Hit the road Jack & Ally

Whistler’s new folk-pop duo logged serious miles before settling in the mountains to write songs

Ally Paradis used to have stage fright — bad stage fright.

Although she had performed in theatre productions since she was nine, when it came to singing she would struggle. “To get on stage and sing was the most terrifying thing for me,” Paradis said. “I couldn’t even imagine it. I would get on stage and be shaking and I couldn’t control my voice and I wasn’t fully able to enjoy what I was doing.”

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Enter Jack Walker.

An experienced musician, Paradis would sometimes go watch her long-time friend perform — only to be pulled on stage to help out with vocals. Slowly, those guest appearances helped crush her fear of singing in front of people. “He knew I could do it, so there was no need to panic,” she said. “It was just to get up there and remember, ‘I sing this all the time. There’s no reason to panic.’ He has a way of making everybody feel comfortable and have fun.”

After toiling away separately, the pair decided to try out performing as a duo, jumping into the deep end with a month-long tour in the U.S. The name for their folk-pop project was simple: Jack & Ally. “It just kind of stuck,” Paradis said of their moniker. “Since then we’ve been called Jake and Alex or Jackknife Alley — people seem to have fun with it.”

Their inaugural tour took them to Nashville with stops in Louisville, Columbus and Cleveland along the way. The crowd reaction was encouraging. “It was incredible,” Paradis said. “We were at a stage where we were finding out what we wanted to do with this and trying to find our voices and sound together. The crowd made you feel like you knew what you were doing. They made you feel so welcome.”

That sealed the deal — Walker decided to move from Ontario to Whistler, where Paradis has been living for the last year, to work on the band. This summer the duo is planning a cross-country tour and working on songs for their debut album. They plan to hole up in a P.E.I. cabin this fall to record it.

“Jack moved here in April after the tour when we decided to keep doing the band thing. He loves it. He came at the perfect time. It was slow season and summer is coming. He got to experience the quiet, local side of Whistler before the madness of summer fun kicks in. He’s absolutely been loving it,” she said.

Some might argue Whistler isn’t the most natural place to move when you’re pursuing a music career, but Paradis disagreed. “I got to live here for the summer last year and it felt like one of the most inspiring places I had ever been,” she said. “You see everyone going for their dreams. It doesn’t matter what your passion is; to see other people who are so motivated and will go as far as they have to to get what they want, it makes you want to work harder.”

Catch Jack & Ally at Brickworks on June 4 and 30.

For more, check out their Facebook page at facebook.com/jackandally.

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