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Interview: HOROJO TRIO
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
Jeff: I’ve always known I was going to be a musician. There was never any other profession or career I’ve ever wanted. If I had to choose something else, though I wouldn’t have chosen this as a youth, I’d say game designer. Either board games or video games, on the conceptual side of things. I do love games.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
Jamie: When I am not playing music, I like to be outside getting fresh air and ideally surrounded by nature. I find when I remove myself from city living and explore the outdoors, it keeps my mind clear and gives me a more relaxed outlook on life. When I do go back to music, I often find my mind is more at peace, open to being creative, and more in tune with the many emotions that come from playing music.
How long has your band been around?
JW: We got together at a chance jam session after a corporate event on June 6, 2019. We played our first show as a band a couple of months later… and the rest is history!
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
JW: We are based in Ottawa, Canada. One of the great things about the nation’s capital is that we have the second largest blues festival in the world, second only to Chicago. The Ottawa Bluesfest as a festival and as an organization with community outreach programs like Blues in the Schools has really connected so many local musicians and has had a steady stream of the who’s who of the blues. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of my favourite American players ate festival, such as Anson Funderburgh, Luther Allison, Buddy Guy, the Texas Horns, and countless others. I think the proximity to such amazing artists coming in year after year has made a big difference in our development. In terms of top-level performers, we could say the same about the Ottawa Jazz Festival as well which has particularly influenced our drummer, Jamie.
How did you produce the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
Jeff: When we formed, we were at a loss for what to call the band. We couldn’t think of anything fun or interesting that we didn’t immediately hate… so we stuck with an amalgamation of our names. HOROJO stands for the first two letters in each of our last names (Holmes, Rogers, Jones). Emphasis on the ‘Ro’. ;)
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
JW: The Orpheum Theatre in Memphis takes the cake. It was the finals for the International Blues Challenge, and we played our hearts out, including dropping down to whisper volume on a Keb’ Mo’ slow blues called Dangerous Mood. It was incredible! We took first prize in the challenge out of over 200 acts from all over the world, and while the win was special, the set and energy of the band was really something. You can check out the entire “winning” set on the HOROJO Trio YouTube channel. More recently, we had the opportunity to perform on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise and it was one of the most inspiring adventures of our lives, musically. The level of talent on that ship was just off the charts… Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, John Nemeth, Dumpstaphunk, Irma Thomas, Anson Funderburgh, Victor Wainwright and the Train… just unbelievable.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
Jamie: My favourite venues to play are almost always festivals since there is such an amazing energy that happens where large audiences gather to experience music to the fullest. I also love that it's a great opportunity to check out new bands and meet like minded people. I also really enjoy performing at venues that I haven’t performed at before. I just love how every stage has its own unique feel, sound and vibe so any time I get to perform somewhere new for the first time gives me a real rush.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
JW: I am going to say dead and alive - something like this: B.B. King, Albert Collins, Muddy Waters, The Fabulous Thunderbirds (Jimmie Vaughan era), Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Little Charlie & The Nightcats, Anson Funderburgh, Etta James, Hollywood Fats Band, Little Richard with Earl Palmer on drums, and just to push some boundaries… AC/DC. I could go on forever, but it would be more of a month-long festival at that rate!
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
JW: In terms of advice for people getting into playing in a band, listen more than you play, get ready to deal with many personality types, be patient, work hard, play with musicians who are better than you, ask a lot of questions (but not too many), play music because you love it and not to make money or “get famous”, and model yourself after the kindest people you meet. A great quote I once heard was “you see the same people on the way up the ladder of success as you do on the way back down”. I’ve had multiple experiences that proved that to be true.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
JW: I’d say that when it came time to approach a career in music, to put in equal time on the artistic side as the business. We all do this for a living, but each of us have had very different paths to where we are today. I spent countless hours on the computer building the business side of the music, but more and more I am realizing that I wish I had been spending just as much time writing and learning. I’ve recently taken up weekly music lessons to improve my craft and unlock more creativity, and it’s been great to get back to the art and creation side of the music business.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why ?
Jeff: I think The Night captures what the night life is like. The loneliness of the alternate lifestyle, working while everyone plays and sleeping while everyone works. Finding connection in that world can be as joyous as it is hard. It’s always spoken to me, and is one of the reasons I love playing the most.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
Jeff: I’ve always loved singing ballads, so my favourite song of ours to play is The Night. I enjoy the dynamics of it all, and building a song up from quiet to joyous is fun. My other favourites are Running, and Leon Russel’s Hummingbird. HOROJO Trio hasn’t had many instances of request taking on stage yet, but personally as a duelling piano player for the better part of 12 years I would have to say the clear overly requested song would be Piano Man without a doubt.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
Jamie: Since each of the members in the band has their own unique musical identity, it allows for a really interesting and inspiring opportunity to create and to be inspired by one another. Between the 3 of us, we enjoy a lot of different music so sometimes, creativity may come from a specific band or song that we would like to capture the vibe of or it might from a drum groove, a certain harmonic progression, a guitar riff or even just some well thought out lyrics that resonate with each of us that helps initiate the creative process . Any one of these elements can be the catalyst for creating and inspiring us to create music.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
Jeff: We don’t have any overarching themes in our music, at least not intentionally. Though if I had to choose I’d say sustainability. While I am for a more sustainable lifestyle and society with respect to the environment, what I mean here is more insular. Emotional sustainability, being true to oneself, seeking out what you want and need, and fulfillment are themes that do appear throughout our music. Maybe the next album will have an environmentalist epic! (laughs)
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
Jamie: We’re pretty democratic, and since it is a trio, any “disagreements” are pretty easily solved. When we write or compose music is when we might have differing opinions, but we can easily solve these issues by removing our emotions and collectively agreeing on what is the best musical choice. We are all great friends which makes things so much easier and enjoyable for us to work together.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
JW: HOROJO Trio has a debut album coming out on April 1 via Stony Plain Records. We are so proud of this record, and we can’t wait to share it with the world. We have a ton of wicked CD launch shows and hope people will find us on the website www.horojotrio.com and socials at @horojotrio and check out our tour dates. We’ll be in Ottawa, Toronto, White Rock, Edmonton, Calgary, just to name a few, all in the month of April!