By Tuvana Sahinturk
Ottawa is home to international award-winning blues act HOROJO Trio, who got together in the aftermath of an unusually long jam session during a charity fundraiser.
“We just started playing and we didn’t take a break. We played for like two hours straight because we were like, ‘this is really fun’,” said Jeff Rogers, singer and keyboardist for the trio.
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Playing together quickly became easy.
“We decided to do extra music for nothing. They didn’t even pay us to do a two-hour set, which means you know the band is having a good time. That’s how you know, when the band plays extra.”
Apart from their once-in-a-lifetime chemistry, what sets out this soul rockin’ rhythm & blues band is the fact that each member brings unique skills to the table. They are nothing like you’ve ever heard before.
“We sound completely different from any other blues band I know of,” said JW Jones, the trio’s guitarist.
Jeff, the voice of the band, is a soul singer who can sing anything from country to pop to R&B. He also plays the keyboard bass. Drummer Jamie Holmes’s background is in New Orleans-style drumming and jazz, while JW plays traditional blues guitar.
“Those three parts combined to make us what we are and to me, that’s what makes me most proud, is that we have a unique sound,” said Jones.
The trio also has strong roots here in Ottawa. They believe this town has given them much more than they could ask for.
“We owe everything to Ottawa… I certainly played in cities all over the world and I actually would always choose Ottawa, for many reasons. It’s offered us incredible opportunities,” said Holmes.
“We owe everything to Ottawa.”
Ottawa has a big blues scene and a strong infrastructure. There are many organizations in town that make this possible, but perhaps the biggest one is the Ottawa Blues Society. The Society’s mission is to support the blues community in town and bring them together through many outlets, like the “Road to Memphis” competition, which selects a winner who gets to attend the International Blues Challenge (IBC). The IBC, run by the Blues Foundation, is the world’s largest blues music competition, which hosts over 200 talents each year.
“If it wasn’t for Ottawa Bluesfest and the Ottawa Blues Society, I don’t think there’d be a HOROJO Trio,” said Jones.
The trio won the IBC in 2020. It would generally be an international stepping-stone in any artist’s life, but everything has come to a halt for our performers due to the current pandemic.
“When we won that competition, that was literally the start, like COVID had just hit North America that week. So, as soon as we won, you know, we’re kind of on top of the world as far as the blues scene goes. We had a whole summer lined up with really high-profile gigs, so that was really going to be our summer to capitalize on this success that we had,” said Holmes.
Unfortunately, the current scene in the entertainment world held the band back from stepping into what would be the next level in the industry. The trio had to cancel many dates, including their performance at the Chicago Blues Festival.
“I think a lot of people are hungry for music right now, given the state of things.”
However, this did not keep them from finding a silver lining during these unprecedented times. Ever since the pandemic started, the band has been performing online and taking part in live streams on platforms like Can’t Stop the Blues, an international virtual blues venue which gives listeners the chance to tune in to shows and interact with musicians.
“Once we switched to the online streaming where that’s available all across the world, there’s people in Vancouver, they’re like, oh cool, you know, they’ll check it out, because they know somebody who’s affiliated with whatever venue is putting on the stream,” said Rogers.
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“So it broadened our base of people who know who we are and will listen to our music, and it’s been largely positive. I think a lot of people are hungry for music right now, given the state of things.”
The act is preparing for the next step in their career now: Nashville, for the long-awaited HOROJO record. They will be working with multiple Grammy-winning producer Tom Hambridge.
“We’ve got to swing big. We’re not going for a double, we’re trying to hit a home run. So, let’s go to Nashville, work with a Grammy-winning team, and see what happens,” said Rogers.
The trio say they are currently in creative mode. They are holding fundraising events to support their upcoming journey.
Listen and read more about HOROJO Trio at horojotrio.com.