Born in London, Ontario, Cormier has been playing guitar since around age five. As a child he displayed an unusual ability to play a variety of instruments by ear, and has stated that he learned guitar by listening to such noted country/bluegrass musicians such as Chet Atkins and Doc Watson.
By age sixteen Cormier had recorded his first album and he began working the U.S. festival circuit. This led him to move to the United States and to begin working as a session musician. He continued to perform live on the festival circuit and at the Grand Ole Opry with country artists Waylon Jennings, Marty Stuart, Earl Scruggs, Bill Monroe and others.
In 1989 he attended the now-named Northeast Mississippi Community College in Booneville, Mississippi, where he majored in music education. At the time it was one of only three colleges in North America that offered a specialty in bluegrass instruments. During his stay at Northeast he began playing the dobro and piano.
“My albums are really interesting and weird because of that,” Cormier has said. “They have a strange continuity, even the cuts that are years apart. But I have so much materially recorded, it's ridiculous. I'm probably one of the only people around that has that kind of luxury to not have to stress about producing product. I can just do what I do and as it comes out it gets organized into packages. I'm pretty lucky.”
To date J.P. Cormier has won thirteen East Coast Music Awards and one Canadian Folk Music Award and was just nominated for a Juno in the Roots Traditional category this year.