Cowichan singer Malakai catches the eyes and ears of James Taylor

Legendary singer-songwriter posts two videos of 11-year-old performer to Instagram

Malakai sings James Taylor’s “Steamroller Blues” in a performance at the Duncan Showroom that caught the attention of the legendary songwriter himself. (Screenshot)

Malakai sings James Taylor’s “Steamroller Blues” in a performance at the Duncan Showroom that caught the attention of the legendary songwriter himself. (Screenshot)

Legendary singer-songwriter James Taylor thought a young Vancouver Island musician’s cover of his song “Steamroller Blues” was so nice, he had to share it twice.

The five-time Grammy winner and member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame spotted 11-year-old Malakai’s video of “Steamroller Blues” on Instagram and posted it to his own account on Nov. 21. But that wasn’t enough. Nine days later, he shared the video again, adding an older clip of the Cowichan Valley resident performing Tom Waits’s “Martha,” and tagging the gravelly voiced troubadour.

Both clips, with Malakai on vocals and piano, were recorded during live gigs at the Duncan Showroom.

Malakai had tagged Taylor in his initial post, noting that he has tickets to see Taylor and Bonnie Raitt in Victoria once the COVID-19 pandemic is over. Taylor apparently did his own research on YouTube after that.

“Not only is it good that he posted it,” said Showroom impresario Longevity John Falkner. “The fact he reposted it, that meant he went back and watched the whole show. Then when he added ‘Martha,’ that means he’s looking through the Duncan Showroom archives.”

As of Dec. 1, Taylor’s posts of Malakai’s renditions had racked up more than 33,000 views, and counting. It’s a boon not only for Malakai and the Showroom, but also for the Cowichan Valley and its arts community.

“Now [33,000] people know that the Showroom exists,” Falkner said.

Taylor wasn’t the only celebrity to hype the “Steamroller Blues” video, as former Melrose Place star Daphne Zuniga reposted it from Taylor’s account with the comment “Dang boy!!!” and encouraged her fans to check out his other work.

The Oct. 29 show at which “Steamroller Blues” was recorded was a milestone concert for Malakai, marking four years since his first appearance on the Showroom stage at the age of seven. The prodigy has performed at the Showroom and other Cowichan Valley venues many times, and can often be seen busking across the street from Duncan City Hall during the Farmers’ Market on Saturdays.

The 70-year-old Falkner spotted Malakai’s talent early on and can’t wait to see where it takes him.

“I’ve known all along that Malakai was going to do something,” he said. “I want to stick around another 20 years to see where this kid lands.”

Malakai’s Instagram account can be found at @malakaimusician. The Showroom’s video archive is at youtube.com/DuncanShowroom

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