What got you into the music world?
“I grew up playing the cello, I grew singing in a choir, and I had ten, eleven, twelve years of a classical background… When I became a teenager I pushed all of that aside, and got more into sports for a while. I loved to sing to the radio, to my favourite songs, but I wasn’t practicing the cello or practicing the choir anymore, and then when I was twenty years old I had an accident when I was in South America; I got attacked by a shark and it cut me up, it gave me two hundred and fifty stitches, and it took me a year to walk – I still have a lot of scars.
It changed my life in a lot of ways, but what it did was stuck me in bed for around a year and my grandma gave me a guitar which helped pass the time, and I just started playing… I even wrote my first couple of songs just sitting in bed with my foot up on the pillows, and that’s how things got rolling I just didn’t realise it was going to be a career. It was just a hobby.”
What was it like for you starting off as a solo artist?
“It’s been a very exciting road, it’s not always been easy. Years ago I signed to a label, and it did not work out in my favour; so I opened my own record label. My career’s been very grass routes, and a lot of my fans I’ve sold a CD to at a show and shook their hand and had a drink with them. As far as getting more exposure on a grander scale, I’ve been fortunate to get my songs into some TV shows and movies.
Over here in the United States we have things like Pandora Radio, but a lot of it’s word of mouth. I’m still an independent musician, but I love it. I have a little motor home I travel in, and when my tours are over I go back to the Caribbean.”
What inspired your upcoming album ‘Islands’?
“The inspiration… I grew up in the cold, in Vancouver, Canada where we’ve got rain and snow and I always loved the islands. I used to look through magazines when I was younger and looked at the warmer islands. Most of the songs were written down in the Caribbean. I’m a very simple song writer, I just try and write happy, toe-tapping songs, and maybe make someone smile – take someone away.
I know there’s people out there that will be listening to the music in the cold, and hopefully this music will make them feel a little warmer inside. I get the inspiration when it really comes down to the individual song, I’ll be sitting there and it might be a beautiful evening, beautiful sunset; what it comes down to is finding those really cool chords, and then I just letting myself go, I loop the chords over and over and I’ll ask myself how does it make me feel, and a lot of the time the first couple of lines of the song will just subconsciously come out.
I end up singing them and it just gives me direction. However some songs took me a month or two, and I banged my head trying to get around them. Inspiration sometimes only last a short time, but you have to keep going back and going over it. Works for me anyway!”
So pre-orders for the album are now at a stand still… How does that feel having people pre-ordering it?
“It’s a great feeling, especially as an independent musician to have the support of your fans to pre-order your album is great. The writing and recording of an album is a lot of creative thought… Singing is stressful! All of the albums are being made right now, and what I did with the pre-orders was physically sign them myself. I had hundreds of CD’s shipped here to me. I sat outside my motorhome and signed them, and physically posted them myself!”
Who is your biggest inspiration in your life?
“For me, I grew up with Fleetwood Mac, The Doobie Brothers, The Beatles – song writers that really harmonise, and use lots of melodies. Even though my friends liked hard-rock or metal, I always liked those beautiful songs and those melodies. I love motown, the harmonies, and feel good-stuff. As far as life goes, I think you can only be inspired by people close to you, those that you know, so for me it would be family, such as my mother, she’s a very strong woman! Good friends too!”
What would you say has been the greatest experience has been so far in your career?
“I’ve had a few of those. Getting my music exposed over seas, I’ve done a lot around the world. Just having the ability to go around the world with my guitar on my back, meeting people… I had a song on an album called ‘Dance Alone’, and I had a guy come up and say, ‘I’ve been gay my whole life, and I’ve struggled my whole life and I listen to this song and it’s called Dance Alone, that’s how I feel… It’s what I’ve done my whole life!” – Having someone come up to me and saying that, knowing that my song made a tiny difference in their life is something that’s great, more so than traveling and performing.”
What would you say the weirdest experience has been for you in your career?
“A lot of it’s just been hard knocks, learning the ropes, learning the business on my own. It’s a pretty ruthless business, and you have to be really careful as to what kind of contract you sign as an independent musician. I had to learn the hard way a couple of times. I don’t know if that’s really weird but it’s more of a lesson learned. No crazy stalkers sleeping outside of my house or anything like that…”
Will you be coming to the UK?
“I really want to start touring the UK on a regular basis. It’s not that far really. I have a show in Switzerland at the end of this month [July 2013], then I go to Germany, Czech Republic, then I have three days off, so I may zip over to London for a few days and perform. No huge tour planned yet though.”
Is there someone you are looking to collaborate with in the future?
“I love to collaborate! I’d like to collaborate with someone from a generation before me; there’s so many people! Rod Stewart, Stevie Nicks. I get compared to people like Jason Mraz and people like that. There’s a couple of artists that aren’t as famous of those guys that are producing great music such as David Barnes. Hopefully one of these days we’ll sit down and we can write a song together.”
When will you be coming to Germany? – Asta
“I will be coming to Germany soon but they are private events. They are for fans that have found me from afar! If she hits me up on Facebook or Twitter you never know!”
What is your favourite song of yours? – Sue
“That’s a good one… The thing is, I have this new album coming out on August thirteen. When you have new material you undoubtedly love playing it because it’s new and you are exposing it to people, all of my existing fans that will be hearing it. There’s a couple of songs on my new album called ‘Last Puzzle Piece’ which was the single, and then there’s a song on there called ‘Boy Overboard’ which I’m really excited about!”
Justin’s new album is released on August 13th 2013 and you can pre-order it here.
Check out Justin’s music video to ‘Last Puzzle Piece’ which is featured on his upcoming album: