T.J. King was 10 when his father bought him his first guitar. With that instrument, his father taught him some Johnny Cash tunes, but King decided to teach himself, too. “I kind of took it from there with the Internet,” King recalls, adding he studied songs from every genre from country, rock or whatever he was listening to at the time. “I was learning just what I could.”
While he grew up in the city, he moved to Mount Uniacke with his father when he was 11. “It’s country living out there,” he says. “It’s simple. You know your neighbours, it’s friends, it’s family. It’s all about moments for me.” That’s where he started his first band, Light It Up, with friend, Brad Peverill. Together, they started writing songs, which was a turning point for King. “We had a lot of fun,” he remembers. “That’s when I decided I wanted to be a rock star.”
Now 24, King seems to be getting his wish. In August, he released his second album Feels Right, which he says is, “totally rockin’.” Feels Right was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Scott Ferguson of Dartmouth-based FMP Matrix Entertainment.
“It has my sound that I use every weekend,” King says. “It was made right here at home.”
That album includes the single “Feels Right,” which is already getting lots of airplay. He recorded his first EP in 2013, a collection of six songs he wrote or co-wrote. King plays Halifax clubs such as Cheers and Casino Nova Scotia, where he was artist-in-residence in 2014.
King, along with his band mates Shelton Swinimer, Shaky LeBlanc, and Kris Richards, play a high-energy show and their collective chemistry comes across to the audience. “It only shows when you see us play,” he says. “From the very first chord that is struck, you can tell we are buddies and hang out a lot.”
This summer, King played the Cavendish Beach Music Festival as one of six Atlantic Canadian finalists with the Canadian Country Music Awards (CCMA) Discovery Program for Atlantic Canada, an offshoot of a national program hosted by the association. King, along with Jason Benoit, Kevin Davison, Tyler Deveau, Katie McGarry, as well as the group The Secrets had a chance to grace the stage at the festival. Benoit won the title and a chance to play at the Country Music Week 2015 in Halifax.
Still, King says he learned valuable lessons from the program’s boot camp session in Halifax, including performance coaching and vocal training. He also met with industry professionals and CCMA president Don Green.
“It’s amazing exposure,” he says. “It’s pretty simple: all these industry people, managers, booking agents, they’re ghosts to a lot of artists here like myself. To have that kind of experience and candid, one-on-one conversations with those people was priceless for me.”
Halifax hosts Country Music Week 2015 events from September 10 to 13. www.ccma.org