FLIN FLON -- C.C. Trubiak would have a hard time convincing fans one of his most popular songs, Prairie Boy, is anything but confessional.
"Head hung down in shame, it's plain and clear you ain't welcome here," the 34-year-old croons on They Say I'm Different, his 2011 debut indie-folk album.
So sums up Trubiak's childhood in Flin Flon, a normally welcoming community that failed to live up to its billing for the awkward gay youth.
Relentlessly bullied, Trubiak reached his tipping point while on summer break between grades 7 and 8. Twelve years were enough. He was out of here.
"I did not want to die," he recalls. "I wanted to live, but I wanted to do so without the fear of threat or violence on my life, without the crippling feeling of shame, isolation and loneliness -- all which seemed impossible. In my 12-year-old mind, I deserved the shame because I was constantly aware of my defect, my sexual orientation."
And so Trubiak tried to end his own life. After fate struck him down, he began a family-supported journey of healing and self-acceptance.
In high school, he started seeing a guidance counsellor, who would let him use her phone to call a social worker at Winnipeg's Rainbow Resource Centre, which supports gay youth and adults.
Trubiak also escaped into a world of music. The teen who could sing before he could talk spent hours in his bedroom crooning, writing songs and listening to records.
"I saw musicians as teachers, experienced in life and able to voice who they were through lyric and song," says the gentle, warm-voiced man with the thin beard and black-rimmed glasses.
When life grew overbearing, Trubiak would remind himself that once he was done with high school in 1997, he would leave homophobic Flin Flon in his rear view.
Which he did, moving first to Prince Albert, then to Winnipeg and finally to Ottawa. It seemed the further from home Trubiak got, the more comfortable in his own skin he became.
It was in Ottawa he finally summoned the courage to unleash his latent vocal gift, packaging it with a very personal message of hope and tenacity. Playing clubs and caf©s, he slowly fostered a fan base.
But music wasn't all that was on his plate. Compassionate to the core, a virtue that his harrowing childhood only strengthened, Trubiak studied social work at Carleton University.
After graduating in 2010, he scoured Ottawa for a job but found no takers. He was still pondering his next move when the phone rang. It was his sister. There was an opening for a social worker in Flin Flon.
Career-wise, it made all the sense in the world. Life-wise, the thought of going back home made Trubiak sick to his stomach.
When the inner conflict settled, he sent in his resum©. When he got the job, he promised himself he would stay for just one year, get the experience and get the hell out. But arriving in the summer of 2012, Trubiak discovered the Flin Flon of old existed only in memory. People seemed open-minded, thinking nothing of the growing number of men and women who were living out of the closet.
Just as impressive was the vibrant musical community that welcomed him with open arms. Soon he was performing at Flonstock, Flin Flon's big outdoor music fest.
In between work and gigs, Trubiak pieced together a followup to 2011's They Say I'm Different, an album called Tiny Army: The D. Holmes Sessions, due for an iTunes release soon (follow him on Facebook or at cctrubiak.com).
Having slayed his share of demons, Trubiak is as visionary as ever. What would it be like, he wonders, to enjoy that rarest of careers as a full-time musician?
It's not that Trubiak is eager to give up his day job counselling people. It's just that there is more than one way to change lives.
"Everyone's searching for something I believe they already have within," he says. "Resilience."
Jonathon Naylor is editor of the Reminder newspaper in Flin Flon.