In the late 1980s, guitar whiz Jack Semple left Regina for Toronto to join the popular R&B band the Lincolns. After two years in the big city, Semple returned to his Prairie hometown to kick into a solo career. Almost 30 years later, the music industry is following suit as the Juno Awards and Juno Week transplant themselves to Saskatchewan’s capital for the first time.
As a blues player, Semple says he’s looking forward to the blues showcase at Casino Regina on Friday, April 20, featuring Semple, his band, Steve Strongman and Shakura S’Aida, both of whom are nominated for blues album of the year . “A great opportunity for me is that [Shakura’s] band isn’t coming so my band gets to back her up,” says Semple. “That’s one of those serendipitous things that would never have happened if the Junos weren’t coming here.”
The biggest question one might ask Semple is why he chose to return to Regina to pursue a career in music. The simple answer, for Semple, is that he likes Regina. But he also looks at it more functionally.
“It’s inspiring; with these long cold winters I’m in my basement a lot,” he says, laughing.But Semple is quick to point out the upside of modern music business. “I’m a studio musician. I make my living playing on other people’s records. With technology the way it is these days, I do it in my own studio over the internet.”
But with Juno Week coming to Regina from April 18 to 24, Semple says he’s jazzed for the opportunity to get out and meet the crowd.
“In Regina it’s going to be really easy to meet a ton of people you don’t normally get to meet,” he says, referring to Regina bands having the opportunity to schmooze with the music industry. “You’ll get to hand them your CD and hope to do some kind of business.”
In addition to touring as a live performer, Semple has cause to get out to the music centre of Canada now and then, citing a recent trip to Toronto for the Maple Blues Awards. But as Juno Week comes to Regina, with it comes Junofest, a two-night festival of live music held at various venues around the city. Semple is enthused about the boost in creative energy that Junofest will bring to the city’s music community.
“It’s not only Regina bands that are showcasing here, it’s national bands,” he says. “Suddenly the small pond becomes the big ocean and the competition is stiff. But it’s great, there’s nothing like a kick in the butt to make you practise harder.”