JJ Shiplett Talks New Album “Crossed Fingers”

Kat Harlton

Canadian singer-songwriter JJ Shiplett, recently released his new album “Crossed Fingers” on the heels of his CCMA nomination for Roots Album of the Year. A mirror image and stripped back version of his CMA nominated album “Fingers Crossed“.

“Fingers Crossed” was released in March 2020 at the beginning and height of the chaos surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. As the landscape quickly shifted around him, he felt the weight of the pandemic, but it was the fans’ response to his voice and to the songs on the record that allowed him to remain hopeful. That unwavering support led Shiplett to create this beautifully raw edition to allow the songs to shine again in a different light. With the addition of an emotional new bonus track, “Bluejay Highway”, the album is a recreation of each song from the original record, but with stripped back production for a vulnerable and intimate soundscape.

JJ Shiplett first stepped onto the national music scene in 2017 with his CCMA-nominated debut album, Something to Believe In. Three years, another CCMA Award nom, and nearly five million streams later, Shiplett has risen and proved himself as a listener favourite. Gaining the praises of press and industry alike, Shiplett’s music has been seen on fan favourite playlists such as Spotify’s Folk & Friends, Country Coffeehouse, Live Country, and Renegade Folk, along with Apple Music’s True North Acoustic, Southern Craft, Canada’s Country, Back Porch Country and Acoustic Sounds.

We had the opportunity to chat with JJ about “Crossed Fingers”, progressing as an artist, and how he’s been staying connected.

Kat: You recently released your new album “Crossed Fingers”, a mirror image and stripped back version of the CCMA nominated Fingers Crossed. Can you share with us your thought process and inspiration behind reimagining the album?

JJ: When we released Fingers Crossed in March of this year we really didn’t know what to expect. The world had just begun to shut down and there was so much uncertainty. We pushed ahead just like everyone else hoping to be able to reach people while they were stuck at home. Once it became clear that things weren’t going to change I began to think of what’s next. I went down to the studio by myself and just began working away on Crossed Fingers. These songs all really matter to me so I viewed it as an opportunity to give them new life and hopefully be able to reach more and more people.

Kat: Can you talk to us about the addition of the new bonus track, “Bluejay Highway”, and why you felt it should be added to the album?

JJ: Bluejay Highway was an older song of mine. I wrote it on a drive across the Rocky Mountains after a breakup. For years it was a staple in my live show but eventually it got forgotten about. In the spring, around the release of Fingers Crossed I had done some live steaming shows and a bunch of people requested for me to play it but I couldn’t remember the lyrics. So when it came time to recording Crossed Fingers, I knew I wanted to add something extra and it just felt so natural.

Kat: How did the recording process differ between the 2 albums? I get the sense that similar to the way an actor might prepare for a role, you might need to emotionally prepare for this type of recording session, would that be accurate?

JJ: You know, it’s all been unchartered territory for me. Fingers Crossed was an experience in finding a sound that felt like ‘me’ – I felt it was important to evolve from my first record ‘Something To Believe In’ in a way that felt natural but still sounded like ‘JJ’. I spent so much time at my studio working on the songs then brought in Josh Rob Gwilliam to help make sense of it. With Crossed Fingers it was a whole new experience even if I was in the same studio. My goal was to keep things simple, allow for my voice and writing to be showcased and I did it all myself (expect for Josh mixing it). I wanted to show that I know was I’m doing as a producer and engineer. Some of that for the listener but mostly to prove to myself that I can.

Kat: Has reimagining this album changed how you may approach new music or projects in the future?

JJ: For sure. Every time I record and release an album I learn so much about myself and who I am as an artist. I was prepared for Crossed Fingers. I knew the arrangements and tempo’s. I had a clear vision of what I wanted. It was a real lesson in pre-production whereas with Fingers Crossed I was more finding it as I went. One thing I won’t do again is record an able by myself – collaboration is something I long for.

Kat: Other than the music, how have you been staying connected during Covid-19? What’s next?

JJ: Ahh Covid has taken its toll on me as I’m sure it has for everyone. I need to get back playing shows and touring for my own sanity. I’ve mainly stayed focused with some demo’s of new songs – it’s been an awesome time to just create for me even despite what’s happening. I plan on keeping forward momentum with my music. We’ve got a really cool video coming for my song ‘All Comes Back To You’ and then hopefully some new music once the new year turns over.

For more on JJ Shiplett visit: https://www.jjshiplett.com

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