Despite the growing businesses and changes, one thing remains sacred in Hintonburg on weekend evenings: the sound of local artists and music coming from nearly every pub corner.
One of these artists is Winnipeg-born PJ Catsiyannis, 32, who now calls Hintonburg home after moving to the Ottawa Valley at a young age.
Catsiyannis was moulded by the Ottawa music scene. Growing up watching his father work as a musician and seeing his brother playing in local bands opened Catsiyannis’ eyes. Inspired by the likes of The Smiths, Jimmy Eat World, Tom Petty and The Cure, Catsiyannis knew very early on that he was destined to do something artistic.
“What really motivated me though, was seeing my brother’s band play shows and book their own tours,” he said.
At 13 years old, Catsiyannis began writing his own songs. He then formed his own band, Brights, when he was 19. He later went on to play with The Gallop and Stay Classy. Thinking back to his days with The Gallop, Catsiyannis recalled a stressful performance that lingered throughout the day.
“We were booked to play this afternoon gig at a park in Vanier,” he said. “What ended up happening was, we kept getting pushed back throughout the day, so we ended up having to sit and wait through over four hours of cover bands.”
Some of us had to work in the evening and we had no idea what time we’d be playing. It definitely played a factor in our performance — it wasn’t good,” said Catsiyannis. “Luckily we just played to a bunch of drunk old people.”
Lately, Catsiyannis has been focusing on his solo project, My Friend PJ.
“What’s nice about being a solo artist is being able to make plans and decisions a lot quicker,” said Catsiyannis. “I feel like I can be more productive as an artist this way.”
Catsiyannis’ My Friend PJ released their EP Don’t Give My Love Away in 2018, along with bandmates David Gervais and Michael Liang.
“It was a very important record to make for me,” said Catsiyannis. “Obviously, since it was the first time doing a project on my own, I guess I felt I had something to prove.”
Catsiyannis credits a recent show with My Friend PJ as one of his favourites to date.
“Performance wise, we are really starting to gel and tighten up,” he said.
While Catsiyannis is used to playing in venues all over the city, he enjoys playing close to home in Hintonburg. With Ottawa’s music scene continuing to grow, maintaining a fresh sound and keeping loyal listeners can be a challenge for some artists.
“I think one of the main struggles for local artists is staying relevant in your own city,” said Catsiyannis. “I think we’re in a period where, with the internet and social media, it’s hard to see who the hardworking artists are sometimes.”
While social media can help artists, I think the old school in me wishes it could be a little bit more about the music sometimes,” he said.