An artist and musician has made his home in Hamilton and the inspiration the city provided is now channeled into his newest collection of songs.
Halifax native James Ferris has been making music for a couple of decades with a history that features bands like Halifax’s Big Ethyl and Toronto’s Dharma but Ferris’ journey geographic and musical journey would bring him to Hamilton and this week he releases his latest album, Fake It So Real.
“I moved to Toronto because of music and opportunities there but after a few years it can run you down a bit,” recalls Ferris. “I met somebody and she wanted to live in Hamilton so we moved here and I absolutely love it. I find it very similar to Halifax because it’s a town that’s born on primary industry with good, hard working people — there’s a lot of culture in the city, a very strong musical community. For me, I found a lot of similarities and I’ve been loving it since 2004.”
Ferris has kept his performing chops up with weekly residences at the Corktown Pub and Pub Fiction and developed his songwriting and studio skills with the help of some important Hamilton musicians.
“I’ve played with a lot of musicians but I haven’t played with everybody, that’s for sure,” says Ferris. “There’s an incredible amount of talent here. I did a lot of primary writing with Ron Cole who is a little more seasoned than I am. I come from more of an entertainer background so he helped me with the craft of songwriting. I can’t believe how incredibly lucky to have been able to work with Anthony Goodine in the studio.”
“Most of what I write are from conversations and interactions with people so it’s somewhat of a document of my life and the people that have become involved,” adds Ferris. “This is definitely a Hamilton album because the music community really shaped my sound and the way that I approach music. There’s a depth to the music here — there are a lot of writers and when you’re exposed to people that have taken the time to learn the craft, if you want to work with anyone you’ve got to be up on your chops and know what you’re doing. It’s been very rewarding being in Hamilton for sure.”
Hamilton and James Street North had both musical and artistic allure for Ferris since he makes art and music.
“I’m a visual artist as well — I do an old form of art called scratchboard so I’ve spent a lot of time on James Street North,” says Ferris. “One of the things that I love about that area and the way that community has come together, it’s really shaped the identity of the city. Every walk of life and a lot of creative energy is there. To see a creative and artistic community build from the ground up and take hold of people’s consciousness in the city and outside of the city — people come from miles to participate in it and I think it’s incredible. It’s a powerful thing and I identify with that area and what’s happened there.”
His music is an amalgam of early rock and roll mixed with his east coast youth and more newly acquired roots rock leanings although tracks might draw more comparison to the Romantics or Keith Urban over Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp.
“It definitely has that Americana kind of thing,” says Ferris. “It’s songs about working class life. To me, it’s got that roots rock feel to it and that’s the influence that Hamilton has had on me.”
With his new album in hand, Ferris is already planning a Motown inspired new album for next year, but this week he official debuts Fake It So Real with a slew of veteran musicians including Anthony Goodine, Randal Hill, Ron Cole, Justine Fischer and Ken Griffin.
James Ferris and the James St. North bring the new music to the live stage this week and for Ferris that means it’s going to be part stadium show, part kitchen party.
“The most important thing to me when I get on stage is that the audience is entertained and walk away feeling that they had some kind of experience,” says Ferris. “Growing up out east, whether it was a kitchen party or an arena show, the shows were very similar. There were no walls between the musicians and audience and you felt like you were hanging out in your friends’ rec room. We do a show and want to pull people in. People come in and it’s almost like the hang their worries at the door and enjoy themselves, singing along and having some fun.”
James Ferris and the James St. North play this Thursday November 28 at The Corktown Pub with special guest Hachey the MouthPEACE. Show starts at 7:00 pm and tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. Click on jamesferrismusic.com
Photo by:Bob Hatcher