RAW TALENT - JJ Shiplett plays the International Beer Haus on April 30th.

Calgary’s JJ Shiplett performs in City on April 30th

Singer/songwriter plays Red Deer's International Beer Haus

Calgary singer/songwriter JJ Shiplett brings his own unique brand of roots/rock to the International Beer Haus on April 30th.

Shiplett is hitting the road in support of his full-length debut CD Something To Believe In, released this past winter.

His last stop in Red Deer was at Fratters last summer, shortly before the establishment closed.

“The boys in the band – we all talk about this to this day – we played Fratters and it probably our more fun show of the year,” he recalled during a recent interview. “The place was packed, and everybody was on the same team. Everyone was there to listen to some music and to enjoy the evening together. It ended up just being a great night!”

Meanwhile, Something To Believe In, which was recorded in Toronto and Nashville, has been described as a, “Soulful and emotive collection of songs.

“It’s aesthetically minded and stubbornly unyielding, while at the heart, the self-penned LP combines honest lyricism with Shiplett’s impressive vocal range and effortlessly tracks the last two years of his story.”

The disc was originally slated to come out last fall, but that was pushed to this past January. So Shiplett and his band toured through the autumn and continued to introduce fans to the latest music. And the response was terrific, he said.

“Even though at the time we only had four songs out on the E.P., we were playing all of the songs from the record,” he said. “So people could start to get to know them a little bit. But now, we are all out there,” he added with a laugh. “It’s been an exciting time.

“The response has been so kind. The record debuted at number one on the iTunes ‘Singer/Songwriter’chart and it number nine on the general chart. So it did a few things that I wasn’t expecting. And then a couple of weeks later, I was out playing a gig in Toronto. I played a sold-out show – I walked out with my acoustic guitar and I didn’t know what to expect.

“Everybody sang along! I was like, what is going on here? How do you guys know these lyrics?” It was an awesome experience to be sure.

“Hopefully, people are still listening to it – that’s the most important thing, and spreading the good word to their friends and families.”

Described as ‘rugged, raspy and reserved’, Shiplett is often compared to Springsteen and Chris Stapleton. And the industry has been quick to take notice of his approach to making music.

Earlier this year, Shiplett also performed two shows at the SXSW Music Festival, which hosts a comprehensive mix of brand new, up-and-coming, international and legendary artists performing at multiple venues and locations in Austin, Texas.

Looking back, the aforementioned E.P. with several tunes now featured on Something To Believe In was released early last year. It climbed to number three on the Nielsen SoundScan Canadian Country Albums chart and number eight on the overall Country Albums Chart.

That project, as with Something To Believe In, resonates with an irresistible authenticity – each tune comes right from the heart, particularly the slowed down reflective tones of Always For You to the powerful and superbly-crafted title track.

Shiplett also had the opportunity to support Johnny Reid on the 47 show ‘What Love Is All About Tour’ last year.

The E.P. was also co-produced with Reid. After Reid heard Shiplett singing on another artist’s track he hunted him down and quickly offered a helping hand, taking him under his wing and working with him to rush The E.P. so that it would be ready for the start of the tour.

As his bio points out, while Shiplett’s uprising may seem like a massive stroke of luck, he has spent the better part of a dozen years working in the industry – touring, playing clubs and writing music – telling stories that mean something personal to him, like the uplifting track Higher Ground which was written after the devastating Calgary floods a few years back.

But a love for music was actually sparked early on. Now Calgary-based, Shiplett was born in Red Deer before the family moved off to Brandon, Manitoba. A love for music came early, and it was during his teens that a knack for songwriting started to bubble up as well.

Eventually he ended up in a band with his older sister’s boyfriend where his craft for creating tunes really started to crystallize. “For me, I’m trying to enjoy the fact that I have some great opportunities before me,” he said. “I have a great team between Johnny, Halo Entertainment and Warner. I have a great team around me – so right now, I’m literally in the ‘enjoyment’ phase.

“I love performing, I love getting up onstage and singing my heart out. Just getting up there and giving it everything I’ve got.

“I want to be the guy that every time people see me onstage, they go, ‘That guy is giving it his all, and it’s coming from his gut.’ We all know how fickle this industry can be, so right now it’s about enjoying every moment and making the most out of every opportunity.”

mark.weber@reddeerexpress.com