CRATER CREATIVES: JOPO

CRATER CREATIVES: JOPO

Welcome to Crater Creatives, a monthly artist profile series offering a unique look into the artists that call Sudbury home! There’s certain type of creativity that’s born up here in Northern Ontario, maybe it’s the wilderness that surrounds us, or maybe it’s just our resourceful spirit. Whatever the case may be we’re here to shine a spotlight on the innovative artists of all sorts in this big old crater! Have an artist you’d like to recommend for a future Crater Creatives profile? Shoot an email to jessica@ourcrater.com and tell us all about it!

You may not recognize the name Joanne Polack but her stage name JoPo is one that you’ll see just about anywhere with live music! She’s no stranger to the stages around the Sudbury area and if her SOLD OUT album release show in September at STC is any indication she puts on a great show! Recording ‘Another Trip Around the Sun’ brought JoPo to Nashville to record with Crystal Shawanda and has elevated her to a new level in her musical career. We got in touch to find out more about the Sudbury’s rock & roll songstress’ latest release and the hard work that got her here!

What initially drew you to start playing music? Tell us about some of your influences.

When I was a kid 80’s music was playing on the radio and I remember how I wasn’t big on it. I asked my mom “Is this what music is going to be all the time when we listen to the radio?”, and my mom said “No dear, there’s a lot of different music out there, this is what they are currently playing on the radio, it’s called 80’s music” and I said “well I don’t like it”.  Then when driving out to camp with my dad one day, I told him how I didn’t like the 80’s music being played on the radio and then he said “Ah, I know what you might like, listen to this” then he pulls out a tape, plops it into the tape deck and cranked The Doors. It was that moment when I was musically revolutionized!!! I couldn’t stop thrashing my head around, taping the dash, playing the air drums and air guitar, my dad was laughing so hard, my sister & brother (sitting in the back) thought I was going crazy!  That’s what drew me to start listening to more 60′-70’s music.

In elementary school they introduced music class with instruments and I was so excited, in grade 6, I ran down to class and begged the teacher to play the drums and she told me that girls don’t play the drums.  I begged her and she decided to put my on the flute…not cool.  I couldn’t even blow in the darn thing, so I got my mom to write her a letter asking her to please change my instrument to drums or anything else. So she put me on trumpet…that was a bit better but I had my heart set on the drums.  By grade 7, the music teacher had changed and I would run down to class to show the new teacher that I could play the drum, full rock beat, rolls you name it, she said the only way I could go on the drums is if the current drummer switched instruments with me.  Finally one day, he did and that’s when music drew me to a place that I absolutely love to this day!  I ended up playing the drums/singing back up vocals, traveling, touring, living in different cities for a few years, Allan Morisette (Alanis’s dad) was helping managing us, we were doing amazing!

Do you remember the first song you wrote?

My friend and I had to write a commercial song for our grade 8 class project and it was silly it was called “DJ Sparkle”….my first real song that I wrote, was called “In the Grey” written about one of my friends that passed away when I was 16 years old.

Your latest album ‘Another Trip Around the Sun’ was just released September 15th with a SOLD OUT crowd there to celebrate with you at your STC release party! You’re now on your way out on a Northern Ontario tour with your band mates of JoPo & the RiZe. How has your music evolved since your last release?

My last release I recorded in my basement.  I wrote, recorded all the instrumentation/vocals, engineered, produced, and mixed a 13 song album on my own.  I had some of my local friends/musicians join me on a few tracks, which was a lot of fun.  Having that album is what helped get the attention of Crystal Shawanda (Juno & CCMA Award winner, singer, songwriter).  I met her back stage at the CTV Telethon and I played a song before her, went back stage and she stopped me, asked who I was and asked if I had an album.  I honestly had just released that album (JoPo Acoustic- The RiZe) three weeks prior and handed one to her.  2 days later her Rep got a hold of me, and informed me that Crystal would like to invite me to open for her Christmas show @ The Steelworkers Hall and that night after both our performances, she offered to work with me.  They were still on their Canadian tour, I had just released that album so I told them I’d need a year or so to finish what I started with this album and start writing for the next.  I contacted her about 1.5 years later, she offered for me to record my new album with her team out in Nashville and so we started going through all my songs picking which ones would be best for me.   I ended up doing 3 trips to Nashville, 1 to have fun and get downtown Broadway out of my system and the next 2 were to record and work.  I ended up recording my new album JoPo- ‘Another Trip Around the Sun’ at the legendary ‘House of Blues Studios’ & at Ocean Way Studios down on Music Row.  Working with Crystal, her husband DeWayne, David Roe (Johnny Cash’s base player), Sandy Gennaro (Cindy Lauper & Joan Jett & The Blackhearts Drummer), Louis Flip Windfield (drummer), and Owen Louis (engineer for Crystal Shawanda & also the hit T.V Show Nashville & many others).  I feel like I have definitely evolved working with such experienced, well known veterans if you will in the music biz living in Music City!

What is your favourite song to play for a live audience?

One of my favourite songs to play is an original song called ‘The Kraken’ it’s off my first album and during the beginning of the song we play all soft and melodic and then half way through the song we rock out hard. Kinda thrash around and then bring it right back down to the soft/melodic part, it’s super tight, wonderful dynamics which makes for a cool song/performance.  Off my new album one of my favs to play is called “Dog Days of Summer” it’s got that sort of Johnny Cash, stomp your feet kinda rock-a-billy feel and it’s got a very cool upright bass solo which you seldomly see in bands these days, our bass player Ben Wardo rocks!  We also recently shot a music video for Dog Days this past August and Legend Boats sponsored the video, it was shot by Shawn Kosmerly of Here Kittty Kitty Productions and we shot some of the video in a Legend Boat out at my family camp on Penage and the rest of it at Red Fang Tavern featuring some of Sudbury’s Swing Dance Club, some of Sudbury Burlesque, S.O.A.R a female biker club and many local friends, fans and staff.  Video will be coming out soon!

What artists locally or beyond keep you inspired?

Honestly music is in my heart, it keeps me inspired regardless if I’m around local or famous artists, I will always be playing music until I physically can’t, it’s in my soul.  Crystal Shawanda has been a great inspiration for me ever since we met, she gets it! She’s an amazing singer and even better in her live shows (which you can’t say of too many singers). She knows how hard it is to break through on any level, not only as a musician but as a female musician on many levels.  She was not only my producer but we also became good friends over the course of the last few years and I appreciate that and all her help and guidance that she has given me.  Other artists that have inspired me- Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Allman Brothers, Heart, Doobie Brothers, David Grahl, Dana Fuchs, The Tea Party, Beatles, Eagles, Howlin’ Wolf, Everly Brothers, Beach Boys, Etta James, and many many more.

What is your favourite thing about being a part of Sudbury’s creative community? 

My favourite thing would be creating/performing/organizing and putting on shows, being fortunate to play and create music with my absolutely amazing band (Ben Wardo on upright bass, Josh Turnbull on drums/vocals, JP Gignac on violin, and John Newlands who joins us at times on keys/organ/electric guitar/vocals).  I love getting people off their couches and out doing stuff in our community either it be downtown or wherever the shows bring us/them.  When I’m not playing a gig, I go out and support a LOT of musicians, local plays at STC & Theatre Cambrian, Sudbury Burlesque, and anything local that I can support, I love Sudbury and what’s it’s become and becoming and a lot of my friends have moved back which makes it that much more fun & comfortable.  We have an amazing music scene here, I’ve been to and played in so many cities in Canada & the States, including Nashville (Music City) and we sure do have a great Music Scene right here in our back yard!

What would be your best advice be to a newcomer looking to get involved in the community?

Go out and support local bands, see what’s out there, be positive, keep your mind open to different genres, play any gigs you can get in the beginning, constantly write ideas down even if it comes up and you gotta write ‘er down on a napkin.  Set goals and achieve them.  Those nights you end up playing to 2 people in the bar, still play your heart out, if you really love it, don’t ever give up…

Where can we follow you work and find you new CD?

You can find me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and my website www.jopomusic.ca

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Jessica Lovelace is a Public Relations and Communications grad, musical theatre enthusiast, lover of live music and part-time unicorn tamer. Some have said that the Big Dripper from Sub City is a regional delicacy and the perfect end to a Sudbury Saturday Night – Jessica is definitely one of those people. No, the hair is not a perm.

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