JJ Voss knows how isolating Social Media can be.
The Saskatchewan roots singer-songwriter suffered a back injury that forced him to take a few years off from his music career, “and basically my life,” Voss said in an interview Tuesday.
“I went in for surgery and had a pretty slow recovery. I spent a lot of time alone and with nothing to do but think.”
Spending a lot of time thinking and browsing social media left Voss feeling as if the world has never been as polarized and divided as it is right now.
That feeling turned into Voss’ latest album, set for release on March 20. Just six days later, Voss will take to the E.A. Rawlinson Stage for a Cabaret series show — meaning the entire concert takes place, audience and all, on the stage of the Olive and John Diefenbaker Theatre.
“I like the idea because this is a solo acoustic show,” he said. “It’s great for intimate performances. When you have people in tight like that, it’s easy to connect with them and you can tell stories. It feels like you’re sitting in your living room talking to friends.”
The music video for the title track of the new album, Come Along With Me, released on Valentine’s Day. He also released a music video for track five on the album, titled Thoughts and prayers. The album’s first single, Some People, was released last fall.
Voss’s artist bio says he’s been inspired by songwriters such as Steve Earle, Jason Isbell, Johnny Cash and Jim Cuddy. He aims to make relevant music that addresses social issues and take a stand for what’s right.
The reception so far has been positive.
“The song has a very up and positive message,” Voss said.
“The theme of this album is about being better people and trying to find our way through this divided and polarized time. Someone said to me the other day, ‘it’s hard to push back against love and hope.’ That’s been the response.”
With an album that carries a message with it, the atmosphere of smaller shows, such as the March 26 Rawlinson Cabaret, really serves itself to audience connection.
“When you can make eye contact with somebody when you look people in the eye, there’s an effect to it,” Voss said.
“We’re living in an age where we have very, very little person-to-person contact anymore. Most of our contact with people is virtual.”
While the show was announced along with the rest of his Saskatchewan dates in January (Voss will play in Melfort on March 27), since that announcement Voss has been nominated for three Saskatchewan Country Music Awards.
“It’s always great to get validation,” he said. “It’s not the reason I do this, but it’s not a bad thing.”
It’s especially valuable after spending time off.
“There was a stretch where I didn’t know if I was going to continue. I didn’t know if I had much of a career to come back to after taking time off,” he said.
“It was definitely a validation and a kick in the butt saying ‘stop feeling sorry for yourself, get up and do something.’”
Voss is looking forward to returning to Prince Albert. He said he has friends in the city and region, and praised the talent that arises from the area.
“It’s probably one of the hotbeds for musical talent in Saskatchewan,” Voss said. “Some of the greatest musicians in our country have come from the area around Prince Albert.”
He’s also looking forward to spreading his message and maybe making an impact.
“I hope (my music) makes them think,” he said. “I hope it makes them hope. I hope it makes them mad. I hope it makes them speak out. Overall, I hope they walk away from it with a hopeful message.”
Voss’s show is set for 8 p.m. on March 26. Tickets are about $25 and available from the E.A. Rawlinson Centre box office. Doors open half an hour before the performance. The event is rush seating.