence Unit for the VPD.

Once he had retired, the father of seven and currently grandfather of 11 needed another outlet. After years of working for others, he decided to take the plunge and act on his long-held desire to be a singer.

“I thought I would record some songs to see what happened with my CD,” he says. “I went to Federico’s Supper Club on Commercial Drive, a really classy dinner dance place. I put a small band together and sang some of my original songs, which I had written out of frustration from lack of musical release. I was arrogant enough to think I could do it. As soon as they saw me up on stage, they asked me to start doing shows there. I got booked to perform two to three times a week for a few years. Federico’s is where I got my first big break and where I got my feet wet.”

One thing led to another and, the next thing you know, Phil found opportunity after opportunity to share his gift of music with happy audiences. He would perform theme shows at various venues around town, either alone or with his band or sometimes another singer. People would see him perform and, as a result, he would wind up with more bookings.

“Many musicians get focused on their art and lose out on opportunities that would gain them success and later allow them to focus on their art the way they want to,” says Phil. “I will do a gig on a cruise ship and will turn that into a garden party once I am back in town and that turns into a wedding a few weeks later. If you are open to things, doors will open for you. I sing in my church choir and get asked to do a few solos, which help with my confidence. Now, I’m being asked to do weddings and funerals. If you keep your eyes and ears open, you will find opportunities.”

If you go to a Phil Moriarity show, you will hear a wide variety of musical stylings. He has been influenced by performers like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Engelbert Humperdinck and Tom Jones.

“Typically, I will sing a few original songs and a lot of covers. I usually do a big mix of popular songs that people know. It is an eclectic variety. I don’t want people to have to listen to the same beat all night long. I like to mix it up, so people hear songs they want to hear.”

Currently, Phil is in the studio, working on a remake of his first studio CD of original music. He claims he was inexperienced in the music industry, at the time, and feels he can do a much better job now.

“When I finished that first album, Federico saw something in me that even I didn’t,” he says. “I have learned a lot about music over the years and that will come out in the re-release, even in terms of orchestration and song arrangement. There is a mix in the songs I write. Some are somber and reflective, but, musically, I like to keep them up tempo and not have every song sound the same. My experiences and observations feature prominently in my songs. You can’t get away from it. One of my songs is about being a rogue. Age melts things down, so you don’t do what you used to, but you certainly remember.”

One great thing about his singing career is that Phil feels younger than he did years ago. He opened a couple of businesses when he retired, and is still running them today, but claims while he felt close to 60 then, he feels closer to 40 now. This is, in large part, due to the enjoyment he gets from performing in front of an appreciative audience.

“I don’t go out to perform as a tribute artist, but I pay tribute to Sinatra, Tom Jones and all the rest by putting out my own rendition on their songs. There is so much to be said for inflection and phrasing and that can change the tenor of the song so much. It creates its own tapestry. Just to keep myself amused or in the moment I will even change things up on the fly.”

Phil’s career as an undercover cop helped him to not be intimidated by new situations, though he was still a little nervous the first few times. He says, “I was nervous, shaking, had a dry-mouth, but I was used to that. You are not alive until you are close to death. I am an adrenaline junkie. It becomes a challenge and then it’s like, ‘I can do this, so shut up and go do it.’ Everything is new until it isn’t any more. If you make it fun, it helps you relax. I make a lot of mistakes on stage. I’m talking between notes. If I miss a cue, I just catch up and pick it up. No audience is the same, so they have not heard the same thing before.”

One aspect of performing Phil really enjoys is interaction with his audience, making his shows more enjoyable for everyone.

“I like to come off the stage and sit on people’s lap and interact with them,” he says. “It creates a more vibrant and vital performance. You feel their energy and we feed off each other. Then, the band picks it up and the whole thing just builds. I always go around and touch shoulders. It creates more of an interactive experience for the audience. When you see a show, you don’t want to watch someone up there preening. They didn’t just come to hear me sing, they came for an experience. At my age, I want as many moments as I can get.”




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