Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Stirling John is making his mark in this world.
He’s creating inspirational country music with his six-piece, self-named band, he’s working as an RCMP officer, and he’s launched the Stirling John Foundation for Youth Empowerment Ltd.
The 37-year-old says he is finally finding his purpose in life.
“I just want to be somebody who makes a difference and makes a mark in this lifetime before I leave it,” he said.
“You know, I think we all have a purpose. Sometimes it takes us a while to learn that purpose. I just feel that I am where I’m meant to be at now. It’s not about building a personal music career. It’s about being the best version I can be for my kids, for my community and really to pay it back forward as to what was given to me when I was a child.”
Born in Saugeen First Nation, Ont., John was the youngest of three boys.
At the age of five, John, his brothers and mother were part of a gospel group called the John Family.
Together they traveled through Ontario singing at various festivals and events.
This is a time in John’s life he’s very fond of, and he credits it for a lifelong desire to create music.
“I had a really big passion for music,” he said. “I really wanted to go on Canadian Idol back when I was 14, 15 years old, but the reality was I was just too nervous to do that for some reason and I just lacked the confidence at that time in my life.”
As John aged, his passion for it was put on the backburner as he focused on his career in policing.
His goal was to become a dog handler with the RCMP. He completed the specialized training and raised five police pups; one of which became the bomb dog at the Montreal-Trudeau International Airport.
But, as life has a way of redirecting you, John went through a divorce. He wanted to maintain a healthy relationship with his two children and knew he wouldn’t be able to continue the demanding job of dog training.
“Life happened and divorce happened and, if I had become a full dog handler, there was just no way I could have had custody of my kids. So that was just a no-brainer, so I gave up police dog service for my kids,” he explained.
Soon after, he made the decision to focus just on policing and was transferred to Parkland County, west of Edmonton in Alberta where he has worked for the past several years.
This is when he began to rebuild his relationship with his first love—music.
“I really went through the change in my life for the next couple of years and that is what really brought me back to music,” he said.
“2013 to 2016 were really hard times for me just navigating personal life as a single parent combined with quite a few traumatic calls that happened during those years policing, and it really affected me and music was kind of that anchor for me going through those years. That is why a lot of the music that is released is about inspiration or lifting other people up and mental health and that sort of thing.”
John felt he was starting to excel in his songwriting during this time and decided to try to push forward to the next step by putting a band together. He crafted up an ad and placed it on Kijiji, explaining how he was looking for others interested in joining his band.
David Pederson, also in policing, responded to the call-out and soon the two of them were meeting on their off days to make music together.
The Stirling John band has now released a total of 21 singles.
“We’ve played music together since 2017,” said Pederson, who provides background vocals and rhythm guitar in the band.
“Stirling is incredibly hard-working and focused. He’s always thinking about how he can benefit the community, the people around him, young people, the vulnerable people in communities. He has an eye and a heart for those situations.”
“Drive from the Job”, “Weight of the Call” and “Angel in Disguise” are all songs written from their experiences while on the job.
“Angel in the Sky” is a song that was recorded two years ago and it’s “certainly not a radio song,” explained John. It’s a very deep song, he said.
It encompasses a few different police calls John was involved in and the impact those situations had on the children involved. It explores his view on children who may fall into addictions or human trafficking when they have been affected by trauma early in their life.
“Sometimes people lose sight of the people who are the addicts, and the reality is they are someone’s mother, someone’s daughter, someone’s wife, someone’s son. I think being a father certainly makes me think of those things too,” said John.
“The song is about that. The first verse talks about the questions like what leads people down that path in their life to human trafficking, to addictions, to homelessness. The second verse also talks about the family that loves the person that’s struggling and hoping that they are going to find that strength to recover in their life. The latter part of the song talks about how she bows down to the voice, because she knows she’s loved and she knows she’s not alone. Super deep.”
These individuals and situations John and Pederson have experienced while on duty are also partially the inspiration for John’s newly-formed Stirling John Foundation for Youth Empowerment Ltd.
“I understood the importance of leadership and mentorship at a young age,” he said. “Music isn’t just music for me, and policing isn’t just policing for me. These are opportunities where you can connect with people in our communities, with our youth, the vulnerable population.
“I see many of these people who are in the same position as I was as a kid. Whether it’s not having enough food in the house, you know, you’re in there for a domestic assault and you see they don’t have the basic needs of life, or they have passions in their life but they don’t really have the parents that are really lifting them up and promoting them to realize those passions.”
This is how he hopes the foundation will be able to lift youth up and offer guidance and opportunities they would not otherwise have.
John said he once was one of those kids. His mother worked very hard to raise her boys, but it was difficult keeping up with the financial demands of a young family.
“We were never rich by any means. I remember times where we didn’t have Christmas and people would bring us gifts and leave them on the door and that sort of thing. It wasn’t an easy life for my mom raising us and she worked really hard to get off welfare. And the thing that struck me about that in my life was, there were people who made the time for me and my brothers to mentor us at a young age.”
This kindness and support from strangers John felt as a child has stuck with him throughout his entire life and has always been an inspiration for him to do something similar for youth.
“I have always been passionate about forming a foundation. I’ve wanted to do it for years and decided to go ahead and do that six months ago and it was incorporated a few weeks ago,” he said. “Our first project is the mentorship of two Indigenous youth in Alberta that we are taking to Calgary to record each a song at MCC Studios.”
The youth will travel to the city on June 27 where they will record with Stirling’s full band that he uses when performing in the city. They will also perform for 25 minutes each during Windows on the West Stage at the Calgary Stampede on July 9.
“Not only do I do music, but I also do video production work and I’m going to really showcase these youth and what their talents are,” said John.
“Going on we are going to get involved more with our communities and find out their initiatives so that we can really grow within the communities, especially remote isolated communities that I’ve worked in before where I understand the challenges up there. I have a big plan for this over the next couple of years and, after retirement from the RCMP, that will be my main focus.”
John said, as the foundation grows, the support will be for all youth who require it from any remote community, but there will always be a special focus on Indigenous communities. He wants to help those youth who don’t have the same availability of support systems in comparison to those in close proximity to bigger cities.
“It’s not just going to be about music. There are lots of talents that youth have out there and they need to be showcased,” he said. “What I want to do is I want to have something that is going to grow legs and go long term. Consistency is what’s important.”
Busy doesn’t even begin to describe John’s daily life, but he said he wouldn’t have it any other way. As he embarks on his journey to inspire as many people as he can, it seems his mother couldn’t have chosen a better name for him.
“My mother named me Stirling after some missionaries in Peru. They were named the Stirlings.”
John will perform at the Windspeaker Media Listener Appreciation Concert and BBQ June 20. The event starts at noon at 13245-146 St. NW, Edmonton.
For more information on Stirling John’s music and his other endeavors visit his website stirlingjohn.ca
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Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.