New Songwriting Album!

Album to be Released June 30, 2012. Click here to pre-order

Somewhere in the Back of My Heart

It has been many years since my last outing as a singer/songwriter. My songwriting collections have been historically slow in issuing. Glacial, in fact. I usually make the same lame excuse: I do too many things, and therefore have to make recordings of all these things I do and songwriting and singing get relegated to the back of the queue. Most times, that would be true.

This time, it is not.

On August the 2nd, 2009 I fell asleep at the wheel on the way home from a gig in Cape Breton Island. I left the road at around 50 MPH and into a ravine. The debris trail from what was left of my truck was over 300 feet long. The three people in the vehicle with me sustained various injuries, nothing too serious. They walked away. I did not.

I was not belted in and in the crash, managed to break my spine against the corner of the center console of the truck. It was a serious fracture of L1 vertebrae, and was within millimeters of landing me in a wheelchair for the rest of my days. The next 17 weeks saw me trying to walk again with walkers, canes, back braces, etc., but mostly laid up in a recliner trying to find a way to be without agonizing pain. Luckily everything fused fairly straight and my back healed up and began doing its job again. I unfortunately, I did not.

The whole experience, and knowing how close I had come to both death and paralysis, left me shaken and doubtful. I basically got up one morning and walked right out of my own life. Never looked back, never regretted a thing. Just gave it all up and walked.

The almost three years since then have been filled with majestic triumphs, shattering lows, and a resurgence of the energy I had 20 years ago as a wide-eyed Nova Scotia hick seeing Nashville for the first time. I have literally transformed.

One thing I learned very quickly is the live performance circuit on this continent has changed. You now have to work three times as many shows to make the money you would have made for one 5 or 6 years ago, so in January of this year I formally retired from touring. I also celebrated my 30th year on the road at the same time.

Many new projects have arisen from that decision and it seems I am busier now than ever!

When it was decided I had to get to work on a new album, I found the process harder than I ever have! I sat in my studio for weeks trying to get outside myself and do something fresh and exciting, but as weeks turned into months I realized I was getting nowhere. Also I realized that the material I had to choose from was of a deeply personal nature drawn from the experiences I had, after re-entering the world. I had managed to fall into every pitfall imaginable as I stumbled my way through being alone again. I finally gave up.

Then like a miracle, my business admin guy, company partner, and friend, Darcy Campbell said: “Get your ass over to Jamie Foulds’ studio and make a record!!!” It was a simply brilliant command because Jamie had engineered and performed on “Another Morning” which was my biggest album ever. We worked together dozens of times since then and he knows me musically and personally better than just about anybody in the business. It was time to come full circle and stand once again in front of Jamie’s mics and see what he could drag out of the old bear.

The process was amazing!!! Suddenly I was in the booth with my guitar, just singing the song. Live. Off the floor. What you hear is what you get. With Jamie’s patient support and vigilant ears, he guided me through take after take of things until I finally let go of the world and just lived inside the song. It was a liberating and zen like experience. Then amazingly, friends started showing up to play, people I never would have thought would be interested in my stuff!! It was almost like an intervention, everybody just seemed to come in and lift me up, with encouragement, humour and love. I was so touched and moved by all of it. It was the greatest recording experience I have ever had in my life bar none.

It shows when you listen to this project. There are other things with me sometimes, but Jamie captured me at my most honest and vulnerable and kept me and my old guitar front and center though it all.

So here it is. Stories from my life, stories I’ve heard and felt, stories I’ve loved, a snapshot of one person’s life in a certain moment in time. A pathway to that place where I always meet all of you in the back of my heart.

Break from the Road

After touring steady for 30 years, I have decided to go back to the beginning and explore what made me want to be a traveling musician in the first place: the study and perfection of actually playing and producing music. Over the years, creation of original music and transposition of traditional music into my style has played a huge part in my success as a touring musician. Unfortunately–because of the restraints on time that touring creates–study, research, practice, and absorption of new music and styles has to be done very quickly. Very often a path is followed just long enough to get a usable work for stage. Given the opportunity, that path could be followed much further and produce even greater works. But those works will never see the light of day because so much time is invested in the rigours of being a professional entertainer that these pathways are forgotten after yielding only a fraction of what they could have.

My wish now, in my 43rd year, is to immerse myself completely in the study of my craft. I intend to focus all of the energies that have been elsewhere these past years on finding and stretching the boundaries of what is physically and intellectually possible for the steel string guitar, the fiddle, the banjo, and all of the instruments I play. My musical abilities are at a height in which my fervour for creation is boiling over. I continue to move further and further outside myself and my comfort zone as I self produce the recordings I am making now. My writing skills are sharp, subject matter is fresh, and the more freedom I can experience from the stress of touring, the more I expand and grow inside my own musical sphere.

Songwriting and collaboration is another sacred pair among my catalogue of “things to grow,” all of it harmonious. I have already had the occasion to record and work with some of the world’s finest musicians in recent months, relive and capture musical magic with old friends, and break new ground with up and coming artists who trade their inspiration to me for my advice and guidance to them. So far the journey has been wonderful and I wish it to continue.

I wish to go back and study the old masters and creators of that which I have made my living off all these years. I want to continue to marry the genius of Bach with the Cape Breton fire of Winston Fitzgerald. I want to blend the high lonesome sound of Bill Monroe with the popular contemporary music of today. I want to bring about the evolution of what and who I am as a musician and an artist, and let it be shown to the world. I want to inspire and challenge my peers and the youth coming of age in this business.

I want to spend the prime of my life doing what God made me to do—to create music and play, and for that matter, play the best I possibly can.

J.P