By Lethbridge Herald on April 28, 2017.
Calgary country artist has built his career from the ground up
JJ Shiplett rode the crest of a massive wave opening for Johnny Reid on a cross-country tour last year and now the rising Canadian artist is straddling his own.
The Calgary-based 31-year-old spent months in 2016 with his band on a tour bus warming up crowds for country superstar Reid, an experience Shiplett is constantly being asked about, and one for which he is eternally grateful.
Shiplett, who performed after fellow Albertan Aaron Goodvin opened shows, wowed the Enmax Centre crowd here when he hit the stage. By then the veteran of more than a decade of performing, Shiplett showed a maturity beyond his years.
Now partway through 2017, Shiplett is making new fans thanks to his first full-length album “Something to Believe In” which dropped Jan. 27.
The album title couldn’t be more fitting for Shiplett who knows the frustrations of playing in front of a handful of people more interested in their beers than the performer on stage.
He and his band are well-accustomed to life crossing the Prairies in a van, playing whereever they can land work. After years on the road with the buzz about his career starting to grow, Shiplett truly has something to believe in.
Now in his 13th or so year of performing, Shiplett is finally getting the recognition his songwriting and voice deserve.
“I’ve done this long enough I know how discouraging it can be. But you’ve got to get your foot in the door and keeping pounding. You have to make it on the road,” said Shiplett in a phone interview from Calgary where he’s lived since 2003.
Shiplett believes to develop an audience, an artist needs to start building a career from the ground up.
“If I can’t get my family and friends to listen, how can I get my city to listen? And if I can’t get my city to hear, how can I get my province to?”
Local fans will get a chance to hear his music again on May 6 at 8 p.m. when he plays the Chinook High School Theatre, in a show sponsored by the Geomatic Attic, with Lethbridge’s own Leeroy Stagger. Stagger is on a roll of his own, with a new album called “Love Versus” out.
Tickets are available at Blueprint Entertainment and Mike Spencer Geometrics Ltd.
Born in Red Deer, raised in Ontario and Brandon, Man. where he became a huge fan of the Western Hockey League’s Wheat Kings, Shiplett said his band members joked on the Reid tour that every show across the Prairies was a hometown one because he had so many family and friends at the concerts.
Two weeks after “Something to Believe In” was released, Shiplett was pleasantly surprised that the audience at a Toronto show knew the words to his new songs.
Shiplett’s new music reflects his own diverse tastes — part country, part folk and all heart. He started writing as a teenager and as he’s grown older and more experienced, his work has matured like fine whiskey.
As an artist, Shiplett believes in playing not just the music audiences want to hear, but the music they need to hear.
“We as artists have something to offer; we’re not background noise,” he said.
“You get pissed off when people aren’t paying attention and I believe they leave a show richer after hearing you play your heart out.”
The response to his music “has been so incredible. People are talking and that means the world to me.”
“Something to Believe In” was a collaboration between him and Reid that started back in 2011.
For years, the two worked long distance and both in Nashville, where Reid is based, and Calgary.
“A lot of the songs were written over a pretty long time period. I recorded it so many times I figured out what works and what doesn’t.”
As audience response has shown, Shiplett is finding is own wave.
And the ride is just beginning.
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