We can try to control the timing of things, but sometimes you just need to let go. Time is a luxury not all of us have on our side, whether we know it or not.
I wasn’t going to write this, at least not yet. JP Maurice was recently at our venue accompanying another artist. The piece I wrote about that performance didn’t focus on him as I knew he was returning in January for his own show, but our conversation that night was one of the most revealing I’ve experienced. In the days that have followed, words surrounding his story have consumed my journal, and now they arrive here.
JP Maurice’s image and notoriety within Vancouver’s music scene communicate someone larger than life. Although there is much widely known and mused about him and his noteworthy career to date (rise of his band ‘Maurice,’ signed by David Foster’s label, dropped, disbanded, released solo album, rise as a Music BC favourite), there is an element of mystery that remains around his persona.
I don’t know if it is his musical styling, unyielding sex appeal, or the way in which he is courageously candid, but I couldn’t quite find my footing around him. I felt a little out of my element, not quite sure what was real and what was not. This had less to do with him and more to do with my own perceptions and insecurities.
As we sat down for our one to one conversation, I told him I was somewhat nervous for our chat, as he held this enigmatic aura that I couldn’t quite place. We had connected at this past September’s Harvest Music Festival around the bonfire, he had surprised me then with his quiet demeanor and ease to share with a presence that makes it impossible not to take notice. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone quite like him. When I tried to describe the series of incarnations around my impressions of him, Maurice smiled and said, “A lot of people tell me ‘I thought you were going to be an asshole’ when they first meet me, I don’t know why.” I don’t know why either, as it only takes a few minutes spent in his company to experience a deeply genuine individual.
The obvious topic that arose was his recent 2nd place win in the final year of BC’s Peak Performance Project which saw him taking home $75,000.00. Days before the finale, a public announcement was made that he had become partner at Vancouver’s Blue Light Studio.
Serenity Performing Arts Centre owner Shirley de Vooght and I had wondered how this news may alter whether he would still be coming to our small, remote venue. We waited to see if he would show up with the rest of the band scheduled to perform. Not only did he come, but he confirmed the date of his own house show in January that he had previously booked back in September. When we talked about it, he admitted that some people would be advising him not to continue playing shows like this, but that it is important to him to be as authentic as possible and stay true to the places and people who support him and his music.
I watched his finale performance at the Commodore Ballroom online through The Peak’s livestream. What struck me (and many others) was how he chose to showcase a multitude of other musicians and friends on stage. It felt like a culmination of not only that one particular season, but the entire franchise of the project. This makes relative sense for anyone who has followed it closely, as JP Maurice has been a constant presence since he first made the top 20 in 2011. Whether a finalist, a band member of a finalist, or a creative contributor, JP Maurice was an integral part of what made the project so magnetic.
His placement in the top 3 and ultimate 2nd place finish in the final year said a lot about how the Peak Performance Project has guided him as not only an artist, but as a producer and collaborator. I felt like Maurice was making a statement with his performance as if to say, “Thank you, but don’t expect me to take this just for myself and focus all of my energy on being a solo artist.” To be successful with longevity in the music industry you need to develop as much multi-disciplinary skill and talent as possible, which JP Maurice has dedicated himself to achieving over many years. He has proven that he is not afraid to branch out and capitalize on what is working for him at any given moment.
When we talked about where he saw himself over the long term, Maurice said his ultimate dream was to be a “studio rat” living in LA or Nashville, writing all day, with some small tours performing his own material. (Deacon Claybourne eat your heart out – for any of you Nashville Netflix watching junkies out there).
What I do know is JP Maurice is an artist who is going to be around the block for the long haul. He has embedded himself in every facet of the industry and is surrounded by many influential players in Vancouver’s music scene. When one takes a look at the musical collaborators, supporters and most importantly friends JP Maurice has in his corner, I’d bet on him any day.
For a guy who seemingly has the world at his finger tips, where the conversation turned from here revealed truths that no one can escape, no matter how successful one might become.
Over a year ago Maurice’s mother was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue. It was devastating and overwhelming as she went through an intensely invasive surgery that had many worse case scenarios as probable outcomes. She came through much better than predicted with a positive attitude, which ultimately pulled their family together.
Recently, a series of test results diagnosed her at stage 4 with the cancer having now spread to multiple areas of her body.
Maurice revealed the complex reality that now exists for his entire family. For himself, he is facing the most significant personal tragedy of his life while experiencing one of the greatest successes of his professional career, a path with no road map to navigate. Not wanting to become too high or too low, he is intentionally attempting to stay as emotionally neutral as possible.
He spoke of his close relationship to his sister, who has been his constant confidant and supporter, and how even their connection has been impacted by the emotional strain.
Currently, he feels as though his parents are keeping him at an arm’s length because his mother needs rest. I asked if he thought they were trying to protect him and he wasn’t sure. As a mother, the desire to protect your children from any harm is an instinct impossible to describe. When I imagine what would run through a mother’s mind, a probable possibility is wanting to spare your children from seeing you suffer. One may hope this would be outweighed by the desire to be with them as much as possible, but the state of a consciously dying human being is not predictable, and I can only imagine the most accessible feeling to grasp onto is fear.
He mentioned several times that he has come to terms with it in his own way, and that his focus right now is being strong and stable for his family to try and help his mother see that he can handle it and be there for her and his dad and his sister. “It is not that I am not sad, but I don’t want to grieve her before she is gone. I want to celebrate life with her for as long as she is here.”
I told him this intention was noble, which is the truth, although my heart ached as I pictured the man before me as a boy yearning for his mother.
As he spoke, I was quiet. There were many moments of silence that hung between us as he caught his breathe and his words registered and took hold.
Aside from the empathy I felt for him as a person facing his mother’s terminal illness, which in itself is life altering, I kept wondering how he was sharing any of this at all. I kept thinking to myself, “I could never be this brave.”
I still don’t know if he told me these things because he wanted them written down, or if he just started talking about it without even realizing it.
When we said goodbye I told him I would think of him, which I have often. I have his January show circled on the calendar as a visual reminder of the time frame between what I wonder he will say and what he does.
People’s lives are unique, delicate treasures. Every chapter of our stories reveal new depths to the human condition and the never-ending learning that life offers through challenges sometimes too great to understand.
Let love be the light in our darkest days and music be the sound to our most silent of nights.
Yesterday is gone.
Tomorrow has not yet come.
We have only today.
Let us begin.
– Mother Teresa
Part 1 of 2. Part 2 will follow JP Maurice’s live performance at Serenity Performing Arts Centre on January 28, 2016.
Photos courtesy of Shirley de Vooght, BC Peak Performance Project and JP Maurice.