Charismatic, charming and casual. These are three words that could be used to describe Winnipeg pop singer-songwriter J.P. Hoe to a T.
J.P., on stage at Moncton’s Capitol Theatre on Wednesday evening, is currently touring behind his fifth full-length effort, Mannequin . Released in May 2012, the record has garnered much praise from media and fans alike who have been effortlessly drawn into his sharp, charming songs with a voice as ear nest as some of pop’s finest heroes.
J.P. has performed throughout Canada, the United States and Australia, all as an independent artist. Being a seasoned traveller, one might believe that a Canadian citizen might know better than to try to tour during the winter. While late winter might not be the most optimal time to hop onto the Trans-Canada Highway, J.P. says he takes a certain comfort from being on the road at this time of year.
‘You know, touring in winter, it is what it is,’ he says. ‘It is something that is uniquely Canadian, though. In America, winter doesn’t exist in the same ways it does in Canada. And though you never really know what kind of weather you’re going to have day-to-day when touring through the winter, it still somehow manages to feel normal.
‘As an artist touring in the winter, you value people who come out to your shows that much more, as well. After all, they have to walk a few blocks or get into their cold vehicle to come see a show. How can you not appreciate that? It is always nice to see places in the summer but seeing cities in the winter is somehow even more special.’
As a teenager, J.P. says his sister was responsible for instilling his love of celebrated folk artists such as Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. While it was nothing that commercial radio was routinely spinning as he grew up, he says that the music spoke to him in ways that no other music had.
After graduating from high school, J.P. moved to Europe for a year where he began to pursue songwriting a little more aggressively than he had done in the past. He found employment with a radio station there and used some equipment he found at the station to help make what he deems ‘the worst record ever.’ Despite his distaste for the album, he leveraged it as his calling card to tour throughout Europe. It was a show performed to more than 300 people in France that had him ponder whether music could indeed be a full-time thing for him.
‘After I came back to Canada, I had the choice to go to school or I could work to develop my songwriting craft while I was young. I figured the latter was the more practical thing. I was really drawn to the idea of being my own boss and being responsible and accountable for my success. It was those things that really appealed to me.’
As many other artists have done before him, each of J.P.’s records has seen the artist evolve in different ways. From that maligned European recording through recording a holiday-themed EP and a live effort, J.P. has matured with each passing album. Not surprisingly, he says that Mannequin is the culmination of the four releases that preceded it.
‘To me, making Mannequin felt like the thesis of all of my previous records because each of them was great learning experiences in their own right. Going into the making of Mannequin , I found myself feeling more confident in my songwriting with this batch of songs more so than anything else I had done. I knew that I wanted to make a record that was tighter than anything else I had done in the past. I decided that it was time to be accountable as a producer and push back with my opinions and make more in the way of decisions.
‘I have been doing this long enough that I like to think that I know what I am doing. If anything was going to happen with my career, I would love for this record to be the spark. If I died and wasn’t able to make any more albums, I would feel very proud that this was my final release.’
In fact, J.P. feels so strongly about Mannequin that he foresees continuing to promote the record for another year.
With each achievement he racks up in his career, including being added into rotation on national radio as well as releasing a video for his song ‘Nothing’s Gonna Harm You,’ J.P. set his sights on raising the bar to outdo himself.
‘I look at this as a job. It is something that I take rather seriously,’ he says. ‘I don’t want to compromise on what I want to do. I want to do everything to the very best of my ability.
‘I am a fir m believer that there is a big market for my style of music. It is really just a matter of finding it and having the right people find it.’
Article published in the February 25, 2013 edition of the Times & Transcript