Oscar Tecu remembers two things from his childhood clearly. He remembers boarding a plane and flying to Fredericton from Guatemala as a political refugee and he remembers his childhood home in Fredericton always being alive with the sound of romantic Latin-American music by Luis Miguel, his mother always dancing nearby.
Now as a local musician in Fredericton with two released albums, he said he often reflects on those memories as forming him and his music.
“I think because my mom was a very romantic person . . . I also became a really romantic person. The easiest thing for me was writing about love. It’s a huge thing in terms of my [lyric] writing.”
Tecu said he wasn’t a musician right away. He hated the Luis Miguel music that flowed through his house and when his family signed him up for guitar lessons, he dropped them.
But, in the summer months before high school, he saw a concert in Fredericton by Juan Martin, a Spanish guitarist, and all the memories of the good times came rushing back to him. In that moment, Tecu decided to save up to buy his first ever electric guitar.
In the summer of 2007, he listened to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Beatles, while working at Burger King to save up money to buy his first electric guitar, a Fender Strat.
He was the youngest worker there, which meant he got the tasks nobody else wanted. As soon as he earned enough money, he went to the local Music Stop, now Long & McQuade, laid his hands on the classic sunburst orange guitar and put in his two weeks notice at Burger King.
He had been looking forward to that moment for months.
“I just got home and I learned a new song. That was the immediate thing that I did.”
In his final years of high school, his band entered and won the Battle of the Bands competition twice. The experience encouraged Tecu to continue playing.
The competition happened in the Tom Morrison Theatre at the Fredericton High School. It’s still one of the biggest crowds he’s played in front of.
“My best friends were the friends I made my first band with . . . in Grade 10,” said Tecu.
“It was just so much fun to compete.”
A journey through the Canadian music scene
Tecu said he’s always trying to improve his music. Instead of pursuing post-secondary education, he went to Toronto to be with his girlfriend.
He wanted to get involved in the music scene there, but after a year, he moved back and started his first band.
“It’s hard for music not to be a part of your life [in Fredericton]. It’s a perfect place to get involved.”
Tecu wrote melancholy lyrics for his new band Nuages after moving back from Toronto. Three years later, Chillteens was born. In this band, Tecu started to draw more inspiration from his childhood and focused on writing more cheesy, romantic tunes.
But playing in bands was never enough to pay the rent, even when he played at festivals and sold approximately 100 tapes of Chillteens’ latest album, Sweet Songs. Tecu said he was always working odd jobs that were “leading nowhere.”
So he stole some school supplies from his younger sister, who attends high school at École Sainte-Anne, and headed to school for the first time in seven years.
From musician to student
Tecu was skeptical at first. He wasn’t sure what to expect when he walked into his first class, Voice Technique, at St. Thomas University.
“It was such a cheesy idea for me to think about. But I went in there not knowing what to expect . . . and the person teaching was really excited. He was like, ‘Here, you’re going to find your voice.’ And I [was] like, ‘Yes, that’s what I need.’”
Much of Tecu’s life has been a journey — from Guatemala, to Fredericton, to Toronto and then back again to New Brunswick.
Now, he’s journeyed back to school in pursuit of a subject he loves.
“I think music . . . is helping me find myself again,” he said.
“It brought me back.”
Tecu’s memories of a house filled with Latin-American music seem far away at times, but those first memories gave him the inspiration to write and play music.
“There’s so much that I don’t know that I’m excited to learn about and then use that knowledge to put it into my everyday practice of music.”