Spotlight - At age 61 London musician Doug Varty shows no signs of slowing down

Ask any musician in their 20s and 30s what they want to do for a living and the answer will likely be the same. Be a musician.

That’s the dream. But once the buzz of being the next new thing wears off, paying the bills gets tougher. If a child comes, keeping the diaper supply steady becomes a pressing thing. And if your name has been replaced by Next New Thing #493, then a day job looms.

London’s Doug Varty knows the script. After a career in rock and roll, Varty found himself in Toronto in the early 80s with bills to pay, not enough gigs to cover them and a child on the way.

“I was like everybody at the time. I was in one band and there was plenty of work for that band. When that change started to happen, I was in Lowdown, so I started playing solo as well.”

To pay some of those bills, Varty took on some film work in front and behind the camera, composing jingles and soundtracks. He also drove a truck, worked part-time in a record store, and a handful of other non-musical gigs.

“But it was really depressing,” he admits. “Because I wanted to be a musician.”

Paying gigs in Toronto were circling down the drain and it was about that time that Varty and his wife decided to move back to London.

“We would be closer to family and it would be more affordable,” he says. “Its easier to work as a musician in London in some ways."

“I made a conscious decision to play music for a living if I could. I wanted to be an example to my kids that they could follow their dreams. And it may not be what you imagined when you were 19-years-old or whatever, but you can.”

He formed a band upon returning to London and got the word out that he was a guitar-slinger for hire.

“I was playing in three bands in the late 80s,” he explains. “And then I would go out on jobs with other bands. I was able to work by making myself available for other jobs.”

“Being flexible is the only way for musicians to keep playing,” he shrugs.

Varty’s life is a testament to his theories. And at 61, he has no intention of slowing down. Rather he jokes that he’ll be continuing in music for another 62 years. “I don’t see any end in sight, really.”

His next step is to finish up his own disc by the end of the year and then touring for much of the next.

“I’m going to continue to raise my profile as an original artist, a guy named Doug Varty who does Doug Varty music.”

Varty has been playing for so long that the terms ‘icon’ and ‘legendary’ are starting to be tagged to his name.

Varty demurs but notes that, “You get to a point where it becomes a story in itself, that people say ‘You’ve been around forever but I’ve never been able to see you play.’”

To learn what Doug Varty is up to, visit

Bob Klanac is a London based music journalist who's penned hundreds of features and reviews, sat on a Juno Awards jury, and is currently a member of the Polaris Music Prize jury.


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