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Jarvis Church

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Jarvis Church began his musical journey at an early age, when he attended a Bob Marley concert in Jamaica. Not just any Bob Marley concert, but the legendary 1977 "One Love" concert in Kingston, which united the country and its feuding political factions. It was at this early age where Jarvis discovered the healing power of music. Jarvis’ father was Leader of the Civil Service in Jamaica and as Jarvis explains, “at the time there were strong feuding political factions in Jamaica. And here we are at a massive stadium, 80,000 strong, with Bob Marley bringing Prime Minister Michael Manley and the leader of the opposing party together.”

A landmark event for sure and just a beginning chapter to the story of Jarvis Church: artist, producer, and performer. On his RCA Records/Sony Music Canada debut album Shake It Off (released July 2, 2002 in Canada and August 2002 in the United States) Jarvis brings together a variety of musical genres, all seamlessly linked by the rhythmic footprint of reggae music. Building on his 2002 Grammy nomination for Best Producer (Nelly Furtado), Jarvis has produced another fascinating musical landscape to explore.

Jarvis was born in Jamaica and his country’s reggae influence on him has been enormous. As he explains, “I think it has made me partial to Dance Hall rhythms and made me partial to heavy bass.” Relating to the country itself, Jarvis felt a comfort, “knowing that you have a place from which you call your native home. It becomes part of you, like a shield you wear as you walk through life.” In 1980, Jarvis moved from Jamaica to Toronto. He quickly called Toronto his second home, as the multi-cultural city encouraged him to embrace his Jamaican heritage. He felt a sense of familiarity and comfort. “Toronto has the most incredibly rich mosaic of cultures and people. It’s allowed me the musical freedom to try anything. I’ve grown up listening to all forms of music here.”

Jarvis experimented with a number of pseudo groups and bands since the age of 13, eventually connecting with five other Toronto musicians (including future production partner Brian West) and forming The Philosopher Kings. Known then as Gerald Eaton, he created an alias in homage to two dynamic streets in Toronto, Jarvis and Church Streets. As lead singer of the jazz/pop/soul band, he crafted and cultivated his varied musical soul influences into his own imitable style. The band signed a record deal with Sony Music Canada in 1993 and immediately began touring North America, South America and Asia on the strength of their top ten hit “Charms” from their debut self titled record, which was certified Gold.

Two subsequent albums followed, one in 1997 entitled Famous Rich and Beautiful which was certified Platinum and produced 5 singles playing at multi-format radio and a live album in 1999 One Night Stand. By then, despite the Philosopher King's growing global success, top 10 singles and renowned live show, Jarvis began feeling the impulse to move on. He formed Track and Field Productions with guitarist Brian West. Their first work as a production team was in developing an unsigned female singer Jarvis discovered at a local talent show called Honey Jam in 1998. Her name was Nelly Furtado. Numerous sales achievements, four Juno awards and five Grammy nominations followed. Recalls Jarvis on working with Nelly, "she was very open-minded. The Toronto scene where we all came from included genre-bending music incorporating Brazilian, hip-hop, classical string loops, choirs, rock, reggae - you name it. We pushed each other to be fresh and interesting, bound to nothing. Her improvisational skills in the studio were phenomenal, and we all felt the magic. My fear however was that people wouldn't ‘get' Nelly’s album, but they did get it, even all the subtle nuances and textures. Our success gave me the confidence to explore further and to dig even deeper into myself for my own album.”

On Jarvis Church’s debut Shake It Off, the listener is led through a seamless integration of music and influences from soul, R&B, pop and hip hop, all rooted rhythmically by Jarvis’ reggae heritage. Nelly Furtado described it as “Marvin Gaye from Mars” and the description nicely presents Jarvis’ immutably unique yet immediately accessible music. Jarvis describes the title track as optimistic and in the moment, “about being in a good mood. Think about a sunny day and how walking into that sunshine lifts your mood. It’s about rolling with the punches, not letting things bring you down and taking care of yourself.” “That Old Love Song,” one of the premier standout tracks from the album, explains itself through its title. As Jarvis describes, “I think that it is the purest song on the album. It was written in one moment, in one bit of inspiration, the entire song. It was almost like the song was there and I discovered it. That song was sort of outside of my reach in terms of a songwriter then and I feel lucky that I was able to discover it.”

Another song on the album, “She Kills Like A Soldier,” recounts a relationship gone sour. “It is about a close friend of mine who had a relationship where his girlfriend was so good on the good points, but so bad on the bad points. It just inspired that sentiment, the hook is just an analogy to how strong her extremes sides were.” Additional ear picks include “Fine Line” and “Run For Your Life” featuring guest performances from Nelly Furtado and Esthero, respectively. As Jarvis explains, “I love role playing in songs and both Nelly and Esthero were right down with it. They both gave Oscar worthy performances, Nelly as a psychotic stripper and Esthero as an obsessive fan.”

Jarvis’ approach to song writing is in many ways directed by his deeper love of performing live. “In the back of my mind when I am writing lyrics I am always thinking what it is going to feel like to sing them to an audience. Lately on this album I have been sort of creating the music first, letting the music dictate a sense of mood and trying to just use lyrics to heighten and clarify that mood. I have been trying to let my lyrics be a lot more off the cuff. I wrote almost all the lyrics within little short spurts of inspiration, never more than 15-20 minutes. I like dealing with male-female relations. The whole concept is endless.

“Music is best meant to inspire. I definitely think it is the emotional reaction that music gives you and that could strictly just be the feeling of wanting to dance, or it could be the feeling of wanting to cry, or being happy or just whatever it is. The music has to get through to you and have some sort of real connection.”

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