Updated: May 18
by Scott Roos
Released in spite of COVID19 in July of 2020, Prince Albert expats Jay & Jo’s latest full length entitled Victory was a true labor of love. Funded entirely by their fanbase, sisters Janaya McCallum and Jolissa Trudel ran a 30-day crowdfunding campaign in the spring of 2019 and were able to successfully raise the funds in one week. This led to time recording at Big Bang Studios in Saskatoon under the tutelage of producer Hal Schrenk. The end result is a highly thoughtful set of nine songs that have garnered McCallum and Trudel critical acclaim via several SaskMusic and Saskatchewan Country Music Association Award nominations.
“We felt the need to drop the album anyway, even though we were not able to play live or tour at the time. The theme of resilience and hope amidst loneliness and disillusionment proved to be a more and more potent message as the year progressed. We felt that 2020 was the perfect time to release such songs,” said McCallum in a recent interview with NSMZ.
McCallum and Trudel are no strangers to the music business having grown up in their own family band that involved both their parents as well as their two brothers. The sisters grew up immersed in a musical environment which eventually led to them branching out on their own.
“We grew up in a country-bluegrass family band, wittingly titled "The Trudel Family." Our parents are both musicians and have been playing in bands together since they started dating in high school. We grew into it, naturally,” mused McCallum.
“Music accompanies all of my childhood memories. It is a privilege to have had such an influence from our parents who raised us in such great music. Listening, sharing, playing, and talking about music and art are a huge part of what brings us together as a family to this day. Although our tastes have grown to become individual, music remains a mutual love,” adds Trudel.
Oddly enough, however, McCallum and Trudel, despite the fact that they were in a family band together, only started to write songs with each other about six years ago. It was then that these two talented young ladies discovered that they had a sisterly synergy that worked strongly to their advantage when collaborating.
“Though we grew up playing in a band together, we weren't privy to songwriting. It wasn't until we weren't living under the same roof anymore that we actually started to write. Both of us started songwriting around the same time, but neither of us knew the other was trying their hand at the same thing. We came together one weekend while I was visiting the farm and played our songs for one another. It was a sort of 'no way, me too' situation. It was immediately comforting to have someone to share in the vulnerability that is songwriting. Because we're sisters and have been playing together for years, we can anticipate each other musically, so it made learning each other's original songs and making them into a cohesive sound a really natural process,” explains McCallum.
“Our relationship as Jay & Jo has been marked, it feels mainly, by being apart. Which is why we were so glad to have spent most of 2018-2020 living near or with each other, to record our second album, Victory, and to write together for the first time. Spending so much of our adult lives apart almost makes the strange experience of 2020 not feel so bizarre and has in a way brought back to mind our beginning as musical partners. It has brought a lot into perspective, there is a lot to be grateful for that we have experienced and accomplished together as Jay & Jo,” adds Trudel.
McCallum further explained the Jay & Jo process, ”Though we have written songs together (like "Vineyard Man"), usually one of us presents a nearly-finished idea, and the other adds their own flare, harmony, and feedback. It's really an intriguing process- a song is a funny thing, there is always a point where it jumps out of your arms and takes on a life and impact of its own. Sometimes it feels like it's almost independent of you, how music reaches beyond your own abilities or even intent and reaches people in a way you never imagined it could. I can't explain how humbling and sacred a process it feels like, especially when it's shared with someone who knows me so well and has to love me no matter what.”
Jay & Jo are getting ready for an “album release” style show oddly entitled “The Victory Tour” at the Ea Rawlinson Centre for the Arts on May 1st. They have also, at press time, made the second ballot of the SCMA Awards in five separate categories. See what all the buzz is about by listening to Victory on your favorite streaming service today. It’s well worth it. It’s a brilliantly reflective set of tunes featuring two artists demonstrating a rare melodic synchronicity of spirit in song.
*Jay & Jo courtesy of Derek Elvin