Canadian, but a Hispaniola Island resident and internationally renowned musician Justin James travels the island from stage to stage spreading his tunes. Justin first picked up a guitar after a tiger shark attack off the coast of South America at 20 years old and as passing-time received his first guitar from his grandma.
Justin since has traveled the globe playing, reached the top 10 on the Hawaiian music charts and been licensed by airlines.
Justin James takes the stage at The HotSpot Company this weekend, and we had a little chat to learn more about him...
What’s your background in Cabarete?
JJ: I came here when it was a small town, when there was 3 bars on the beach, when there was maybe 10 cars on the street at night. If I’m out on the reef and look back at Cabarete I’m always reminded of all the years that Ive spent here. I love this place and I want to see it grow in a responsible way. I see big things in the future for the North Shore of the D.R.
Tell us a little bit about your music.
JJ: I’m a 4 chord wonder. I just create something simple and try to add a hook, a melody that grooves and lyrics that are relatable. I’m not trying to change the world but if I can make someone smile for a few minutes out of their day. Then I feel I've played my part.
Why did you choose Cabarete as your home?
JJ: I came here a long time ago! I arrived in the winter of 1993. It was magic then and it’s magic now. I came here to windsurf and stayed for almost 2 years. I left for a long time but I always dreamed of my magical time in Cabarete. In 2011 I decided to move back and make it my home away from touring.
What inspired you to become an island musician?
JJ: It was more of a lifestyle choice. I grew up in Vancouver and would look through surf and windsurf magazines and dream of the blue water. I first moved to Hawaii when I was a teenager and I said to myself, I will never live in the cold again! I think my music comes from my surroundings and when you spend your time on an island you write about the island life.
What is the concert and music scene like in the Dominican Republic?
JJ: I’m sure it would be a lot different if I was playing bachata or merengue ;) For me I didn’t necessarily move here for the music scene. I lived and went to music school in Hollywood, I’ve spent time recording in Nashville and New York. I know what living “in the scene” is like and it’s a rat race. True success is happiness and I’m happy here. It’s the best of both worlds, I am near the ocean, I’m inspired to write and I can book my international tours right from my porch.
What has it meant to you to be able to live your dream as a musician?
JJ: Everything. I have seen the world. I have toured from Japan to Brazil, from Switzerland to Alaska. Ive driven over 40 states in my motorhome and I’ve been blessed to meet the most incredible people on my tours.
JJ: When you were a child, what kind of music did you like listening to?
My mother always had classical music playing around the house. We had a room in our house called “The Music Room” as I got older I would sit in there for hours and sing my heart out to Motown, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles and so much more! I always loved a pure voice and a beautiful melody.
What are some of the artists that inspired your career?
JJ: I just named a few, but James Taylor was one of my all time favourites.
I remember where I was standing when I first heard his voice. My older sister had just bought the CD and then I stole it from her.
What are your other passions besides music?
JJ: The ocean.
I have not had as much time the last year to enjoy it as much as I want but my heart is always in the ocean.
What inspired you to write “Island Time”?
JJ: I was living in Los Angeles, just graduated from music school and I was sitting on Venice Beach dreaming about the tropics.
I needed to write a song to get me out of the traffic, get me away from the smog and to drift me away to the island.
"Island Time" was my song where could just close my eyes and let it take me out of the city and bring me back to Cabarete Beach.
What is your 5 year goal with your music and what is your life goal?
JJ: I just bought a house here and the empty lot next door. It’s been my dream to build a state of the art Recording Studio right here in Cabarete. A studio that will attract artists and bands from every corner of the world. I always wanted my own studio to record my own albums but to be able to entice others to come to paradise and create. This has been a dream of mine for a long time and it's now coming to fruition. I've also been working on a new album that I hope to release in 2017. My dream is to write and record, surf and sail and just surround myself with others that want the same.
Visit Justin james' website to learn more about him. Here is his BIO