JP Soars believes in the dignity of hard work, authenticity and making something the right way, be it a song, his trademark cigar-box guitars or an audience.
While he may be a bluesman based in subtropical Boca Raton, he can reach back to tough times in the Ozarks merely by closing his eyes.
“We didn’t have a lot when I was growing up. I was the oldest of seven kids. My folks were basically kids raising kids. So times could be pretty trying and rough,” Soars says of his youth in fields and hills around Cedarville, Ark. “Growing up in that environment, when I heard the blues, B.B. King and Muddy Waters, I just instantly felt connected to it.
“Sometimes, when I’m playing, I try to invoke some of the rough spots we might have had to go through,” he says. “If you can tap into that, if you can convey that feeling, that’s when the magic happens.”
In 1985, Soars and his family moved to South Florida, where he finished school at Forest Hill High School in West Palm Beach. He had a successful run with several popular metal bands — including Paingod, Raped Ape and Divine Empire — before turning to the blues full-time in 2005.
Four years later, some unexpected magic happened when JP Soars and the Red Hots took first place in the best blues band category at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Soars also received the IBC's best guitarist award.
Since the awards, Soars and band have toured relentlessly. They’ll do 200 shows outside Florida this year alone, including just-concluded European and North American tours. The European dates came about six months after the band’s first swing across the continent, with the spring shows counting four festival bills where they were the headlining act, including BluesBaltica in Eutin, Germany.
“We’re definitely building a fan base over there. They really appreciate American roots music,” says Soars, whose own roots inclinations find a home listening to old Pete Fountain 45s and playing cigar-box guitars he builds with his brother, James, of Hobe Sound.
The concerts were a showcase for Soars’ nasty and gritty new album, “Full Moon Night in Memphis,” which will get an official local release party on Saturday at the Downtowner in Fort Lauderdale.
The fiery title track pays homage to determination and his career-changing awards: “Sometimes you’re the mule, and sometimes you’re the plow,” Soars growls. “After that full moon night in Memphis, things won’t ever be the same.”
IF YOU GO
JP Soars will perform Thursday at the Hard Rock in Hollywood, Friday at Mardi Gras Casino in Hallandale Beach, Saturday at the Downtowner Saloon in Fort Lauderdale, Sunday at Pine Trails Park Amphitheater in Parkland and Tuesday at the Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton. Go to JPSoars.com.