Making a home for local music

J.J. Shiplett on why Calgary is the perfect place for musicians.

Alexandra Rabbitte |

For many bands, the vision of success involves packing up their bags and chasing their dreams to a bigger city to pursue a record deal.

 For J.J. Shiplett and his band, friends and family come first.  He believes that there is no better place to pursue a music career than right here at home, in Calgary, Alberta.

“It’s not a big music scene, but it’s a pretty damn strong music scene,” says Shiplett who is currently working on his second record.

Rehearsals are three nights a week, in a high school where one of the band members teaches music The walls are lined with band posters and guitars, along with any other instrument one can think of. 

It’s not a big music scene, but it’s a pretty damn strong music scene
— J.J. Shiplett

Shiplett was taught how to play the guitar at a young age from his father, who taught him John Denver and Bob Dylan songs. He got his start performing in churches, which he gave up at 17 and began working as a solo artist. He has since then released 2 albums and is working on a third along with his band.

While many artists are looking for fame and fortune, Shiplett and his band keep focused on the art behind the music, and the energy that they receive from shows.

“I want people to go out to one of our shows and see someone that they haven’t seen in a long time, and give them a hug and have a shot together, and then I’ll have a shot with them,” Shiplett says.

The music can be described as folk, Canadiana, or country rock.

“ I tend to sing a lot of emotional stuff, I’m not much of a literal story teller-- I sing from my own personal experiences. It’s a lot of relationships, not necessarily love relationships or physical type things, but with friends and family and the situations we end up, “ Shiplett says.“ I want to sing with my own conviction that this is where I am coming from.”

The writing is literally on the wall in the case of Shiplett’s music, as a white board wall that is painted red occupies an entire wall of his downtown condo. While the lyrics don’t make much sense to an outsider, it’s clear that this is where the inspiration is compiled.

Shiplett spoke highly of the venues in Calgary that they play at including Ironwood Stage & Grill, Broken City and The Palomino Smokehouse.

Ironwood Stage & Grill owner, Pat MacIntyre feels all artists deserve their place in Calgary.

“I look at the people that have come through this place, like Tom Phillips and Dave McCann, and Steve Coffey, and JJ Shiplett—They come to perform, to have a good time and their hearts are in the right place,” MacIntyre said.