When COVID-19 struck in March, all of singer songwriter Damien Robitaille’s musical gigs got cancelled. He had been touring in Europe, but quickly cut short his work trip to return to his home in Longueuil.
With his children living in Europe, Robitaille found himself alone and with a lot of time on his hands.
“I had two options: either I could just sit at home be depressed or just do what I know what to do…sing, sing, sing,” he said.
So, to pass the time, Robitaille started posting videos of cover songs on social media. For the first 100 days of lockdown, he posted a new video each day. He taught himself the songs in one day, using his piano, drums and a shaker to make his music.
The quirky, but charming videos typically get a few thousand views on various social media platforms. His song choices ranged from everything from classics like Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody to Jump by Van Halen.
But this week, 39-year-old Robitaille posted a video that struck a chord with social media influencers.
He made a cover video of the popular 90s song, Pump up the Jam by Technotronic. His dog, Suki made an appearance in his video.
“The one perfect take was when my dog decided to pop into the scene and photo bombed,” he said. “I tried to keep a straight face and keep singing to the end. Then I was like, ‘Do I keep this? The dog ruins the video’, but then I think she helped to bring it to the next level.”
Former basketball player Rex Chapman, with one million Twitter followers, retweeted the video. So did actor Elijah Wood, and this week, Quebec Premier François Legault gave him a thumbs up. Robitaille estimates that the video was seen on all his social media platforms about 10 million times.
“I am so touched by the outpouring of love,” he said. “I’m also like finally finally it broke through. It took 137 songs for the dam to open up, and now the waters are flowing.”
The Franco-Ontarian Robitaille mainly sings in French, releasing a Christmas album last year.
But sitting home alone during the pandemic, with his children living in Europe, he got inspired.
He sometimes spends up to 12 hours a day learning the songs and recording his videos, all on his own. He often dresses up in costumes, because he says he’s putting on a show for his audience.
The songs don’t bring him any money. Robitaille says he simply gets joy from all the positive feedback he’s receiving.
“For me it’s a gift spreading joy and happiness for everyone. People need some good news in these dark times,” he said.
Robitaille doesn’t know what’s next for him. But he’ll keep posting his videos, hoping they bring smiles and a few minutes of joy to those who need it.