JAD is one of those singer-songwriters that can be described as the classic troubadour, who writes songs from the heart, and sings them with a naked kind of truth that stabs you right in yours.
The first time I caught his performance was by pure luck. He was the opening act at a show I attended a few months back. I was swept away in the cadence of his songs which travelled through soft and strong intensities, both instrumentally and vocally. There were switches from gentler acoustic guitar melodies to distorted electric guitar progressions, complimented with an equally versatile vocal style.
After witnessing that first performance, I suspected he’d been a musician for quite sometime. Although only 22, he carried an air of old soul experience in his songwriting and confidence in his playing ability and vocal delivery. I spoke to JAD about his lifetime of musical discovery, interest, and study which would lead him to sprout early into becoming a musician with his first band at the age of 15 called Tall Trees. Now a solo artist, it’s not surprising to learn that the late great American singer-songwriter, Elliot Smith, has been one of his biggest musical influences. In fact, his description of Smith’s music is precisely the way I would describe JAD’s:
“It didn’t get serious until middle school where I realized I wanted to go to Canterbury to study music there. When I was a kid, I got into whatever was popular at the time, but it was my dad that opened my musical palette with bands like Led Zeppelin. In high school I began listening to different stuff and was struck by bands like The Black Keys. But my all-time artist I love listening to – that I’ve been listening to since I’ve been 14 – is Elliot Smith. I’m so overwhelmed and influenced by his music and the way he communicates through it. He inspires those very simple melodies that are also sophisticated that provide a lot of emotion.”
JAD recently released his first independent solo album Still Life in July of this year. Its 11 tracks feature a barebones-style recording that has captured his pure vocals and raw guitar work front and centre, with some musical and production help from friends Peter Klaasen and Jensen Grant (both of Old Man Grant). The melodies have a melancholy, sometimes haunting yet sophisticated quality, with lyrics that speak of love lost, depression, and a delving inside for answers… or as he states in his album’s subtitled description: “Thoughts, observations, musings, moments. The things I’ve said, and the things I haven’t.” JAD talks about the album:
“The songs really took on even more meaning and came together when we started recording them. The entire album was borne out of this past year which brought forth a lot of sudden and unplanned change in my life. I felt removed, like I was on the outside looking in. I had come out of a committed 5-year relationship, to finding myself, and into navigating certain social interactions and circles. Some of it’s just observational, reflecting on me, other people, and the human condition as a whole. The whole thing was sort of a catharsis for me.”
“I find Ottawa has really been stepping up with new venues and what they’re doing… places like LIVE! on Elgin, Bar Robo, Pressed and others that are spearheading that sort of professionalism in supporting the local scene.”
The newfound chemistry with Klaasen and Grant was just the thing that awoke him from the temporary slumber of depression and creative dormancy he was in. Songwriting juices were resurrected, new goals achieved with more on the horizon, and a growing number of opportunities have continued to present themselves with every step forward. Now with the new album, and a recent relocation to Toronto, the ball is in motion to further his career. And even though he has been immersed in music for most of his life, I think the beginning of his real creative bloom has only just begun. JAD opens up about the move, and the difference in the music scene:
“I moved to Toronto in early June to pursue music there, but I’m back and forth so often it’s almost like I never left. It ended up that as soon as I left, I started getting offers to do shows in Ottawa. As I get acquainted with venues, owners, and local acts in Toronto, it’s nice to be able to go back to Ottawa and have that connection here. I feel like Toronto is like what Ottawa is becoming – which is a good thing in my opinion. I find Ottawa has really been stepping up with new venues and what they’re doing… places like LIVE! on Elgin, Bar Robo, Pressed and others that are spearheading that sort of professionalism in supporting the local scene. As far as reception goes, I find the audiences are very similar, although its more of an individual thing…people will be different from one show to another… Toronto’s just a little bigger is all.”
JAD performs two sets on Saturday September 16. First at Aroma Espresso Bar (200 Marché Way) from 2–2:30pm and then at Irene’s Pub (885 Bank St) from 3–3:30pm. Visit jadmusic.ca for more about the band and see cityfolkfestival.com for the complete Marvest series schedule.