Sarnia guitar phenom quits Chemical Valley job for music biz

After his online videos were watched more than 150 million times, Sarnia’s Cole Rolland decided this year to become a full-time guitarist. Here, he’s seen performing with Illenium. Photo Credit: EMP Media.

Cathy Dobson

In a year of milestones, Sarnia’s Cole Rolland says his greatest was hitting an astonishing one million subscribers on YouTube.

“If this year’s proven anything, it’s that hard work pays off,” says the 26-year-old guitar sensation, whose online videos have been watched more than 150 million times.

This is also the year Rolland left his process operator job at NOVA to dedicate himself to music full-time.

“It was terrifying,” he admits.  “But it was the best decision I ever made. I had to go with my heart.”

Rolland is a self-taught guitarist who started playing as a kid, first on acoustic, then electric.

When his dad showed him a Van Halen DVD, “my jaw dropped,” he recalled. Combining live guitar and electronic sound became an obsession.

At age 15, Rolland recorded DragonForce’s Through the Fire and Flames, which was a Guitar Hero hit at the time.  He uploaded a video and the response was staggering.

Millions of viewers watched and urged him to share more.

Over the past 11 years, Rolland has distinguished himself as both a musician and video producer. That has prompted other performers like Illenium and Krewella to invite him onstage, and companies to make lucrative merchandising deals with him.

Most of Rolland’s energy goes into releasing one or two videos a month, primarily popular covers as well as some original tunes.

To date, he’s made 178 videos, some recorded at his home studio in Sarnia, many on location.

Cole Rolland with his 1,000,000 subscriber YouTube plaque.
Photo Credit: Colin Stevens

In this year of firsts, Rolland hired a manager to help develop his career.

He also worked with the Kiesel guitar company to design his first signature guitar, which he calls “a gorgeous piece of art.” It goes on sale in late October.

“That is a childhood dream,” said Rolland.  “It’s most definitely a milestone achievement.”

All the while, he adds an average 30,000 YouTube subscribers a month.

Rolland wrote his third EP during the lockdown, and he took singing lessons this summer.

In September, after reaching one million YouTube subscribers, he celebrated by singing on a video for the first time. ‘Every Time We Touch’ is a collaboration with Toronto singer Lauren Babic.

Catch his work at colerolland.com, on Facebook @CRCanada or on YouTube at www.youtube.com/colerolland

The Arts Journal reflects Sarnia’s cultural fabric. Send your ideas to cathy.dobson@thesarniajournal.ca