Opinion

JP Cormier reaches the end of a long road

The burly Nova Scotian known for his lightning precision on anything with strings, JP Cormier, strode
onto stage in Perth, ON, recently to a full house and announced this was to be his last tour.

After 30 years on the road for 250 or more days each year he is heading home to continue making music in his own Ranson House studio. He’ll continue producing other peoples recordings and is excited to be starting to utilize the miracles of social media via the internet, kicking off what he claims will be a revolutionary website that has the capability to be interactive. His creativity won’t be lost, as he stated he already has four new projects ready to hit the market in the near future; both instrumental recordings and songwriting projects.

Cormier highlighted many tunes from these upcoming CDs with help onstage from The Elliott Brothers; Mike on bass and Bill on guitar.  The brothers themselves  are 40+ year veterans of stage as sidemen, studio and their own shows.

Putting that much mastery on one stage leaves us listeners driven back in our seats, mesmerized and giving thanks for being able to enjoy such a creative moment, wishing it would never end.

Not many a musicians’ career kicks off as early as Cormier. Recognized as a child prodigy after starting on guitar at age 5, he was winning contests by 9 and learning by ear fiddle, mandolin, banjo and bass from listening to recordings by his heroes, Chet Atkins and Doc Watson. He recorded his first album at age 16 and not long after moved to the States playing on the festival circuit there, becoming recognized over the next 10 years as a session man, playing the Grand Ole Opry with notables Marty Stuart, Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs.

When you’re young and talented, the road can be a non-stop adventure: new locales, admiring audiences and recognition that pads the ego and pushes the desires. Being something new and fresh to the world only lasts so long. There’s new young ones all the time grabbing the attention of fickle media and audiences. At some point every player becomes an ‘also ran’, needing to find new ways to find and maintain audiences. One has to only look at the list of projects JP has lent his skills to realize how in-demand he continues to be. He’s one of the lucky ones.

As I sat there and listened to these veterans of 30 and 40 years on the road I harkened back to conversations I’ve had over the years with other full-time musicians and realizing for every one who “makes it”, there at thousands who try for a while and then find new ways to pay the bills.

These past 30 years, JP Cormier has beat the odds.

As the music industry has become more independent — especially in genres like singer/songwriter, jazz, country, roots, it’s up to each performer to carve their own niche to allow them to keep bringing in the bacon.

As gas prices go up it further cuts into possible earnings from the road and there just aren’t the number of venues there used to be. Licensing for alcohol and event costs have driven many places who used to offer live music out of business. Even looking around our Ottawa Valley since I moved here 30 years ago and one sees just a handful of places that remain.

Then there’s surviving on the road. If you’re not lucky enough to have friends to crash with, room rates have gone up everywhere and to keep expenses down fast food restaurants become the order of the day which can challenge anyone’s guts after awhile. Back in the day, performers used to play at a venue for 3 to 5 days, get accommodations and meals (oh the scary stories I’ve heard about some of these) all the while developing a fan base in that area over the week, often playing matinee’s on Saturday as well as that night. Repeated appearances, if you were any good, assured both good bar sales and a loyal following that generated into more regular gigs.

Nowadays its usually one-nighters with a lot of kilometres between gigs. House concerts have become the bread and butter for many folkies where presenters will accommodate, feed and do your promo by inviting friends into their home. These tend to be weekend events so players try to find routes that will make sense economically, playing a Friday night in one location, Saturday a few hundred kilometres away and again on Sunday in yet another locale. There’s even an organization called Home Routes that coordinates house concert tours for qualifying musicians.

I’ve been recognizing effort put in by full-time musicians who have to cover the miles to keep food on the table for their families they often see little of. Those Weekend Warriors deserve credit as well, often burning the candle at both ends trying to fit in late night practice and performances around full time jobs, family obligations and the other realities of the world. It takes a lot of understanding employers, wives or husbands and kids to allow musicians to follow their dreams. We thank those around musicians for their dedication.

We the audience attend a show but often don’t realize the amount of road traveled, the number of lonely nights in hotels and roadside restaurants these dedicated folk endure. Yeah, the thrill of the road wears off pretty quickly so it has to become the love of the music, the independence, the satisfaction of the applause and that creativity from within that spurs the modern musician on. It’s certainly not for everyone. God bless ’em.

Their toils of road life are what keep us being able to enjoy live music and for some of us, its what keeps us being able to endure the rest of the week.

Thanks for thirty years, JP.

If you are enjoying this content, please take a second to support Roots Music Canada on Patreon!

8 comments

  1. avatar
    Richard Flohil 16 April, 2012 at 17:14

    And J.P. has the very BEST Stompin’ Tom Connors story I ever heard (and I’ve heard a few, and can tell some of my onw). This is a “family” site, but maybe J.P.’ll tell it if you ask him politely… it involves a rural gas station, and the serious need to use a washroom!

  2. avatar
    J.P. Cormier 16 April, 2012 at 18:43

    Mr. Tennant:

    God bless you sir, for such a poignant, heartfelt and supportive article. I thank you, and thank you for the assistance you’ll no doubt give to the young ones coming up behind us all.

    Keep the good word!

    Your Friend in Music and The Maker

    JP Cormier

  3. avatar
    Jason LaPrade 16 April, 2012 at 23:26

    There are days when I wish I could be on stage more often, but this article reminds me why I spend most of my time doing live sound, or producing and recording artists. I’m often the only person at a gig or recording session who’s making enough money to earn a living without having to resort to other jobs. I realized pretty early that it would be tough to live solely as a musician …. I really wish it could be different for so many of us out there.

  4. avatar
    Sandra White 19 April, 2012 at 08:41

    Great article. The show in Perth was wonderful, having the opportunity to meet JP, Bill & Mike through our venue was truly a great experience. All the best in your next stage. We are looking forward too your new website JP. Sandra Frank & Family

  5. avatar
    Lyn Roche 25 May, 2012 at 18:31

    All good things come to an end. My husband and I have enjoyed J.P’s and Hilda’s concerts through the years. So glad we had the opportunity to see two great entertainers at their best. You are sorely missed.

  6. avatar
    charlie harris 10 October, 2012 at 14:31

    good luck on your new projects , i first heard your music in canmore , then you and hilda in grande prairie, i have never forgotten your music , thanks for the memory , good luck. c harris.

  7. avatar
    LindaDiane Menzies-Burleigh 20 October, 2012 at 23:54

    I first heard your wonderful music in Owen Sound at Knox United Church, then at the United Church in Markdale. You are a great entertainer. I would like to get more of your CDS. Good luck on your new projects. I was sad to hear that your last show was in Perth, I was hoping to hear you one more time. I will always remember your music. Linda Menzies-Burleigh

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *