KT: You made headlines a few years ago with your Ottawa anthem Capcity and since then you’ve also been a speaker at local elementary schools with the Majic 100 No More Bullies tour. We want to learn more about your latest project with the Ottawa Senators, but maybe you can provide us with a bit of backstory about your relationship with the Sens to start things off. Because this is not the first video you’ve done for them, right? Can you tell us how this all began?
Peter Joynt: This is it is my third song for the Ottawa Senators organization, and in my opinion, it’s my best yet. It all started back in 2011 when I released Capcity.
That song landed me on the front page of the Ottawa Citizen. The next day I was contacted by the Senators’ Director of Game Entertainment, Glen Gower, to whom I owe so much for my current success. He said he loved the positive nature of my song and wondered if I could write a Sens version. I was in! Not only was this a big step for me as an artist, but I’m also a HUGE Sens fan. I wrote the song and cut the video myself. They played it at every Sens home game during the 2011-2012 season. I even did a Playoff version for their run in 2012. It was such a thrill for me to work with the Sens and be featured so prominently at games and in the community. That year remains one of the best in my life. I had a song with the Sens, I won the car in Tim Horton’s RRROLLUP contest and I got married to my unbelievable wife, Marj.
The next year was the NHL lockout (2012-2013). I wasn’t expecting a callback from the Sens. But sure enough, when it was determined that the lockout was going to end, I was asked to write another song. Ready for More played at all the home games, and I got to perform it at a couple of functions, like the Sens Soiree.
My contact at the Sens, Glen Gower, moved on from the organization to start a new career and I was left to my own devices for the 2013-2014 NHL season. But at the same time, my school appearances were ramping up. (I speak regularly at schools about stuttering, rapping, and resiliency). This activity, and a new anti-bullying video (What I Do), caught the eye of Sens PA Announcer and Radio Host, Stuntman Stu. Stu and the gang from Majic100 invited me to join their #NoMoreBullies tour. Eventually Stu started pestering the new Director of Game Entertainment, and said “You HAVE TO get Peter Joynt back to do another song.” Sure enough, I got a message asking for a song for the upcoming season.
I knew I wanted to make the song dynamic and incorporate students from the schools I speak at. So for the following two #NoMoreBullies school visits, I recorded a gym full of kids yelling “Go Sens Go,” which was worked into the song. I submitted it with a pitch video, and they loved it.
It’s played on the big screen at every home game just before the players skate out of the tunnel and between the 3rd and Overtime when games go into OT. I never thought my run with the Sens would last this long. So I’m enjoying every minute of it. It’s such a thrill to be involved with my favourite hockey team.
KT: Can you describe your work process, for all of the aspiring artists out there?
PJ: I’ve been writing rhymes for about 15 years. In that time, I’ve honed my skills and my writing process quite a bit. Usually, I start with a topic, and try to think of clever rhymes on that topic. I jot them down whenever and wherever I think of them. If I’m at home, I’ll write them on sticky notes, write them in the notes section on my phone, or write them on a scratchpad on my computer. I actually do my best “writing” in the car. Driving is when I do my best thinking. I record my rhymes as voice memos, and later transcribe them on my computer.
Once I have a pile of rhymes to work with, I start stringing them together. It’s like a big puzzle, where each line has to flow into the next. That’s from a breathing and rhythm perspective and from a content perspective. It has to sound like they were all written in the same sitting. Flow is so important when writing hip-hop.
You usually end up with tons of leftover rhymes that didn’t quite fit in the song. I then save them for future songs. I likely have about 50 pages of rhymes that were never used. These often come in handy for future songs. It’s great to review past work to get the ball rolling on new work.
Once you have the rhymes, and have made sure they fit with the beat (practice reciting them over and over to fine tune them), I record them in my home studio. I then reach out to get help mixing and mastering the final product.
KT: You are so well known for your previous work. Did you feel any extra pressure during the creative process this time around?
PJ: I try not to think about past work when I’m writing a new song – other than to use it as a reference point for improvement. I always want to make a song better than the last, so I push myself to try new things, and get better with each song. But at the end of the day, if something new doesn’t fit or doesn’t feel right, I don’t force it. I think people like my songs because of my content and my flow, so I always try to move forward with that in mind.
With This Is It, I wrestled with the song a lot. I changed a bunch of parts before I was happy enough to submit it. Certain days, I didn’t like it at all, which is a point I reach quite often with my projects. Artists in general are always so sensitive about their work. You have good days and bad days, but then (hopefully) it all clicks. I got the song to a point where I wanted others to hear it. The feedback I received was really promising and enough for me to say “This Is IT!”
KT: How does it feel to have your music and video in front of so many people in such a big way?
PJ: It sounds cheesy, but it’s a dream come true for me. Every artist or musician dreams of “making it big,” or achieving some sort of success. I would say those same people have an understanding of how hard it really is to achieve that. The reality is that it’s unbelievably difficult to be successful in music. This song, this video, and where it gets played, represents a tremendous success for me. I am affiliated with the Senators and I take that with me everywhere I go in the community.
I have tried for the last 15 years to make music and make a go of it in Ottawa. I have been rejected so many times I’ve lost count. But I kept at it, worked hard to get better, and eventually caught a break. I have turned that break into local success, and now my music plays at the biggest venue in Ottawa. Seeing my face on the big screen at the Canadian Tire Centre means so much to me. It reminds me of all the work I’ve put into my music, and just how much I love making music. I still get goose bumps when the song comes on at a game.
KT: What kind of feedback have you been getting to This is It so far?
PJ: The response has been awesome. I’ve been hearing great things from friends and fans alike. I perform the song at all my school visits to, and people really get into it. To top it off, the Senators likes it so much, I’ve been asked by another department in the organization to repurpose the song for advertising purposes. They felt it really represents all the feelings of being at a game, and want to use it to enhance their marketing campaigns. That is a huge feather in my cap, and an added thrill of being involved with my favourite hockey team.
KT: What else is in store for you? Any new projects on the horizon?
PJ: All I have slated at the moment are more school visits and speaking engagements. I have about eight in the next month. That will keep me busy until I work more with the Sens on the video ads. But you never know when the next wave of creativity will hit. I’m due for a new song soon.
For more on Peter Joynt, go to thejoynt.ca.