Singer/songwriter JJ Shiplett – described as ‘rugged, raspy and reserved’ – plays Fratters on July 31st.
His latest release, The E.P. came out at the beginning of February and quickly climbed to number three on the Nielsen SoundScan Canadian Country Albums chart and number eight on the overall Country Albums Chart.
The project resonates with an irresistible authenticity – each tune frankly comes right from the heart, particularly the slowed down reflective tones of Always For You to the powerful and superbly-crafted single Something to Believe In.
These songs will be re-released later this fall as part of a highly-anticipated full-length CD.
Shiplett was also direct support to Johnny Reid on the 47 show ‘What Love Is All About Tour’ and quickly gained momentum with The E.P. which again is a testament to his range and depth as an artist. 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 extensive tour.
Talk about a dream come true.
Reid literally called up Shiplett out of the blue.
“I was in the middle of doing a record and it really wasn’t going the way I wanted it to go – I was really fighting it. I was about to mix the record, and I got a call from Johnny,” he recalls. “So he did hunt me down – it’s really true,” he laughed. “We ended up recording a whole new record so I ended up going down to Nashville. We spent about 10 months doing a new record – basically we just re-recorded a lot of my songs that I had done.
“It’s one of those things when you are an artist and you want to start making some headway, you need someone to help you out,” he added of collaborating with Reid. “The great thing about Johnny is that it’s not like it’s about some guy who is just interested in making money – Johnny is actually interested in me succeeding as a human being and being a better person.
“And for me, that’s what I want. At the end of the day, I want to be known as a good person and I want to be surrounded by good people.”
As his bio points out, while Shiplett’s uprising may seem like a massive stroke of luck, he has spent the better part of 12 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.
And from the start, music was a primary focus of the family.
“My dad was a preacher at church back then, and he sang his heart out all of the time,” Shiplett recalled. “So from an early age, it was instilled in me that we were a musical family.” His folks first off signed him up for piano lessons. Then drum lessons followed, and finally the guitar came along.
All the while, a gift for singing was surfacing as well.
“When I was a kid, a family friend of ours wrote out the American national anthem,” he recalls. “I’m a proud Canadian, but that American anthem is quite something. Melodically, and its structure – it’s a very well put together song.
“So when I was about five, six or seven years old, I used to go out on the porch and I would just belt it out at the top of my lungs,” he said with a laugh. “So the singing was instilled at a young age as well. I always loved singing.
“And there is still nothing better than just being able to belt out a song at the top of your lungs.”
As a teen, he started playing in various bands with his buddies, and came all the more into his own as a musician.
It was during his teens that a knack for songwriting started to bubble up as well.
“I think from that point I also fell in love with the idea of songwriting,” he explained. “I didn’t really know how to do it – and I still don’t really know how to do it – just when you think you’ve got ahold of it, you get your (butt) kicked type of thing,” he added with a laugh.
“But I really began to dive into songwriting then,” he said, adding that he eventually ended up in a band with his older sister’s boyfriend where his craft for creating tunes really started to crystallize. “As I was getting deeper into it, I realized that, you know, there’s a lot of power in songwriting.
“You’re able to hold this power in your hand and touch people, and make them feel something that they need to feel or that they are supposed to feel or want to feel. You want to hopefully give them something more than the mundane that they may be living through everyday.”
Clearly, Shiplett indeed has a way with creating a song. As mentioned, each cut from The E.P. stands strongly on its own, and of course the project as a whole is striking.
Ultimately, the stage is clearly where Shiplett belongs, and one of the places where he feels most at home.
“I literally have my best pals on stage with me,” he said. “We hang out all the time, we’re really close friends – that’s the part that I love. I love getting up onstage with my brothers and playing music.”