Patrick McWilliams wants to use his music, written from his own real life experiences, as a way to help people living with mental illness. (Noam Suissa photo)

WATCH: Langley artist defies naysayers to create ‘meaningful’ music

A Langley City singer, songwriter, and musician is overcoming adversity to enjoy a career in music.

Despite being classified as too creative for the public schools and not creative enough for Langley Fine Arts, Langley’s Patrick McWilliams wasn’t willing to give up on his deep-seeded passion for music.

Today, the 21-year-old Langley City resident is the frontman for an indie-rock band called The Cut Losses – which has been signed to a Spokane-based record label, is getting ready to release their first full-length album soon, goes on tour this summer, and opens for Paul McCartney’s son James on Saturday at the Wise Hall in East Vancouver.

McWilliams, who was raised in Cloverdale, was an outcast in school and told by his high school teachers that he had no future in music.

But the reviews he and fellow band members Duncan Lee, Andrew Fyvie, and Brett McKay are receiving now suggest otherwise.

Friend helped him realize his future

McWilliams recalled how his passion for music began the first year of high school. His neighbour and best friend was a drummer and invited him to attend a youth rock concert he was performing in at the Fleetwood Community Centre.

Lee also invited along his girlfriend to watch the show, and McWilliams said it was her reaction to Lee, the band, and the music that changed his world.

“I just knew that’s what I wanted to do,” he said, noting how vivid her enthusiasm and the power of that night still are for him.

“I had this extreme moment of clarity,” he elaborated. “It’s interesting how powerful that was… I had this overwhelming feeling… I knew that would be what I was going to do.”

Enter the world of Guitar Hero. McWilliams, still mesmerized by his concert experience, immersed himself in the video-based game that he credits with giving him a real sense of music.

Soon, he picked up a real guitar, then learned to play drums, and now can instinctively play almost any instrument.

In short order, he was playing in a few different bands and performing at under-age events at the Tunnel Nightclub, Roxy, and Rickshaw Theatre in Vancouver – first as a drummer, then a year in, focussing more on vocals.

Today, he’s the lead vocalist and plays guitar and keyboard for Cut Losses.

Rough journey to current successes

But his journey to this point was “definitely” rocky, to say the least.

At 15, he had a producer telling him he was “great,” but at the same time he was being milked for thousands of dollars to allegedly create an album that never came to fruition.

McWilliams admits he was naive. He got caught up in the dark side of the music world, and found himself overwhelmed by debt. He remembers 2014 as a bad time in his life where he was seriously depressed, more than $10,000 in the hole, his parents were divorcing, he was drinking to excess, and he landed on the outs with his best friend, Lee.

“I felt lost,” he said, noting he started busking in the hopes of rekindling his passion for music – like that first night he saw Lee perform.

Then, he said, another moment of clarity hit.

He started writing music in 2015, took a apprentice mechanics job to get out of debt, and began digging himself out from under.

He bought Garage Band on Apple, wrote his first song, Spending Time On My Own. He put it out on Facebook, and literally, overnight, his life changed.

The song he wrote for himself, that he didn’t believe would mean anything to others, apparently resonated with listeners.

By the next morning, the online media had embraced his song. And in short order, he was doing radio interviews and being invited to perform. Soon after that, he signed with a record label interested in releasing his new style of music.

About the same time, he reconnected with Lee, and the pair – who had never actually performed together in a band – joined up with the producer, spent two weeks in downtown Vancouver last May, and emerged with their first five-song EP called Lightning Dolphin, which was released last fall.

Since then, Lee and McWilliams have paired up with the two other musicians – from Moose Jaw – and have officially launched the band.

Given a career in music

Appropriately titled Cut Losses, the band is the result of McWilliams’ string of failed punk bands, the massive debt, unemployment, and a very dark time in his life, he explained to the Langley Advance.

“The Cut Losses frequently reflect on the feeling of isolation, and through their music hope to provide a voice for unity,” he said. “The Cut Losses want their music to get people dancing again, instilling fast-paced tempos behind dreamy textures and evocative lyrics touching on themes of outcast, fear of insanity, and acceptance.”

While paying homage to the 1970s, ’80s – and even Motown, McWilliams explained that their sound has been described as “retro-sounding to be sure, but the era that’s being evoked is hard to pin down.”

Whatever people want to call their style of music, McWilliams claimed Cut Losses is getting “high acclaim” and that has netted them a number of larger gigs in B.C. and Alberta.

“It’s given me a career,” he added, with a huge smile. “I never thought I’d be touring, opening for Paul McCartney’s son, and fronting a band… but I’m definitely an ambitious guy, so…”

He working on new music for a full-length album now, and envisions one day that Cut Losses will be playing to packed arenas across the continent and garnering “significant” radio play.

He doesn’t aspire to be a dancing pretty boy on stage entertaining the masses. He wants his music to reach people on what he calls a “meaningful level.”

“I hope to be an icon for people who felt the same way I did,” McWilliams said of his own struggle with isolation, depression, and anxiety.

“That’s what I hope to do with my music… to make people feel accepted… You don’t have to be a prodigy or classically trained musician to make it as an artist.”

He believes people can relate to his story, and he hopes to be an advocate for people living with mental illness.

“I don’t know the best way to help these people yet,” he said. But as the band’s popularity grows, McWilliams hopes to partner with some a few charities to make a difference in others lives the way his music has made a difference in his life.

More about the group is available on Facebook.