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A Genius in Our Midst 

He should be living large. Instead, he’s a happily struggling artist. Why a pop-music destiny supersedes Canada’s top selling electric violinist, Dr. [Eugene] Draw.  By Lauren Festa
 
    Eugene Draw, front-man of the self-titled band Dr. Draw, is standing before an intimate crowd, speaking into a microphone, unnecessary considering the smallish room. He is trying to get some order and attention. There is a constant hum of people talking among themselves. The eclectic group, who range from actors to PR people, teachers and doctors and lawyers, students of math and philosophy and art, people in advertising and research development, musicians and artists; are almost in complete darkness, but they do not seem to mind. They make their way to a seat, spilling drinks and talking on. A petit Russian girl hands out a box of chocolates. After a healthy swig of what appears to be something between gasoline and vodka from the sour look on his face, Eugene Draw regains composure slightly and continues to address the crowd.

“Hello and welcome, everybody!”

 The crowd lets out a collective bellow of excitement. 

   “Before we entertain you, we would like you guys to keep in mind the rules. No smoking inside, no one stands in front of the place outside and no drinks outside.”

Everyone seems to be agreeable with this. On that note, Draw continues.

   “Alright, now the next song we’re gonna perform for you is something we’ve been working on only a few weeks. It was originally composed three hundred years ago by an anonymous composer.” 
   Draw, who has shared the stage with A-list acts like Seal and Bette Midler, now shares it with fellow band mate Eugene Tromsky. Tromsky hunches over an electric cello, keeping the bass line, while Eugene Draw lays his melodic mastery overtop. About thirty seconds into it, there are audible giggles as people begin to recognize the tune. The ‘three hundred year old song by anonymous’ is actually a classical rendition of Aqua’s “Barbie Girl.”

Some get up from their seats and dance.

   For Canada’s top selling electric violinist, this is his idea of perfect night off. The small shows/parties he hosts are for an invite-only, exclusive select few. Draw likes to bring people together for a bit of music, a bit of wine and even a bit of dancing during the week. The nine to fivers get to experience a night of what he calls ‘cultural debauchery.’

    Inspired from boredom of the nightclub scene, in which Dr. Draw spent most of his formidable twenties, the almost thirty year old has re-evaluated the meaning of time. For Draw, time spent in a club is time wasted. He does not understand why people continue to settle for terrible entertainment – top 40 DJ’s, drunkenness and degeneracy. That’s why he’s created an interesting venue for interesting people who want to have a good conversation, without all the superficiality of the club scene. The people who come are of all different personalities, lifestyles and education. “Everyone is cool,” Draw says. “There is no pretention here. People feel free to do and think and say what they like.”

    Since relocating to Toronto from Montreal in May 2008 to be closer to his parents, things have been, well, different. At first, the sudden change was hard on Draw. “It was rough, in the beginning, when I first moved back to Toronto. I had left my old party life behind, responsibility started to settle in. I had no band, my product was dated, and I had no contacts in Toronto.”
 
    When Draw was 21, he was a fearless firecracker, and impulsively decided to pack up his belongings, which consist of some clothes and his violin. He left his parents’ home in Toronto to move to Montreal.  Here, he makes a name for himself and quickly becomes the ‘it’ boy of the Montreal party scene. “We partied, sure, but we worked even harder. What saved me is my work ethic. I was composing everyday. I’d sit at my keyboard, sometimes for days at a time, locking myself up in the apartment.”  Especially during cold months, as Draw is not amicable with Montreal winters.
 
    In a span of six years, the band hammers out three studio albums (The City, 2002, Train 64, 2005, Adagio, 2007) all of which end up on the SoundScan Top 30 for album sales. Dr. Draw begins to gain international exposure. He performs at a Louis Vuitton party in New York City, and is so good, that he is invited to work for the luxury brand in Hong Kong. As one writer for the National Post says, “[Dr. Draw] has seemingly become as indispensable to this upscale brand [Louis Vuitton] as its handbag line!”

    “One time I played a show with Bon Jovi, and we ended up at the after party. Richard Sambora comes up to me and is like, ‘you know, you play the fuckin’ violin like Hendrix plays guitar!’ “That was pretty awesome.”

     Who would figure a skinny kid from Moscow would come to Canada and fiddle his way to the top? “I started working out,” Draw jokes. 

     Born to a prima ballerina mother, Eva and controversial psychiatrist father, Valentin, in Communist Russia, Draw was immersed in a world of theatre, music and drama. He learned the power of performance from his mother. “I taught him to be free” she says. “Only when you are exactly sure of yourself, you can harness the control…you put the audience in the palm of your hand. You own the stage.”

     He arrived in Canada when he was seven years old. His parents sought to enroll him at the Royal Conservatory of Music. But the rigidity of a schedule is something Draw would never adhere to.  Instead, he traded classrooms for busy street corners, where he was free to improvise and experiment. “The name doctor is from my fans and bona fide,” he says.  “When I used to busk, people on the street would pass me by on their way to work, you know, business types, they called me ‘the doctor.’ They said I had a gift to cure the common blues.”

    It seems as though Eugene Draw has always been more concerned with the morale of the people than with his own personal successes.

    “It’s not about how much money I make or don’t make. I could never put out a product I wasn’t proud of. Every melody, every song comes from a real life experience or emotion. And when people respond, when they can share that with you, that’s the most rewarding thing.”

    Despite his enormous talent and measurable success, it hasn’t always been easy for Draw. He’s been dubbed a fraud because his albums don’t carry the same effect as his live shows.  He explains that, “…you can’t capture a live show in a recording. When you’re in the studio, you’re thinking, sitting down, and arranging things. It’s not organic. Of course the live shows are going to be different. They should be.”  Indeed they are. On stage, Dr. Draw is a blur of sweat and blond hair, his cartoon eyes bulge, as he shreds his violin bows, playing electrifying sets, wowing crowds with his energy and his trademark jumps.

    Besides, Draw thrives on the hardship. He hates routine and loves the chaos of never knowing where his adventure might lead next. “Comfort is poison,” he says. “When people get too comfortable, they stop growing because they don’t have to work as hard as they once did. They stop progressing.”

    And though he may never reach super star status, Eugene Draw has something a lot of people only dream about. “I get to do what I love, every day. I’ve made a living off my art. I’ve never had a day job in my life. How many people can say that? It’s not a glamorous life, but it’s meaningful and it’s fun. It’s busy, and beautiful, and mine.”
    Somewhere on Bloor St. W., Draw locks his bike and unlocks the door to his basement studio. Pictures of past parties hang on giant poster boards.  A narrow staircase opens up to a big blue space. There are chairs and couches and tables and wires.  Fans are turned on to circulate the air. Brief whiffs of a rotting pumpkin, forgotten from a Halloween party, mix with tobacco smoke and latex paint. Draw comes here almost every day. His studio is his haven. He likes his peace and quiet, whenever he can get it.

    A Mac computer buzzes, an iPhone rings non stop. Two monitors give off a steady beat of a metronome. There is feedback from a microphone.

    Draw is in ‘practice mode.’ He pulls out his instrument from a Burberry case; he preps the bow with rosin; he carefully tunes; sounds emerge; scales, staccatos, vibratos, tremolos. Face tense, eyes closing periodically, fingers gliding effortlessly as he paces around the room. Complete solitude, just him and his music. For Draw, a perfect moment.

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