As we drank hot beverages at a café on a cool (not quite wintery) Sunday afternoon in January, Joce’s playful and passionate nature shined through. We immediately connected over our dislike of hot weather and commiserated that there simply hasn’t been enough snow or cold weather yet this winter.
Many Islanders are familiar with Joce’s work as a musician; however, they reiterated that their artistic pursuits actually take on many forms—visual art, painting, drawing, music and theatre. Through them all, Joce reminds us of the power of story and that all things are relational.
“I don’t take life or myself too seriously,” they say.
When asked about what inspires their art, Joce spiritedly said, “for the fun of it.” They went on to talk about their growth in personal and political aspects with their music, but they say they are most inspired by, and drawn to, art that allows them to create without borders. Art that allows them to explore and to just be.
“When I start a project, I don’t really have a plan or outcome in mind. I think, ‘what life will this take on?’ and ‘what will this turn into?’”
As a fellow integrator and interdisciplinary artist, I admire Joce for their authenticity. I saw them perform (theatre and music) in the 2020 Island Fringe Festival’s Pounding the Pavement: Celebrating and amplifying artists from the fringe in a play called Blackberries. The play explored realities that Black folx endure from well-intentioned white people. Joce walked on stage with their bass guitar wearing a shirt that said, “I can’t breathe.” This is a phrase associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, originating from the last words of Eric Garner, an unarmed Black man killed in 2014 after being put in a chokehold by New York City Police.
“We are living through the greatest civil rights movement of all time.”
As a person of colour and a member of the queer community, Joce expressed their desire and dedication to being of service. They currently contribute as a board member of both Pride PEI and Music PEI.
“It is a deeply personal journey.”
But Joce wasn’t always vocal in the ways that they are now. “I’m finding ways to speak up that feel good for me and fit my values.
“Speaking up doesn’t mean tearing others down.”
Joce has quiet wisdom for us: “Black Lives Matter doesn’t infringe on your rights; all we’re asking for are the same rights.
“If you were feeling bad, and people wanted you hurt or worse, would you not stand up? Would you not try to protect people you love and care for?
“Walking in someone else shoes is a lot, try doing it for a full march.”
As Joce continues to connect to their voice and share those gifts with the world, they remember the path they’ve taken to this point. While a student at Holland College, Joce “picked up the bass to see what would happen.” They saw a niche gap that they could fill and with a childhood dream of being a bassist along with their playful spirit, Joce took that bass and ran with it.
In 2019, they toured with Russell Louder. They have also collaborated with other Island artists such as Dylan Menzie and KINLEY. Poised to set the world on fire with their soulful voice and the power of story, a global pandemic forced a shift in 2020.
“We had so many gigs and events planned, and everything just came to a halt.”
Joce radiates agility and adaptability so I was not surprised to hear how they took 2020 in stride and were able to acknowledge many COVID silver-linings.
“Islanders really stepped up last spring and summer by providing opportunities for artists like me to perform.”
They treated fans with livestream events and participated in Music PEI’s Tiny Island Concert Series and Golden Ticket Program, to name a few. They also had a song, “Unknown,” commissioned by the CBC.
Joce continues to work on various projects and has many exciting plans for 2021. Their first single, “Cross my Heart” will be released on February 19 and they anticipate their first album to drop by the end of the year.
—The Buzz welcomes Julie Bull aboard as our new profile columnist.