At 16 years of age, Leo Downey was drawn to nature in pursuit of an adventure, but left with a much deeper, spiritual experience.
It’s led to a life filled with outdoor experiences. It even drew him to move to his ranch in the Blaeberry valley from his birthplace in California, shunning a promising music career in the process.
Over the past several years, Downey has put his experiences down on paper in order to compile his first book, the soon-to-be released Soultracker.
He says his book is autobiographical, but instead of being written in a linear fashion, it’s more of a collection of experiences.
“It’s things I learned and things I went through and what they meant,” he said.
And it’s really that first experience that shaped everything.
Smack dab in the middle of his teens, Downey had no idea what a “vision quest” was, but that didn’t prevent him from having one of his own when he ventured into the California wilderness to an area that is known as the “Garden of Eden” for the west coast Chumash native tribe.
“It changed my whole life in a huge way,” he recalled.
“Every little ridge that I’d go over, it was like an adventure into a new kingdom.”
According to him, his story is best told with the right context, and he wasn’t willing to reveal exactly what happened to him during that first trip into the wilderness. The picture would remain out of focus without an adjusted lens, and that’s one of the reasons he compiled his experiences into Soultracker.
And fair enough. An experience so profound that it later lead him to ditch his burgeoning music career is not something that can be properly captured in a 500 word story.
Downey is well known in Golden for his laid back folk tunes and sharp lyrical imagery. For a time, he and his guitar appeared destined for fame but right when he was on the cusp of making it big, with an offer from Sony sitting in front of him, he walked away from it all.
“I felt like if I took it, I’d be selling my life to other people…it just didn’t feel right,” he said. “What was really weird was that it felt right to go into the woods and leave everything…it had this honour in it.”
Downey’s love of nature eventually brought him north to B.C.
“My first day here, I looked around and thought ‘Wow’. This is a place that still felt wild,” he remembered.
Years later, it’s clear that Downey made the right choice. He possesses a certain genuine sincerity, a desire for peace, that makes it clear that he belongs here, not anywhere else. This is where he’s most at home, living on a buffalo ranch surrounded by towering Rocky Mountain peaks, rather than in front of bright lights as a star in the music industry in California. You’d expect most artists who walk away from fame and fortune to show just a shred of regret. With Downey, it would come as a surprise if he’d ever thought about it twice.
“I feel like everything I’ve been through in my whole life has brought me to this exact point, and I’m true to myself,” he said.
Downey hopes to have Soultracker available for purchase by Christmas and has had conversations with Bacchus Books owner Caleb Moss about having a book signing and musical event, although a date for that has yet to be determined.