2019 - Year in Review 

Hi Friends, 

Happy Holidays! Happy New Year! Hope your 2019 was fantastic. 

With the year coming to a close and 2020 scheming in full swing, I'm feeling all kinds of things about the last twelve months - my first full year as a full time musician. I've been thinking a lot about the highs and the lows, the lessons, the losses, the wins, the tours, the long drives. Here's some highlights from 2019: 

Winter 2019: Head Stays Down + Tours 

Shows, shows, shows. In 2019 I hit the ground running, booking myself solid with shows across Ontario with Charlie Weber and Ben Heffernan, a couple of real gems. Touring in winter can be very unpredictable, but we made it to all of our shows safely, and played to some really great crowds. A big thank you to everyone who offered us a warm place to sleep, a meal, a place to park, etc. Means the world. 

On February 22, I released my third EP, Head Stays Down. I'm really proud of this project and I'm very grateful for the love it received. At the time of writing this the EP has over 30,000 streams on Spotify which is blowing my mind - that's crazy! 

Spring 2019: Across Canada 

             Union Station, Winnipeg MB 

Spring took me across the country as an "Artist on Board" for VIA Rail, along with some West Coast tour dates. I'll never forget the beautiful sights from across this magnificent country - the dense forest of Northern Ontario, the seemingly endless prairie horizon, the towering rocky mountains. I'm hoping to do this trip again sometime soon, as it was a highlight of my life. 

Summer 2019: East Coast Adventures, Festival Season 

                                   All smiles at Winnipeg Folk Festival <3 

The summer took me to the East Coast, one of my favourite places in the whole world to play music. I hopped back on the good ol' VIA Rail and played my way to Halifax, where I hung out for a few days with Ben and Sara, a couple of really cool couchsurfing hosts. I played live on Global News, then rented a car and drove around for a couple of weeks, taking in the sights, the sounds, and the seafood. 

After a couple weeks of East Coast meandering, I hopped on a plane to Winnipeg, MB to play at Winnipeg Folk Festival and take part in their "Young Performers Program". I was mentored by one of my all-time songwriting heroes, John K Samson. It was as amazing as I expected. I spent another couple of days in Winnipeg with my cousin Brian and his lovely family, played a ripper of a show at The Handsome Daughter, then flew right back home for some Ontario festivals and shows, including one of my all-time favourites at Sawdust City Music Festival. 

 

            Opening for Joel Plaskett in Truro, NS - Canada Day 

Fall 2019 - NERFA, Album, Crowdfunding 

By September I was ready to settle in at home for a while and work on debut full-length album. Slowly but surely we're making progress on this record, and I'm sure it'll be the best album I can possibly make. I'm so excited for you to hear it. 

In October, I launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for the production of this album. I'm pleased to say that it was a huge success, raising about 140% of my original goal. If you're a supporter, thank you infinitely - and please wear your merch to the next show! 

            Limited Edition Vinyl from Crowdfunding Campaign 

In November, I was lucky enough to showcase at the annual Northeast Regional Folk Alliance Conference (NERFA) in Stamford, CT. I had a BLAST driving down with Piper, Carson, and Saffron, and when I arrived I was blown away by the talent and the community at this conference. I will definitely be there next year. Highlight of the weekend was an epic Canadian jam in the wee hours of the morning (pictured below) 

What's in store for 2020? 

I'm excited to be kicking off 2020 with more performances and more touring, including a trip to NEW ORLEANS for this year's Folk Alliance. Can't wait! 

I'd love to see you at one of the following shows: 

January 2: Furnace Room Brewery - Georgetown, ON* 
January 3: Second Wedge - Uxbridge, ON* 
January 4: Painted Lady - Toronto, ON* 
January 11: London Music Club - London, ON^ 
January 22-26: Folk Alliance International - New Orleans, LA 

*w/Braden Lam and Brooklyn Doran 
^w/ Safe as Houses 

I will be working hard to release my new album into the world this summer, with a slew of Canadian and US tour dates. Be sure to follow me on social channels below to stay up to date! 

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Subscribe to me on Youtube! 

As always, a HUGE thank you for your support. Whether it's a simple "like" on one of my pages, showing a song to a friend, coming to a show, or buying merch, it does not go unnoticed, and it's the reason I do what I do. 

All the best in the new year! 

John

I Can Sleep Anywhere - New Single Available Nov 9! 

 

You have seen on social media that I’m releasing a BRAND NEW SINGLE on November 9th, and I absolutely can’t wait to share it with you. 

I Can Sleep Anywhere is a song that I finished on a VIA rail train somewhere between Montreal and Halifax. It’s a song about playing empty bars, sleeping on floors, and loving every minute of being an indie musician. This song is one of my favourites to play live and has been a staple in my setlist all summer. 

If you pre-save the single on Spotify, you will immediately get access to TWO never-before-heard demos. These are songs that just might end up on my debut full length, and I want YOU to hear them first.

 

PRE-SAVE "I CAN SLEEP ANYWHERE" HERE

Foundational EP - Track by Track 

After many late nights in Talbot College 345a with producer Alex Lam, I’m happy/excited/nervous/proud to present my second EP, Foundational. 

The goal this project was to incorporate a diversity of my musical influences and dive deep into introspective lyricism, in hopes of making sense of the last two years of my life. I wanted to make a statement that shows where I've been and how I've grown since my last EP, but also provides a foundation for me to continue to move forward.

Overall, I would say it was a success - it’s tough to look at your own art objectively, especially after listening to each mix an innumerable amount of times, but I feel that I’ve done my best. With the CDs in hand, it’s clear to me that all the blood, sweat, and tears were worth it. I hope that by sharing these experiences through music, I can affect others the way my favourite music has affected me. 

In celebration of the EP release, I wanted to do a little write up on each track to highlight some of the inspiration behind the lyrics and musical elements. 

Ambition: 

Independent musicians have a lot to do. Rehearsing, writing, editing, promoting, playing live, etc. 

I wrote this song after realizing that trying to be a great musician/songwriter/performer was taking away from other priorities, particularly certain relationships in my life. “Ambition” is a half apology, half reminder to myself to value what’s important. My favourite lyric: “We both got dreams but time don’t want us to”. I think it’s important to remember that everyone struggles with this, and we’re all fighting against time to accomplish what we want. 

Musically, I really wanted to write a short and succinct song, similar to a lot of Pinegrove’s early work. I fell in love with how addicting their two minute tracks are and wanted to try my hand at one. 

Doubts: 

About two years ago I went through a period of writer’s block. It went beyond not being inspired, I was questioning why I even bothered making music in the first place. I came to a point where I decided that I would have to face these doubts and feelings of inadequacy at some point - so why not now? From there the song sort of poured out of me. The song didn’t magically cure me of my self-doubt, but it serves as a reminder to me that I’m capable of overcoming them. 

The opening/closing line is among one my favourites - “My creative license, my artistic indecisiveness stifles me" 

Honeymoon Phase. 

The first time I fell in love. 

I unashamedly love the guitar part on this song - I’m still surprised that I wrote it. Alex and I collaboratively came up with the string part for this track and I think that it's perfect. 

Passenger’s Side 

This song was recorded at OIART after I was approached by a student recording group. I’m so happy with how this turned out, they killed it! We mic’ed up a grand piano and I still can’t get over how great it sounds. 

The song is about defying the feeling that the best days are behind us. I had this feeling as I approached the end of fourth year at university, seeing everyone I know go on bigger and better things. This monumental transition had me feeling many things at once, and Passenger’s Side came out of it. Essentially, it’s about moving forward, hopefully with someone special, as we all go on our own separate roads. 

Foundational 

For the last two years, I lived in a house with 4 other musicians, and everything about it was great. After a couple months of living there, being the moody songwriter that I am, I started writing a song about how much it was going to hurt when we inevitably had to move out. I started to think of all the other places I've lived in and moved on from, and Foundational was born. We finished mixing the song right as we actually moved out of the house, and it was an emotional experience for sure. This song will always remind me of where my foundation lies.

 

Listen to Foundational now! 

 

Passenger's Side Available April 6! 

My new single "Passenger's Side" will be available for stream/download on Friday, April 6th. The song was recorded at OIART studios with a group of extremely talented audio engineering students, and I'm very excited to share it with the world. 

Passenger's Side about defying the feeling that maybe our best days are behind us, and the appeal and romanticism of leaving it all behind. Follow me on Spotify to hear it first!

Canadian Folk Music Awards 2017 

This year I was nominated for "Young Performer of the Year" at the CFMAs. I spent the weekend in Ottawa to attend the awards ceremony, and stopped in to The Record Centre to play a show with Moscow Apartment (who ended up winning the award!) 

 

I felt very honoured to be there and hope to be back soon. 

New duo/new video! 

My good friend Jesse and I have start writing and playing together as "Bare Sierra" - here's a video of us doing what we do:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSPgyt6AV8s

My Year in Music 

Although 2016 had its share of negativity and tragedy, I am extremely grateful to say that it held some of the best musical experiences of my life. I was able write, perform, and listen to music with great friends old and new, and was given plenty of opportunities to grow as both a performer and a songwriter. 

This year I was able to share my music in some amazing venues with incredible musicians, I travelled much more than I ever have for shows, I recorded and released my first EP, and I shared the stage with some of my musical heroes. 
 

The first show I played in 2016 was at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto with Thrifty Kids and Angela Saini. Playing the Horseshoe was definitely a check off of the musical bucket list, and a great way to start the year! It was around this time that I started recording the EP.



The summer brought many more shows, a few of which I was able to play with Elliot Jarmain on Keyboard/Guitar/Vocals, and Jesse Bydevate on the Bass/Vocals. Playing with these guys is always a blast - they bring so much energy and depth to the songs.



I was able to release "Yesterday's Smile", my first EP on August 5th, with a release party at the Red Door, Georgetown's newest art gallery. The event was a success, and on top of the breathtaking performances by Sanjay Baboolal, Erica Knox, Lara Morrison, and Small Towns, we were able to raise over 600 dollars for CMHA. 

                    Receiving the CDs for Yesterday's Smile - a huge highlight of the year! 

Fall was easily the best part of 2016. Being a Western O-Week Soph (Student Mentor) I was able to play on the O-Week stage twice as part of opening and closing ceremonies, performing western-themed medleys to the incoming students. Closing ceremonies happened to fall on my 20th birthday. To my surprise, members of my soph team arranged to have the entire crowd sing "Happy Birthday" to me. It was a surreal experience and one that I will never forget.

                     Most of this O-Week can be described by green pants and smiles


A couple of days later, I sent a tweet to the Arkells, one of my favourite bands, jokingly asking them to play on stage with them. Somehow they responded, inviting me to play "Private School" with them at Western's "Purple Fest". Even today, four months later, I'm wondering how the hell that even happened! Shoutout to the guys in Arkells for letting me up there. Incredible. 

                    Having a moment with Max.

In October I attended the Folk Music Ontario conference in Ottawa as part of the Youth program. This was my first conference, and I was blown away by the amount of amazing musicians from across the country, and the amount of kind, supportive, and attentive people who cared so deeply about music. As the Taylor Mitchell Bursary recipient, I was able to have most of the financial burden lifted, which I am so beyond grateful for. I had the honour of meeting Taylor's mother, Emily, who is a strong supporter of youth music and was able to share so much about Taylor (check out taylormitchell.ca for more information about Taylor's story) . I played three sets throughout the weekend and was able to share the stage with my mentor, Graydon James of Young Novelists, and Anita Cazolla of The Lifers for my official showcase. I felt truly at home at FMO and I hope to stay involved with the organization for years to come!

                    FMO was incredible.

As the year came to a close and school became busier, I was not able to play as many shows as I'd like - but I was still able to keep myself busy .Three shows stick out in my mind, all in London ON. The "Festifall" at Huron College (featuring Millenials, P.S Always, A-Fos and the Rude Youth, The Elwins), a house show at my good friend Sam Boer's house, which featured Tragedy Ann and Raine Hamilton, and a Home County Music Festival fundraiser at the London Music Club which featured some amazing talent on a snowy Sunday afternoon. . 

                    Smiles with Braden, a great friend and a great musician.

I'm glad that I can stop for a moment over the holidays and reflect on the good times of 2016. A big thanks to everyone who came to a show, bought a CD or button, shared the stage, and offered me a place to play music. Wishing everybody a happy and healthy 2017!


So many people to thank this year - but I definitely want to give a shoutout to my parents and family for their unconditional support, Graydon James, Treasa Levasseur, Darin Addison, all of the folks in the Lifers for inspiring me so much, my housemates (Sunset Boys forever), Alex Foster - Roman, all of my friends from Georgetown, London, and anywhere else!