He didn’t come by his gift overnight of course. The Canadian-born musician picked up the guitar when he was just 9 years old. By the time he had graduated from High School, he was ready to take the show on the road, touring across Canada and the United States with various pop groups playing venues such as Harrah’s in Lake Tahoe and the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
After several years touring North America John took the time to formally study his art. He took private lessons with various teachers and later majored in jazz at Capilano College, where he received a scholarship and graduated with top honours. In the guitar, John had found his instrument but he was still searching for his muse.
At age 26 he immersed himself in Flamenco guitar, inspired by the incredible sounds of Paco de Lucia, Vicente Amigo, Nino Josele and many others. John spent the next 6 years studying Flamenco, practicing 8 to 10 hours a day. The effort would pay off and the accolades would follow. In 1995, John won “Best Acoustic Guitar Performance” in the Music West Star Frets Competition. He won Vancouver’s Unplugged Competition in 1996, in 1997 he became a finalist in Vancouver’s Global Star Quest and in 2009 competed at the Montreal Jazz Festival winning the Grand Prize at the BOSS Loop Station 2009 Championship National Finals.
Like all great performers, John feeds off the energy of a live audience. The stage is where his heart soars and his music flows. As a ‘guitar for hire’, John would find his way onto the stage and studio, performing for the Vancouver Playhouse, Hinder, Michael Barabas, Radio Europe, Alyssa Nielsen, Gypsalero and opening for such notable artists as Cirque du Soleil, Mae Moore and acoustic guitar masters, Strunz and Farah.
In May of 1999 John released his own independent instrumental CD titled “Freedom”. A showcase for his considerable guitar talents, Freedom embraced world beat musical elements of Rumba Flamenco, Pop and Latin Jazz. Above all, Freedom was recorded with the hope to share the peace, joy and excitement John feels when performing for audiences around the globe.
In 2002 John released his second CD called “Peace”. Picking right up where Freedom left off, Peace forges further still down the path John has carved out for his music. Passionate and fiery flamenco guitars and beautiful Latin Jazz, Pop style melodies intertwine with exotic Latin percussion, bass and drums. The 2002 West Coast Music Awards nominated Peace as “Best Instrumental Release – Non Classical”.
In 2003 John released his 3rd CD titled Christmas, A wonderful collection of holiday classics played on flamenco guitars, accompanied by bass and percussion.
The corporate world has embraced John’s music as well, through recent performances for prestigious clients like MasterCard, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, Verizon, Lehman Brothers, Sun America, Air Canada, Worksafe BC and many others. He’s also had the distinction of playing for Canada’s former, Prime Minister, Jean Chretien.
John Gilliat continues to offer new direction and contemporary expression to World Beat, Latin Jazz and Flamenco Rumba, touring festivals and headlining concerts with his quartet (bass, 2 guitars, and percussion). He even finds time to perform regularly with Vancouver’s hot gypsy jazz club quartet, “Gypsalero”.
Now following four successful Japanese tours, including the first-ever concert on an open-air train, performing live on NHK Radio along with various other Japanese radio and television programs and playing Expo 2005 in Aichi. John has released his latest CD in Japan and Canada titled “Beyond Boundaries”. The new CD continues to offer new direction and contemporary expression to Nouveau Flamenco, Flamenco Rumba and Jazz. Included in Beyond Boundaries is a very special composition titled “Onishi”, created from the beautiful images, sounds and excitement John experienced during his performances at Fujiyama Koen Park in Onishi, Japan.
John’s music has been previously used in TV (Godivas, Maralee Dawn & Friends, The Weather Channel) Documentaries (An American in Muskoka), Commercials, (Hacienda Del Alamo Golf Resort & The Ultimate Spanish Property Show)