Longtime singer-songwriter and Wellesley Idol judge JP Sunga is the first to admit that there are a million reasons for him not to pursue a full-length album. But that didn’t stop the 41-year-old Toronto native from fulfilling that lifelong dream.
His newest single and professional music video, Listen to Your Heart, was released last week. The futuristic pop ballad is the first song on his full-length album, with all songs scheduled to be released by December 2020.
“The song essentially is about finding that hope within us regardless of how dark things in our lives can become. Sometimes even when we don’t want to believe it’s there, there’s always something in there that’s going to be fighting for us,” said Sunga. “The song encourages us to find that light and find that voice within to get us going.”
The father of three found the inspiration to create the song by seeing his friends battle with depression, as well as a reflection on the darker moments of his own life. In particular, Sunga went through a rough patch after losing his mother to cancer.
Subsequently, he experienced a significant writer’s block, and his love of music went on the backburner.
“I want this to be a legacy piece for my kids. Each song is like a letter to them,” he said. “It has lessons of things that I’ve learned so far in my life … things they might not even appreciate until much later in their lives.”
The Listen to Your Heart music video follows an abstract story of a character who fights an internal struggle, expressed through dance. She is torn between wanting to stray away, and wanting to return home. It features Sunga playing the piano, as though he were an internal voice guiding her through the journey. The piano represents the idea of home, he explained.
The work was directed by emerging filmmaker Nicholas Dragas and featured the choreography of Jenna Gagliardi, who also takes on the role of the dancer. It was recorded at the Kitchener-based Hillifer Studios with the help of Sam Hillifer.
“Home can be the physical home, but it can also be symbolic of something that’s a safe place or a space for anyone. It can be a state of mind,” said Sunga. “It can be reconnecting with your loved ones or your friends. With the video, it shows her reconciling that and returning to that safe space at the end.”
Sunga will continue to release more singles throughout the year, with the next scheduled to be released around late March or early April. The third song is planned in the summertime, and then the fall, followed by back-to-back releases. The full album is scheduled to be released in December.
The entire album has been three years in the making, covering themes of hope and perseverance. Raising three kids – 10, 8 and 3 – along with his wife and working a full-time job have been his main priorities. This left him with just several hours once a week to work towards finishing the album.
Previously recognized as one of Canada’s top independent artists, Sunga’s musical career spans over two decades. Born in Toronto, he moved to Waterloo for his career and has been based there for the past 10 years. His songwriting catalogue is thick, with influences from a range of various genres.
He plays shows all across the region and beyond, including Toronto and Aylmer, and has been involved as a judge for the Wellesley Idol singing competition for the past several years.
Sunga has also released a variety of demos. He said he had always intended on creating an album, and that an event several years ago motivated him to move ahead and get the passion-project in motion.
“I sat with my wife when I turned 39 and I said ‘OK, I’m approaching 40, and we’re not getting any younger and I still have this crazy dream still that I want to record this album,’” said Sunga. “She has always known how important music was to me. She said, ‘this is so important to you, you just have to do it.’”
Sunga has self-funded the project, up until recently. He is hoping to raise an additional $3,000 to cover all remaining recording, production and distribution costs. To do so, he started a crowdfunding campaign, the practice of funding a project by raising a small amount of money from a large number of people. It can be accessed online.
The music video released on January 24 and can be found on YouTube or be access through his website.