JP Maurice performed his first house show at Serenity last week. It had been just over a month since he had been here supporting Jeremy Gray and Benjamin James Caldwell on the stage. Time is an odd thing. Its passage can feel so varied. The past week has felt like an eternity. I have been writing constantly for other people and publications that require me to be more outside of myself than I am here where I draw inward and reflect on the artists and their live performances at these intimate house concerts.
JP Maurice was the last artist I wrote about in 2015 for the venue and he is the first for 2016. A continuation that not only connects years and days, but life’s moments and events.
Maurice’s appearance back in December helped raise anticipation for his return. The room was full of local teens, Serenity regulars and a handful of newcomers. A great crowd buzzing for what was to be one of the most diverse shows in the house to date.
JP Maurice took to the stage solo for the first few songs to warm up the room. The depth of his charismatic presence was immediately felt. He emotes this effortless cool you can almost touch. Beginning with a few acoustic tunes, he was then accompanied by regular bandmate Connor Tkach on bass and joined for the first time by The River and the Road drummer Cole George. The chemistry between the three of them was beautiful. The cues were impeccable and above all they had fun together on stage, including a front and center baby mask that Tkach sported for the night’s encore (you had to be there).
Maurice has a diverse anthology of material to draw from and he provided an eclectic array of music to enjoy. Over the years I have read countless reviews about his performances that often mention the variety of genres he navigates throughout a show. Each song is very much his own, but his ability to switch gears and be completely comfortable and in control from start to finish is inspiring. There is an inherent rush that is experienced when witnessing live music; the connection that can occur between the audience and the artist is special, but also, and sometimes even moreso, are the connections observed on stage between the musicians themselves. As far as this show went, the three of them provided an endless supply of voyeuristic fulfillment. When discussing with bassist Connor Tkach the intricacies of Maurice’s abilities to lead on stage he echoed the sentiment by praising him as “a great maestro.” It’s easy to reference Maurice’s good looks, catchy songs, ease with an audience and musical skill. But what both Tkach and George referred to that caught my eye the most in the night’s performance was his leadership, and the more I think about him as an artist, the term resonates deeper and in a more meaningful way.
Leadership is somewhat of a personal interest of mine, both in my own career and personal endeavors. Searching for its presence in all corners, levels, systems and relationships has become a quest ripe with discovery. As I begin to view JP Maurice through this lens there are many apparent realities that emerge. When you watch him on stage there is a strong sense of attuned communication and connection; he uses curiosity, openness, acceptance and love of his fellow musicians and for the music itself to fuel his decision making throughout a performance. Maurice displays a participatory leadership style in his approach to music both on stage and behind the scenes as he inspires high quality through shared responsibility. He cares deeply about his relationships with those who have become his extended family of musicians around the world and is making a concerted focus on establishing opportunities to engage and motivate collaborative creativity. With qualities such as this, it is no surprise that he has become somewhat of a central figure within Vancouver’s current music scene.
One can make an assumption that Maurice makes time for his fair share of fun in a city surrounded by friends all searching for the pursuit of happiness through music. He is currently writing towards the future of a new album, however is not placing any timelines or goals attached to the process thanks to having consistent access to his new studio space at Blue Light Studio in Vancouver.
Over the past month his 2013 solo album The Arborist has been on steady rotation. The track I keep coming back to again and again is “Renegade.” The song begins with the lyric, “I used to think I could change the world // lost my morale when I looked around and saw that nothing changes.” Although the indifferent society he refers to throughout the song still exists in a real sense in many ways, his efforts to embrace internal change and impact broader change around him is extremely present and reflected in his more recent songs, most notably “Big Change” which has been central to his media platforms over the past year.
Maurice has accepted change as a constant force to embrace rather than fear. When re-reading the piece I wrote about him in December, I see threads of this there, although that was much more of a personal account surrounding a painful and life altering time. Anyone who follows JP Maurice regularly will now know that his mother passed away from cancer on New Year’s Day. He candidly shared this via social media which was followed by countless messages of condolence that poured in showing tremendous support for him and his family. Although appreciated, it is the love and relationships of those closest to him that he values the most, noting how odd it was to hear from people he didn’t know or hadn’t spoken to in years, some of whom made insensitive and uninformed comments that made him rethink the machine of social media all together. As Maurice described, “losing a parent is something no one will understand unless they have experienced it themselves.”
In the spirit of connectivity, it wasn’t until after she had passed that I discovered I knew his mother. She did not share his same last name therefore I had never had a reason to make the connection before. The web of intersections left us both somewhat perplexed, yet also at ease in reverence for what little separates people in the grand scheme of things.
When I got home that night and read the personal notes he had written on his album sleeves, one read “We’re all leaves floating in the wind….from one to the next.” It was something he had said in our conversation reflecting on life and its meaning or lack thereof. Although the all encompassing meaning of life will continue to remain allusive to the collective intelligence, it is night’s spent in the company of music and people such as JP Maurice that challenge the view that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; the parts are pretty great all on their own.
JP Maurice performed at Serenity Performing Arts Centre on January 28, 2016.
Photos courtesy of Shirley de Vooght.