I cannot think of another artist who can say a woman’s…
battle with terminal cancer is the inspiration for their latest song. One Thanksgiving; JonoJosh received a call out of nowhere, asking if he could offer anything (a song or prayer) for the dying woman. She had been given mere weeks to live. Not only did the song reflect that sense of sadness and loss – the woman in question survived a further two years – but it took on new meaning down the line. The Canadian songwriter talks more about the song, Chance, and whether there will be new material soon.
I ask him about future gigs and some of the musicians that have been instrumental to him; some fellow acts he recommends – and why Canada’s musicians are, right now, among the finest out there.
Hi, JonoJosh. How are you? How has your week been?
This week has been amazing. Thanks for asking!
It’s been thick with studio time - which is my favorite place to be. We've been making some stuff that I'm really excited about.
For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?
For sure. We like to call our music ‘Soul-Pop’. It has influence from Gospel, Jazz; R&B but, most importantly, it comes from the heart. Really, our music is art reflecting the world, reflecting art. So, we try to tell stories that may not have been told; give light to ideas that people can relate to.
Whether that means making a track that is meant to make you dance or a track that's meant to make you cry - either way, it's meant to do something.
Chance is your new track. Are you excited it is complete and what do you hope people take from the song?
So excited about it...
Chance is a song about hope. I wrote chance as a prayer, originally, but now I see it more as a mantra. When I listen to this song, it inspires me to fight for things that are important to me - and I hope it does the same for those who listen to it.
I know there is a rather tragic and upsetting tale behind the song. Can you explain where the inspiration came from?
A couple years ago, during Thanksgiving, I got a phone call asking me to pray for this girl who is in her mid-thirties who had just been diagnosed with cancer. My friend told me that this woman only had two weeks to live.
Not knowing this woman, personally, I didn't know what I could do - so I wrote this song. In reality, there are a lot of things that we can do. We can donate to research; we can go and be with the people who are patients. So, this song is about inspiring us to not give up.
The girl who was given two weeks ended up living for two more years.
Chance was completed four years ago – its inspiration passed and its meaning took on new music. Did the tragedy affect you so much – that’s why it was delayed – or did the song need time to evolve and breathe?!
I think the interesting thing about music is that you don't know the effect that it will have on people...
I wrote this song hoping it would help me understand and cope with death and, although I did share it with the family, it felt like a very personal process. But now I think, looking into the world, there are a lot of things worth fighting for that we, as a human race, need to give another chance to - which means that this song is no longer meant to be a personal song: it needs to be heard by anyone who needs another chance.
It took me awhile to realize that.
The video for the song has been completed. Can you reveal a bit about the storyline and what it was like filming?
Because the song is all about supporting each other; I thought it would be poetic to have contact improv. be the basis for the music video. Paul Barton and Jen Li are such amazing artists. Jen’s vitality has always inspired me. (Side note: you should definitely check out Paul’s E.P.). Paul is mainly known for being a producer/musician (he helped produce Andi’s projects) but a lot of people don’t know that he has roots in the Dance scene, as well - so they were my first choice.
Now for the story of the music video….
When conseptualizing this video, I sat down and I realized that most important thing I had to do was convey a feeling of hope. So, having that as basis, I decided to focus on shots that portrait people reclaiming energy from the world - whether it is nature or physically leaning on someone. So, that immediately meant that the backdrop was going to be its own character.
When talking about the location; I knew that I had to use this green space - because there is currently a fight going on for its right to exist. The Castlemore community had an event last weekend raising money to hire a lawyer to keep that area green - and I felt it would be the most fitting to sing this song with that backdrop. The filming process was shockingly easy I mean yes we did have to trudge through some pretty deep woods but I think it was worth it.
The shots that Samuel Dass took were exactly what I was hoping for.
Do you have plans for an E.P. or album in 2018?
We are currently finishing up a couple more tracks and are hoping to release them very soon. We will be calling it The Freaky Adventures of the Groove…so keep your eyes peeled for that!
How would you say your music has changed since last year’s Change EP? Are you a more confident writer or are you taking in new inspiration?
Being a writer is such an interesting thing because you never fully know when inspiration is going to hit: you just have to write the second that it does and sometimes you have to write - even if it doesn't. This year, I started a songwriters’ night - which artists like Andi, Landon Abram; Flash Teeter and the Men from Mars and one my favorite producers, Sebastien Valiente, attends.
The biggest thing we learned from doing that was that, even if you don't write something great; when you're trying to; sometimes the act of trying to will bring inspiration later. We have written...I have no idea how many songs during those nights this year…and quite a few of them have already been produced by different artists.
I am ecstatic to see what comes of them...
Andi is a songwriter we are both familiar with – I have interviewed her. Is there going to be a collaboration between you two?
It's actually quite funny you ask because Andi just finished my album-art for the E.P. - that Chance is going to be placed on. I am a massive fan of Andi and I am sure that someday soon, in the future, we will release another song together.
But, for all those waiting, there's still Caffeine and Take Down Your Guard available on Apple Music!
Canada is where you are based. What is the country like for a young musician? Is it a good place to develop and showcase your music?
I think Canada is one of the best places to make music because it is a melting-pot for style and originality. Not only that, but there is a sense of camaraderie in the music scene (in Canada). I have had the privilege to perform coast-to-coast and, although all the bands are very different, they all shared that same sense of camaraderie.
IN THIS PHOTO: Andi
Which new artists do you recommend we check out?
There are so many artists that I am a big fan of from Canada - but not just Canada – and from around the world.
IN THIS PHOTO: Tamara Madison
What tour dates do you have coming up? Any U.K. dates coming up?
I miss performing in the U.K. so much: I would love to be back.
Currently, I am in rehearsals for Grease Toronto starring the amazing Janel Parrish, Dylan Wallach and Katie Finlay (opening November 9th). The fly-crew is currently planning some shows for early next year.
So, fingers crossed, we can cross the pond!
If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?
Will.i.am - Songs About Girls
That album was so ahead of its time. Now, I keep hearing songs that rip off that album - and no one has a clue.
Son Lux - Weapons (E.P.)
I know it's just an E.P., but I have to say it, specifically because, Son Lux reinvented the same song so many different ways - and it left you at the edge of your seat the entire time. It's definitely a huge source of inspiration.
Lianne La Havas - Blood
Every song on that album takes me on a journey that I want to relive the second I'm done listening to it.
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
Write, write, write.
Even if things don't go well the first or tenth time: keep writing. Your art is yours to choose. Don't be defined by cultural definitions of what your music should be. Tell the story in your heart.
Christmas is approaching. Do you all have plans already or will you be busy working?
Christmas is my favorite time of year. My birthday is the 23r December, so that whole week is usually a never-ending amount of music and dancing. Last year’s Christmas, I had the privilege of working with the Pinball Clemons Foundation - to raise funds to build schools in communities that need them. Me and a few other artists got together and made an album to support the cause (What I Love About Christmas is available on iTunes).
So, here's hoping I get to be a part of something like that again this year!
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Tamara Madison’s SELDOM - which I also happen to be listening to right now!