There seems to be one in every class. That’s the kid who’s like a sponge when it comes to music. Jack Semple was one of those kids. At the age of 10, he started taking guitar lessons. By the time he was 15, he was teaching guitar at the local music store and playing live at the Folk Guild in Regina.
Since then, Semple has won the Much Music Guitar Wars contest and a Juno award in 1991 for best roots recording. He has also won two Western Canadian Music awards and he’s currently nominated for the Maple Blues awards for best blues guitarist.
Semple will be performing his brand of blues for the Vernon Folk-Roots Music Society on Friday, Jan. 18 at the Vernon Prestige Lodge and Conference Centre.
Like so many kids in the ‘60s, seeing the Beatles on television had a lasting impact.
“I was about 10, when I saw them play on the Ed Sullivan show,” Semple recalls. “Then later that year, I saw B.B. King play the blues on TV. Music has been my passion ever since I was 10 years old.”
Early on, Semple played all sorts of styles on guitar. “At first, I studied classical guitar. Then I got into Flamenco guitar. But I always loved Blues music,” he explains. “But I never got an electric guitar till I was 18. At the time, I got asked to join a party band around town- it was a good way to make money. So I started reexamining blues music and rock ‘n roll guitar.”
His delving into past music helped form his view of music and the blues. “Blues music is the essential germ of rock ‘n roll, jazz, country, hip-hop and even heavy metal. It’s the root and the source of that feeling in music.” Semple goes on to say, “B.B. King’s music always spoke to because it’s so easily understood- yet incredibly difficult to pull off. Recently, I started doing a B.B. King tribute where I play a full evening of his songs. So I practiced his licks and studied his guitar style. I soon discovered that technically it’s very hard to do but it’s so lyrical and beautiful. So, I’ve discovered that blues music has always truly been at the centre of my gravity.”
In the late 80’s, his Regina-based band opened a show for the Lincolns: “I had seen the Lincolns a few times and they were basically the very best Toronto musicians playing classic soul and R&B music,” he remembers. “Their music really spoke to me because it was sophisticated, slick, well-played with a great stage presentation. So we opened for them and after the show, their leader asked me if i would join their band. And I said, ‘What? You want me to join my favourite band?’” he says with a laugh. “It was a great opportunity. My wife and I had a two year old at the time so we decided to move to Toronto and give it a shot.”
He spent a couple of years in Toronto and kept himself very busy. “I played on movie soundtracks, worked on albums and played all over Ontario and Western-Canada. It was great because I made so many connections in Toronto with folks I continue to play with to this day.” The move to Toronto also bolstered his confidence. “Just going there and seeing the level of talent- I came to realize I could compete on that level.”
The show on Jan. 18 will be very special because Semple will be reunited with Dave Chabot on bass.
“Dave and I played together for 30 years,” Semple says. “Dave just moved to the Vernon area a few months ago. I miss him terribly because he and I are partners, basically. It’ll be absolutely great to play with him again.”
Semple is also looking forward to doing some tunes from his new album, Can’t Stop This Love!, released in September of last year. “Back in October of 2017, I spent two full months writing tunes for a new recording and I wrote 60 tunes in 60 days. I wrote a song every day. I just put the pedal to the metal and I came up with the best writing that I’ve ever done. Then I picked 10 of the songs and that’s the new album. It’s going over well and people are really enjoying it.”
“There’ll be stuff you’ll be able to dance to for sure, Semple says, looking forward to the Vernon show. ” I’ll also be doing some instrumental, solo-guitar stuff and lots of tunes with bluesy vocals.”
“Performing live is very exhilarating because i want to connect with the audience and give them something that they can feel good about,” Semple says. “That’s the whole point- to make the audience feel good. I love taking the audience on a range of emotions- from happy, blues-shuffle music that makes you wanna dance to more thoughtful music that makes you want to reflect on your life and the world around you.When I can create that kind of journey for the audience, I feel I’ve given them something to remember.”
Tickets to the show are $30, $25 for Vernon Folk Roots Society members. Available through ticketseller.ca (250-549-7469), Expressions Of Time bookstore (2901- 30 Avenue) or at the door (if available and cash only.) Doors open at 6:30. Show at 7:30. Food (beef brisket sliders), beer and wine available at the show.
Memberships to our Society sell for $20. Society members receive a $5 rebate when attending a show and are eligible to attend our Annual General Meeting. More information on all shows for the upcoming season is available through vernonfolkroots.com and on Facebook (vernonfolkroots). For further information, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.