His fingers glide up and down the guitar’s neck, his voice as smooth as jazz. “Music is medicine to my soul,” says Colville Tribal Member, Tony Louie. “It’s how I learned to cope with everyday life.”
At twenty-six, Tony’s making an impact on and off the reservation.
His interest in music didn’t really come about until when in sixth grade his brother, Cary Rosenbaum, enticed him and two other brothers, Chad and Austin, to sing in the rig. Cary challenged the boys to sing along to country hits, harmonizing parts. “I seemed to pick it up quickly.”
But his love of music stems from this grandmother, Delores Shaffer. At fourteen, Delores sat Tony down at her piano and played classic country hits that include: Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and “The Boys.”
Grandma Delores would write out the lyrics and cord and start playing. With no sheet music in front of him, Tony played by ear alongside his grandmother. She listened and corrected a wrong cord here and there, helping to hone a young man’s budding craft. “This was my first band.”
As a young boy, he followed his singer-songwriter mother, Chris Shaffer, and guitar-player father, Bob Louie, around as they played music at various events. “Music’s in my blood,” he states during our phone conversation.
His mother had bought him a computer program and from there, he taught himself to play the guitar and has never put it down, practicing daily.
After four years of secrecy, Tony finally allowed the public to know he played and sang, and he began his journey, sharing his gift of music. As a freshman in high school, he gathered the nerve to play in front of his friends with the guitar once owned by his father. The guitar he uses today.
The first time I heard Tony Louie sing, shivers raced down my arms and around the back of my neck. His voice anchored its soulfulness into my heart, where it continues to remain.
A chuckle came over the line when I asked him to share his favorite music genre. “Outlaw country.” He likes most styles but admitted, “It’s nostalgic and brings me back to family.” A deep sigh. “It’s home.” This stems from time with his grandparents and family. Although he likes classic rock as well, which his mother influenced.
Tony loves to encourage budding artists. His message for youth is, “Learn to play and be persistent.” He says that even with his musical gift from God, there were plenty of frustrating moments in the beginning. “Don’t give up and practice every day.” And he means every day.
He encourages youth to follow their passions––no matter what they are––and to not allow other’s opinions to get in the way. “Progress and look back and check growth.” I think that’s advice we can all use, don’t you?
As far as stage fright goes, “The first time I played at the TLT, Twin Lakes Tavern, was in high school. I was nervous, but when I began, my dad and his friends, you know, the Brothers, they got up and danced. It was comforting and encouraging for me.” That was the last time nerves stung Tony Louie.
“I’m somewhat of an entertainer. I like to interact with the crowd.” He admits to feeling quite comfortable on stage.
He hopes to bring an authentic voice to his music, even singing cover songs, wanting his fans to feel moved and connected to both lyrics and melodies. Tony is currently in the process of gleaning studio time, cutting some of his own songs, which he states, “Are deep. I’ve always been a deep thinker, which I used to see as a curse but now see it’s a blessing and use it to my advantage.”
To sum up his connection to music comes from Merle Haggard’s song, Lonesome Fugitive. “He who travel’s fastest goes alone.” It was also Grandma Delores’s favorite song. She used to tell Tony, “Don’t go so hard and fast you feel alone. Stay connected with your family. Get with loved ones and recharge.”
“Like I said before, music is good medicine.” His conviction floated through the phone line.
Tony Louie plays for any occasion.
Find him on YouTube