By Luke Hellewell, Hamilton, ON
“It’s an absolutely beautiful city.”
Back in his old stomping grounds of Peterborough, Ontario, JJ Thompson sticks to a ritual every time he drives back to his old hometown…but you’d probably only understand it if you were a local.
“I drive through the tunnel underneath the lift-locks and honk and scream,” explains Thompson. “Then I go to Hunter Street to grab a coffee and treat from a little shop called Black Honey and then usually head over to The Only, which I consider my local bar”.
A product of the south-eastern Ontario town’s flourishing art scene, the guitarist/vocalist began writing songs on his back porch under the stars. Whenever he could, he’d head down to Peterborough’s infamous music venue, The Legendary Red Dog, to see local and touring bands play. After spending his childhood finding his voice, Thompson felt ready to assemble his band – Stefan Hegeraton drums and Donald Richard on bass. JJ now had his “pillars”, and after cutting their teeth around Ontario and Quebec, JJ and the Pillars started to pick up steam, garnering the attention of Dine Alone Records…(currently the world’s most successful independent record label), largely thanks to their first place finish on “The Next Big Thing”, a contest aimed at propelling the careers of up-and-coming bands and run by Toronto-based alternative radio network 102.1 The Edge.
Along with offering the group Canadian music industry marketing advice and promoting the band by hosting them at label events, Dine Alone Records provided digital distribution for last year’s release of JJ and the Pillars’ debut album: Wolves. The result is a brilliant mix of hearty folk-rock tunes, dance floor-ready pop jams and stripped down acoustic pieces. And though the styles may vary per track, the most noticeable constant in their music is a love for nature.
“I had a moment of total awe when I was out on my surfboard in Tofino, BC. Instead of riding some of the best waves in the world, I sat on my surfboard bobbing up and down, staring out west to nothing, and I finally started to grasp how big the world was… and how lucky I was to experience life on it: I had never felt so still. It’s funny that the time I felt most grounded was when I was floating… with no idea what was underneath or ahead. There’s something very comforting about that.”
Whether he’s at home eating his absolute favourite dish… chicken penne with Thanksgiving stuffing (covered in mustard) or enjoying fresh lobster on the ocean in PEI, JJ Thompson can make anywhere feel like home through his writing. Currently in album mode, the band’s sophomore release will see them further embracing their soulful organic side, with more of a focus on acoustic sounds to be enjoyed “for listening at the cottage or after a long day at work.” Look forward to it!!