JP Saxe: From Performing John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ For His Middle School To Opening For John Mayer

JP Saxe Performs At Danforth Music Hall
TORONTO, ONTARIO – JULY 15: JP Saxe performs at The Danforth on July 15, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Jeremychanphotography/Getty Images)

The first performance that sticks in JP Saxe’s memory is at a seventh grade activism awareness assembly, where he performed John Lennon’s “Imagine” in front of his entire middle school. The shy performer who enjoys speaking with others, but never knows how to make the first move, considers singing on stage his life hack to getting people to come up to him.

“I didn’t have too many friends in my high school,” Saxe tells Pollstar. “Which was a blessing, because if you find validation in popularity, by default you don’t have to explore the things about yourself that are unique to find that validation. Because obviously, when you’re 13 or 14, you want to be accepted. I found a music community in broader Toronto and I would go to open mics, because I was so shy and didn’t know how to talk to people. But then I learned very young that if I sang first and was reasonably good, that people would come talk to me. And that’s honestly still the case. I really like talking to people, but it’s just scary talking to strangers. But when I do shows all kinds of strangers come up and talk to me.” 

JP Saxe is currently on tour opening for John Mayer. His new album, A Grey Area, is scheduled to be released on Sept. 22, with a world tour coming up next year in support of the record. Dates throughout North America and the UK and Europe have already been announced, but Saxe shares he plans to visit as many places as possible.

When reflecting on his career thus far, Saxe shares several shows that stick out.

“There are the shows that on paper seem like the milestones, and then there’s the ones that feel like milestones,” Saxe says. “And I’m not really sure why. On paper, obviously there’s Central Park for 100,000 people, or opening for John Mayer at Madison Square Garden, selling out 3,000 tickets in my hometown in Toronto when I used to spend a month trying to get 100 people to come to a show. 

“Those feel big on paper. But there’s been a couple shows that for whatever reason I was so present. I did a pop-up show in Buenos Aires in January 2022 where I just played in the park in Argentina and 700 people showed up. And that made me feel like I was living my dreams, because I was in this city I’d never been to before and I love traveling.”

However, above nearly all his performances was Cologne, Germany. Saxe isn’t quite sure what exactly made that performance so special. Perhaps it was the atmosphere, perhaps because it was his first time in the new city. 

“When I was growing up, one of my favorite albums was The Köln Concert by Keith Jarrett,” Saxe shares. “I used to listen
to it every morning on my way to school. I was obsessed with it. So this was the first time I’d been in Cologne, and that concert recording had happened there. So maybe there’s a little of that energy. I think it was the smallest venue on the whole tour, the backstage area smelled like German beer. It was hot as shit. I was so sweaty on stage, but the place was just jam packed and everyone knew every word. And hearing people’s singing accents is always a fun phenomenon for us as performers. And I think it might have been one of my first shows in Germany, so I’d never heard a German accent singing the songs. So that was particularly endearing. 

“I don’t know why [it was my favorite]. Maybe it was that the audience was really present and affectionate,” Saxe adds. “I just got lost in it. My favorite feelings are the ones where I’m not analyzing it as it happens, because I analyze most things as they happen. It’s a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it’s the reason I’m able to write songs. A curse because sometimes you don’t really feel like you’re actually living your life.”

JP Saxe shares that overthinking allows him to connect with his audience, as he feels those who enjoy his music often do the same. While out on tour with John Mayer, he shares the crowd has been exceptionally friendly. He feels that perhaps they, too, are over thinkers.

When it comes to touring with Mayer, Saxe finds the experience to be delightful.

“It’s a dream,” Saxe says. “He’s been so generous and gracious and kind to me and my whole crew. It’s unique too in that he’s performing solo and it’s not very common that you would get as an opener to have the same setup as the person you’re opening for. So to play solo in an arena for an artist headlining solo in an arena just makes for, I think, a pretty unique concert experience. It’s very intimate.”

As Saxe looks ahead to his upcoming performances, he’s excited for his album release parties. The sets will be intimate, with Saxe performing tracks off of his upcoming record. The new album was written in Colombia, with Saxe taking Spanish courses in the morning in order to become fluent in the language. He wanted to write in an environment he hadn’t yet been in before, explaining that, “There’s something really grounding in being a stranger to everyone you meet and the way that impacts my perspective as a writer, because I spend so much time in my own head and I’m having these interactions constantly, especially with the added element of it being in the different language.” 

While learning Spanish, Saxe discovered that he also learned how to describe his emotions differently, which impacted his songwriting. “I didn’t anticipate the way learning Spanish was going to change the way I wrote in English because I was understanding my emotions differently in this new language,” he says. 

He’s gearing up to share the record with the world, starting with the album release parties ahead of his world tour. 

“We did an album release party in London and then we have one in Toronto, one in New York and one in Los Angeles,” Saxe says. “The people coming to those shows have to win entry, so it’s people who really let my music be a part of their life in a meaningful way. So to be in rooms with those people is very fulfilling and motivating. And a reminder of why I love making art, because you take these little moments that are from the most personal and often the most lonely parts of your life, and they get to be the thing that connects you to other people who have found music in the most lonely parts of their life.”

Saxe also can’t wait for his upcoming world tour. The dates kick off on Jan. 27 in Edmonton, Alberta, with the North American leg hitting most major cities on the continent before wrapping up in Denver on March 23. Saxe will take a short break before flying across the Atlantic, with his European leg starting on April 1 in Stockholm, Sweden. The leg wraps up on April 21 in Dublin, Ireland. 

“I have 23 more shows with John Mayer, then I’m doing the biggest global headline tour I’ve ever done, touring all over the world,” he says.

Further dates have not yet been announced, however, Saxe states he hopes to add on more.  

“I’ve never been more excited for anything in my entire life,” he says. “It’s everything I’ve always wanted.”