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South Country Fair ‘comes up the hill’ to Fort Macleod

Singer-songwriter J.P. Hoe will play some unusual venues this summer: the Canadian Mint, the French Quarter and on top of the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
When the Winnipeg-based music comes to Fort Macleod this week, he can add the Legion Cenotaph Bandstand to that growing list of unusual venues.
“The show that I’m going to bring is the full band performance,” Hoe said in a telephone interview, listing a cellist, string player and rhythm section. “We’ll be playing a lot of songs off the latest record (Mannequin). We’re hoping to bring a great melodic set. Hopefully we can bring something unique to what looks like a great festival.”
Hoe will perform as part of an outreach effort by South Country Fair to introduce the music to more Fort Macleod residents.
South Country Fair is held in Fort Macleod Fish and Game Park, which does not allow residents the chance to sample the atmosphere, music and other artistic facets without going down Lyndon Hill to the event.
Organizers this year decided to bring some of the music to the people and have scheduled concerts at the Fort Macleod Arts Building on Main Street and the Legion Cenotaph Bandstand on Second Avenue.
Ry and the Cowpies and Sweet Alibi will perform from 12 noon to 2 p.m. Friday, July 19 at the Arts Building. Sarah Jane Scouten and Sarah MacDougall will perform from 12 noon to 2 p.m. at the same venue on Saturday, July 20.
Harpoonist and The Ax Murderer and Corin Raymond will perform Friday, July 19 from 2-4 p.m. at the Legion Cenotaph Bandstand. On Saturday, The Broken Mirrors and J.P. Hoe perform on the bandstand from 2-4 p.m.
“I’m not totally sure what to expect,” Hoe said of South Country Fair. “We’ll have a pool of songs that might be 1 ½ times what we need. Everyone is professional enough that when we get there we can take a look at what type of festival it is and modify the set on the go.”
That means if the crowd at the Legion Cenotaph Bandstand is in the mood for an up-temp show, J.P. Hoe and his band will deliver.
If the audience is more in the mood to listen, the band will choose from a selection of ballads to accommodate that festival vibe.
“The trick is, and one of the nice things about being a songwriter, is the flexibility of getting to choose ebbing or flowing, and just trying to create a set for whatever the environment seems to be requiring,” Hoe said. “That’s a really fun aspect of getting to play festivals.”
That willingness and ability to deliver what the crowd wants reflects the place Hoe is at in his musical career. J.P. Hoe has had the most commercial success of his career with his fifth album, Mannequin, which he released in 2012.
Hoe attended an all-boys’ school in which athletics played a big part. Hoe was not into that “scene” at all.
“I felt that it was important to have something other than muscles to sort of break the ice. That was the original culprit of why I started to play. Then I started to realize music was a mode of transportation to see other places.”
Early influences included songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. Hoe also had his eyes opened to the Beatles and their deep catalogue of music. Later, The Tragically Hip, Radiohead and others provided an influence.
“The influences come from all over the music spectrum and hopefully they all leave a little piece of them with me and my singer-songwriter style, and hopefully that makes for my own catalogue to be more interesting and not as repetitive as it could be.”
Hoe moved to France after high school and played concerts but still wasn’t convinced music was his career seeing it more as a fun means to an end.
“After I moved back I decided to give it a shot. Since then it has been this really crazy adventure of an opportunity.”
Hoe finds inspiration from life, often looking to the events in friends’ lives for inspiration. He will observe an event and then write from the perspective of the same thing happening to him.
“I look to everybody in my life. That’s something people can relate to, and something I would love to try and explore myself. After that I try and piece it together an hope that it is a valid song and an honest song that first of all pleases me, and hopefully makes a connection with other people.”
“I just can’t stop doing this. I can’ think of anything that would make me happier, and would be more of a rewarding career.”
Getting married and the pending arrival this fall of the singer-songwriter and his wife’s his first child has sharpened Hoe’s focus.
Nominated three times for Western Canadian Music Awards, Hoe works hard at his craft and tours relentlessly while maintaining his independence.
“It’s a long, long journey but I’m really excited about where things are now.”
Hoe has a new manager, agent and publicist. As they come to the end of the cycle of Mannequin, Hoe is excited about what comes next.
“It’s really fun, and quite frankly somebody says I shouldn’t be doing it or nobody wants to offer me a show I’ll just keep going and hopefully keep getting better as a songwriter. There are definitely songs I want to accomplish and artistic goals I haven’t met.”
Hoe was co-producer of Mannequin, the first time he took an active role in that process with his own music. That step is indicative of J.P. Hoe’s continuing development as a singer-songwriter.
“I’m just at a place where I feel really confident in what I’m doing,” Hoe said. “I’m not trying to set the world on fire. I‘m trying to have a career, I’m trying to write great music, and I feel like I have a better idea of how to do that for me. Hopefully it keeps going.”