Well … there’s at least one good thing that has come from this global pandemic. JJ Shiplett released a stripped down version of his album Fingers Crossed and named it Crossed Fingers.
Any music released by JJ is always a treat. But this album hits a little differently.
It feels like a respite from the craziness of the world, and it’s exactly what we needed, when we needed it most.
“It’s always been about the songs,” explains Shiplett. “I have to make sure people hear these. So take away the drums, the solos and leave it to my voice. Like how I fell in love with music – simple and honest. No hiding. Just the song.”
We had the chance to connect with JJ to talk about this album and his time spent social distancing. It was a great chat!
Before you get to the interview below, be sure to check out the album.
Stream Crossed Fingers on Spotify and Apple Music
Interview With JJ Shiplett
Front Porch Music: Thanks so much for joining us on the Front Porch JJ! We’re so happy to have you. Why don’t you introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from, how your musical journey started, etc.
JJ Shiplett: Hey, my name is JJ Shiplett. I’m a prairie boy currently living in Calgary, Alberta. I like to write songs, record and sing them for people.
I’ve been playing music my whole life. Like even when I was a young kid, music was all that mattered.
I used to stand on my ‘front porch’ when I was no older that 8 or 9 and at the top of my lungs – I’d sing the Star Spangled Banner. I don’t know why I chose that anthem over the Canadian National Anthem (the melody is pretty incredible) but I did and I guess that’s where I got the bug to perform.
Front Porch Music: Your new album Crossed Fingers is truly a breath of fresh air. We’ve also heard it has a great origin story. How did this stripped down album come about?
JJ Shiplett: In March of 2020, two weeks into when we were all told to stay home, I released an album called Fingers Crossed.
It was a year and a half of writing, recording and asking tough questions about where my life was headed. I put everything I had into it … then I couldn’t tour it.
So instead of sitting around and complaining (of which I did my fair share) I decided to get back to the studio and record a re-imagined version of Fingers Crossed.
This time it would be focused around the acoustic guitar and my voice … Crossed Fingers was born.
Front Porch Music: This album really lets the lyrics and spirit of the songs come to life. What’s your songwriting process like?
JJ Shiplett: Ahh my songwriting process changes and morphs so often.
Some days I can sit down and write a full song, other times I’m re-working and adjusting for months on end but my goal is to always write the best song possible, keep it honest and accessible.
At home I’ve got books, journals and pages that are filled with scribbles and thoughts about the songs and where I could take them.
I usually just start to piece it together from there.
Once I’ve been able to wrestle down an arrangement of the song, I’ll continue to sing it and adjust it until I really feel like I have command of it.
I wish it was a linear pattern but most days I’m just subject to the wind …
Front Porch Music: Crossed Fingers features a brand-new track that wasn’t on your Fingers Crossed album. “Bluejay Highway” is a beautiful song. Tell us more about this song … the inspiration, the story, etc.
JJ Shiplett: “Bluejay Highway” was an older song of mine.
I released it on a now unavailable cd from years ago. I’ve always had requests to play it live but I never did. I was doing some live streams and a few people had asked about it.
So I went to the basement and dug up that old cd and took a listen.
When I decided to record Crossed Fingers, it just sat perfectly with the other songs.
It’s a simple tune about the choices we make in our lives, how they effect other people and the regret we can be filled with way down the road.
Front Porch Music: Needless to say, you have been able to keep busy throughout this pandemic! Other than working on this album, what did you do to pass the time? Did you learn any new skills?
JJ Shiplett: Ah sadly I don’t think I learned any new skills.
I tried to take up Yoga but that didn’t last long.
I worked on my guitar playing, songwriting and recording mainly during this time. I decided at the beginning of the pandemic that I just wanted to keep focused on my music and I’ve tried to do that.
Hasn’t always been easy but nothing ever is.
Front Porch Music: What’s next for you? What can we expect to see from you?
JJ Shiplett: I’ll continue to write and record as long as this lasts. Hopefully I’ll be able to get out and play some shows soon.
I’d love to get back across Canada and play these songs.
That’s one things I miss most … getting across the country, meeting so many great people and being able to sing my heart out for them.
Until then, I’ll just keep my head down and try to write the best songs I can.
Front Porch Music: Thanks so much, and congrats again on the release of your new album, we can’t wait to hear what’s next for you!
In country music, the Front Porch has long been a place of reflection. A place where you can look at the life you have inside that front door. A place where time almost seems to stand still, where you can get away. It’s also a place where you can go to observe the world as it passes by you. To think about your place out there beyond the driveway.