ESTEVAN - Estevan will have a unique opportunity to dissolve in virtuous guitar music on Thursday.
The Orpheum Theatre is bringing live music back. The audience will get to enjoy the show by Regina's Jack Semple with his band and special guests, Last Birds, on Aug. 26, starting at 7:30 p.m.
In an interview with the Mercury, Semple said he might play some acoustic guitar, but most of it will be electric, which is what he usually does when he plays with the band. The audience can expect a wide variety of beautiful music and also the great atmosphere of a live concert.
"One thing I've noticed since gigs have started coming back, the enthusiasm from the audience is amazing because they haven't seen a live performance in almost two years. So the audiences are fantastic, and that energizes the band, so we'll be full of energy and it'll be a really fun gig. It will be pumping out lots of energy and having lots of fun," Semple said.
"I'm really thankful that the Orpheum Theatre is presenting live music, because, for musicians and artists in general, it's been very difficult since the pandemic started. And to have an opportunity to come and play again for a live audience … I'm so thankful to Jocelyn and everybody at the Orpheum Theatre for being proactive to try and get the ball rolling again. There's nothing better than seeing a live performance. It's real."
Semple is no stranger to Estevan. The last time he was in the Energy City was in 2019 alongside Jeffery Straker and Annette Champagne, but he said that was a different show as he played acoustic that time.
He hasn't played on the same stage with Last Birds yet but is looking forward to meeting the popular folk Americana North Portal duo consisting of Lindsay Arnold and her husband Mike Davis.
Semple said that the pandemic have been pretty boring with hardly any gigs available. But the lack of performances allowed for more teaching.
"I have young people who are just starting, and I also have professional musicians. The nice thing about teaching on Zoom is that I've got guitar players from all over. I've got musicians in Los Angeles, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, the Maritimes, and people who live across the street from me who don't feel like coming over because of the pandemic," Semple said.
He's also been "retraining" himself in playing guitar to go past any limitations, open up new doors and explore sounds.
"I have this technique of playing guitar that I've developed for my whole life of playing without a pick. And so in the last year and a half, I've been retraining myself to play with a pick, which is a totally different skill. It sounds like an obvious thing for people to play with a pick. But for me, it's always been difficult. So I've been practising and retraining my guitar skills," Semple said.
This summer, when crowds were still restricted, he started his solo Backyard Barbecue Festival, which he said was fun, but different from playing for larger audiences. After the restrictions were lifted he played in Edmonton, and he is looking forward to returning to bigger live shows and playing with his band.
"Now it's starting to open up again, and the Orpheum Theatre is going to be a lot of fun," Semple said.
Semple grew up on a farm north of Regina. He started his musical career playing with various Regina-based bands. In the late 1980s, he relocated to Toronto, where he became the lead guitarist of The Lincolns, a popular funk and rhythm and blues band. He left the band after two years and returned to Regina to pursue a solo career and to spend more time with his family.
After his move back to Regina, Semple contributed to television and music scores and appeared in the title role of Guitarman, a 1994 movie.
Semple also commenced a solo recording career that has resulted in the release of 10 albums. In 1992, Semple came to national prominence through winning the MuchMusic Guitar Wars contest. He's been twice nominated for a Gemini Award for his soundtrack work on the TV series Incredible Story Studio, and won a Juno award in 1991 for best roots recording. Semple also has won two Western Canadian music awards for Qu'Appelle and In the Blue Light.
Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky was so impressed with Semple's music that he flew him to play at his wedding.
"It was great. If you're a hockey fan, it was… It was like every famous hockey player in the world was there. I got Gordie Howe's autograph on Wayne and Janet's wedding invitation. I gave it to my brother-in-law, Joe, who's a huge hockey fan. That was my hockey royalty," recalled Semple with a laugh.
He continues to perform as a solo artist and with The Jack Semple Band, across Canada and is now being championed across America.