Cormier appears from the shadows at the side of the stage—an unsmiling mountain
of a man in dark glasses—and stalks almost angrily to his seat in the
spotlight. He picks up his instrument, adjusts his mic stand and asks the
audience: “How’re ya now?” in a rumbling baritone.
starts to tell his story.
and melodies illicit every emotion you can muster as he paints picture after
picture of loves lost, towns disbanded, fishermen killed by their trade and the
most important moments of his own life. His voice is surprisingly sweet and
soft-sounding, completely unexpected coming from his 6’4” frame.
an instrumental on one of the five or six instruments he may have on stage with
him and you realize that this man is not just a singer or a songwriter. As his
fingers fly, with such speed and precision, upon each instrument in turn, you
get another picture—one of pure joy and boundless energy; total spiritual
abandon bordering in its execution on genius. It’s a word that is used to
describe him again and again.
as you think you’ve seen everything, he begins to speak to the audience. He’s
more comfortable now. He’s getting over the shyness he feels when meeting new
people. Now he feels he can connect safely. Opening up with a few one-liners,
he moves on to amusing anecdotes and true tales from his own past. Some bring a
roar of laughter from the audience that can be heard outside the theatre,
others bring a tear to the eye. He’s home now, his banter is easy as he draws
the crowd into each song and tune. The connection is complete and he is one
with his audience. Even behind his dark glasses, you can tell that he too sheds
a tear when his audience does.
J.P. has a
profound effect on audiences, but those who know him know his heart far exceeds
his stature. His acts of random kindness in and out of the music industry are
legendary. There are many stories of the “big fella” going to play for someone
on their deathbed, helping fledgling artists, or generally standing up for
people who couldn’t do it for themselves. He spent two weeks in the theatre of
war entertaining the NATO troops in Afghanistan and is always quick to do what
he can for a good cause. Maritime artists like Dave Gunning, Darren McMullen,
Douglas Cameron and many others have benefited from J.P.’s assistance and
patient guidance. His charity work is endless, once raising 4 tons of food for
Feed Nova Scotia. A man well aware of the plight of the needy, he celebrates
his birthday each year with a fundraising concert for Christmas Daddies in Cape
for J.P. have come from far and near over the years. He’s been described as
“the quintessential Maritime musician” and having “the ability to make the
brilliant appear effortless”. His early years playing in Nashville and the
southern states have earned him high praise from folks like long time pickin’
partner and collaborator Marty Stuart, who says, “He’s just incredible, one of
the best players I’ve ever seen.” Country music legend Waylon Jennings has
said, “I would be proud to share the stage with this man anywhere, anytime”,
and J.P.’s greatest hero, Chet Atkins has honoured him as “…one of the most
important guitarists of his generation.” Closer to home, former Governor
General of Canada, Adrienne Clarkson proclaimed, “What you have to say as an
artist is incredibly important and a treasure to our Nation” and Gordon
Lightfoot reveals, “I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Cormier.”
it all in stride.
has his ritual three beers before the show, and prefers to be outside the venue
where he can smoke and talk to folks as they enter. He’s either there or
hanging out backstage with the fans and fellow musicians who show up and don’t
feel there’s any reason why they can’t go right back stage and see him. There
are no real walls around J.P. and he likes it that way. This may be why he’s
stayed so far from the mainstream. He never wanted the barriers that great fame
brings between an artist and their audience. The people who listen to J.P.’s
music are his lifeline and his inspiration. One man’s simple story might
inspire the next great J.P. song. Another’s may be about someone whose life has
been changed by something that he wrote or played. He likes to hear about these
things first-hand. But if the compliments get too heavy, he’ll just look
uncomfortably at the ground and say, “I didn’t write nothin’, I just held the
With all of
that said though, his modesty belies a long list of accomplishments. J.P.’s
impressive body of work has earned him a vast and loyal fan base around the
world and he has played extensively throughout Canada, Great Britain, Europe,
and the USA. His songs have been number 1 hits on American and European radio
and he’s won 12 East Coast Music Awards, 5 Music Nova Scotia Awards, and a
Canadian Folk Music Award. His album, Another Morning, was nominated for a Juno in 1998 and has since sold nearly 100,000
copies. Performing countless times on television and radio, J.P. released 13 solo
albums since 1995 and won more than 30 awards in 20 years of fiddle, guitar,
banjo, and song-writing competitions.
In the 30
years since he made his first paycheck at a “Union” gig, going professional at
the tender age of 13, he’s traveled hundreds of thousands of miles spending
months at a time on the road. It’s no wonder he looks a little tired sometimes!
what you call him–genius, recluse, friend, foe, outgoing, unapproachable,
giving, kind, or thoughtful–there is so much more beneath the surface.
Celebrated as a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, recording
artist, teacher, collaborator, innovator, and award winner, J.P. Cormier’s
talent is comparable to none. He’s praised in superlatives, but even these
don’t do the man justice. The best way to get to know J.P. is to listen to his
music. That is where his real heart lies. It is a world where everything is
done fairly, no one wants, and there are no broken hearts allowed. In his song
“The Messenger” he speaks not from himself but something much greater when he
“I am just
I speak to every man
Every woman, every child
Who lives upon the land
My face is often hidden
Many do not wish to see
But when you’re in the mirror
Sometimes you look at me.”
Cormier is not to be missed. Stuff this good only comes around so often
The Messenger – J.P. Cormier Sings (2008) Noel – A J.P. Cormier Christmas (2008) Take Five – A Banjo Collection (2006) The Long River: A Personal Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot (2005) Primary Color: The Owner’s Manual (2005) Looking Back – Volume 1: The Instrumentals (2005) Looking Back – Volume 2: The Songs (2005) X8… a mandolin collection (2004) Primary Color
(2002) Velvet Arm Golden Hand (2002) Now That the Work Is Done (2001) Heart & Soul (1999) Another Morning (1997) Return to the Cape (1995)
Are No Longer Available Out Of The Blue (Out Of Print) The Gift
(Out Of Print) Lord Of The Dance (Out Of Print) When January Comes (Out Of Print) The Fiddle Album (1991) CBC UG 1003
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