Justin James
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Justin James

San Diego, California, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2003 | SELF

San Diego, California, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2003
Band Pop Singer/Songwriter




"EXCLUSIVE: Justin James talks to Mosh News about his upcoming album"

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 coupe 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 yoyu 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 as 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."

Fan questions:

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' witch was the single, and then there's a song on there called 'Boy Overboard' which I'm really excited about!" - MOSH News - July 2013

"Justin James Talks "Islands" Shark Bites & Dream Chasing"

I hate to ask the obvious questions, but when given the opportunity to interview a singer songwriter whom falls into the category of shark attack victims my hands are tied. From being a young pro windsurfer to a talented pop artist writing about blissful days in the island sun, Justin James has quite a story. Now a resident of the Caribbean, his music visually and emotionally takes you right onto the shore with his carefree melodies and daydreaming lyrics.

About four years into Justin's windsurfing career path (around the age of 19), he found himself in South America windsurfing in Venezuela. He begins, "As you might have heard, I had a little accident that kind of changed my life." His voice is every bit as laid back as you would imagine given his music and he has a warmth to his replies. I can't help but ask does he regret the day or see it as a blessing and while my question seems asinine, after living inside of Justin James' album for a bit I'm certain that if anybody could see the bright side in a shark attack, it's him.

"I don’t know if it was the biggest blessing in my life," he answers with a bit of a laugh. "I look at it as everything happens for a reason. I look at it as I wouldn’t change anything that’s happened, because if you change something that’s happened you never know. You might not have met one person that’s in your life today. That accident … You know it took me a year to walk. When you’re stuck in bed for a year you have a lot of time on your hands. That’s really when I learned how to play guitar. ...I think at the end of that first year, I was singing a bunch of cover songs and even had written a couple very simple songs of my own. Still at that point though I didn’t think music was a career. I wanted to sit around a campfire and play guitar."

Of the attack Justin explains, "I was in South America off the coast of Venezuela. We were with a windsurfing magazine called Windsport. We had driven away from the town we were living in a couple hours. Near Columbia there’s a peninsula called Peninsula at Paraguaná near Aruba and Bonaire and Curacao. You could’ve left a suitcase with $100,000 dollars in it and then returned six months later and it’d be sitting on the same beach. There’s nobody walking up there. There’s nobody. There’s the odd fisherman but the beaches are totally desolate. It wasn’t exactly a perfect place to be in a dire emergency."

Knowing it could be difficult to talk about I tread lightly, but Justin is willing to share the details of the shark bite. "We all went out windsurfing. We came in, had a bite to eat and I was the first guy to go back out after lunch. It’s very rare especially if you get attacked by a shark when in the waves, especially when you’re windsurfing because you’re zipping across the water. You’re not sitting as much as a surfboard." I share with him that I was sort of in shock that it happened while he was windsurfing because the common thought is that paddle surfing and windsurfing are far safer because you are up and out of the water for the most part.

"What happened was I fell in the water," he says and then the story unravels. "I was wave sailing. You’re windsurfing and surfing combined. It’s called wave sailing. I hit the lip and I fell in and I was swimming towards my equipment. You’re not tied like a leash like a surfboard. Anyways, I’m swimming over to my equipment and I just felt something go right by me. I was like … Kind of the heart sinks a little bit right there. I knew it wasn’t a small fish." I tell Justin he's giving me chills just envisioning that feeling.

He goes on, "Then I just kept my head down and kind of kept swimming towards my equipment. On small high-performance equipment, you have to do something called a water start where the wind lifts you up out of the water. You can’t just stand on the board because the boards are too small. They’ll start to sink under your weight just like a wake board. It floats while it’s traveling across the water but if you just try to stand on it, it will go under the water. I put my feet on it. I’m coming up out of the water. The wind is lifting me up out of the water in a water start. I just see a torpedo come out. It just grabs my ankle and just ripped my hands off the boom and shredded me. I mean, it ripped my toenails off. I still to this day have its teeth marks through my toenails. If I don’t cut my toenails short, my toenails will split as they grow out. I have bumps, literally lines through my toenails from its teeth. That’s how sharp they are. It’s just like full razor blades just slicing through my toenails. That’s not the big cut. The big cut was higher up on my ankle where it cut all my major arteries."

"So he went right for your foot?" I ask. "My foot was the last thing. I was almost up. I was out of the water. Maybe in his eyes I looked like a fish jumping or my foot looked like it, you know? He just grabbed me. I know a lot about the patterns of sharks. A lot of sharks what’s called hit and run; they bite. Once they realize you’re a bony human and not a blubbery seal or whatever, especially in the foot, they let you go. They’re like, 'Well this isn’t what I thought you were.' By that point, a lot of humans, you know, they cut the major arteries, which it did to me. It cut my major, major artery. Holy smokes. Blood was--not to get too gruesome--but squirting, shooting like a straw out of me. I was like, 'Well, I’m going to die.'"

"Does anyone on shore know this is happening to you?" I ask enthralled in his story. "Nobody knew what was happening. I was about 75 yards offshore." "Do you scream? Is there immediate pain?" I ask with that same feeling of anticipation when you are reading a good book and you can't wait to turn the page and see what happens next. Justin describes the scene, "The waves are pounding. You can’t hear anyone scream. The ocean sounds like [he makes wave noise]. There’s nothing you can hear in the wind. The bottom line is I had to get in. Nobody is going to get me in. We don’t have a board. I windsurfed back on the one leg. I fell in, I got up. Now I’m in 15-20 feet of clear, clear water. I see the shark."

Justin has my heart racing and were he not the one telling me the story, I would be certain he's a dead man. "Eventually I kind of got the boat onto a plane like where it’s skipping a little bit. I’m moving at a decent speed. Obviously, I windsurf for a living, I was windsurfing on one leg which is doable if you’re a decent windsurfer. I made it in. I just dropped my sail. I pulled myself up with my forearms. My friend comes running to me. Dave was the first one there. I said, 'Dave, I’m going to die. I’m losing too much blood. I’m going to die.' I let go. I had already folded everything together like all the cuts and all the loose … It was just mangled. I was just like trying to stop the bleeding. Dave said, 'Oh I’m not going to let you die because I was a ski patrol. I know what to do.' Then he put a tourniquet on me. Then we were in the car driving three hours."

"It took you three hours to get help?" I'm in disbelief that he has survived. "Three hours to get to an oil refinery in South America where they had doctors because they had thousands of American oil workers working there. I was taken to like a mobile home kind of hospital thing. I’m not a hugely religious person but by the grace of God they had a vascular surgeon. I needed to have my arteries reattached. I was unconscious."

"They just happened to have a vascular surgeon on call?" I ask and his answer brings his life and the accident full circle back to his music. "At an oil refinery, lacerations are one of the major things that happen to people so you’re going to need a vascular surgeon. I was lucky that there was an oil refinery there that we got directed too. I had to have a massive blood transfusion. It took me a year to walk. I learned to play guitar. Now I’m in Rochester on tour."

"It seems like you literally and figuratively walked away from something so severe but with a completely sort of inspirational recovery," I comment to Justin. "Yeah. I don’t know. I feel lucky that I survived. I really do feel like a part of me is like … I was so close to dying that how could I not chase my dream?"

"You realize there are people who come out of major injuries and they go the opposite route. You really turned it around. That to me is what is so inspirational about your story," I tell him. "It comes through in your music. The song "Big Bright Sunny Day," you would never know someone who’d been through such trauma had written a song like that." "I like happy-go-lucky stuff," Justin says. "I just tried to write something that can put a smile on somebody’s face and kind of drift them away to a good place." He succeeds at drifting me away with his story and music so much that I need to remind myself that I have loads more questions to ask this talented musician. - Life of a Rockstar - August 2013

"Island Inspiration"

A near-death experience has away of providing a clarifying jolt of life perspective. Singer songwriter Justin James can attest. At age 20 James (612ce, 412ce, GS Mini, NS24e, T5-S) was traveling the world as a pro windsurfer, and while out skimming the ocean off the coast of South America with a windsurfing buddy one day, a tiger shark attacked him, severing major arteries in one of his legs and nearly claiming his foot. His friend managed to get him to shore and help save his life, though James required multiple blood transfusions and 250 stitches. The experience left him with a permanent limp but also a renewed appreciation for life.

James had always loved to sing and had performed in cover bands, so during his recuperation he dedicated himself to bolstering his guitar chops and writing songs with a goal of supporting himself as a full-time musician. His perseverance eventually paid off, landing him a record deal, although he later opted out to form his own label. With a few albums, several songwriting award nominations, and song placement on television shows to his credit, he’s managed to cultivate a steadily progressing career as an independent artist. His former life as a globetrotting windsurfer proved to be the perfect warmup for being a gigging musician, and he’s toured all over the world over the last decade.

These days his home base is in the Dominican Republic, where he loves soaking up the Caribbean lifestyle, and that chill, sun-soaked vibe warms his latest studio release, Islands. The centerpiece of James’s breezy island pop is his mellow, husky-sweet voice, and his wistful yearnings on tunes like “All That’s Left (Is Love),” “Mexico,” and “Boy Overboard”add extra resonance to the otherwise cloudless mood of his tunes.

Producer Andrew Williams (Five For Fighting, Old 97s, Alice Peacock) does a fine job of fleshing out James’s natural melodicism and diversifying the flavors of the record, creating a funky R&B feel on “Big Bright, Sunny Day,” adding horns to groove up “More” and “Saturday Night,” and blending light string embellishments into the radio-friendly “Boy Overboard.” You won’t find much angst on this record —just the smooth sounds of an artist who genuinely appreciates the importance of living life to the fullest. - Taylor Guitars - Wood & Steel Magazine - Fall 2013

"James Is Back With Album No. 2"

Part-time Hawaii resident Justin James follows up on the success of his 2007 debut album Sundrenched with the recent release of Perfect Sometimes.

Sundrenched‘s hit single, California, was featured on several TV shows including The Hills, Laguna Beach, Las Vegas and What About Brian. It also earned him Best Male Vocalist honors at the 2007 Los Angeles Music Awards, all leading to a deal with Sony International and producers Mikal Blue (Colbie Callait) and Andrew Williams (Five for Fighting).

“I was looking for someone to produce my album, and was listening to Colbie Callait’s album and I just loved it, so I contacted the producer and he came on board, which was very exciting for me,” says James, who has lived in and out of Hawaii for the past 12 years.

“We brought in Alanis Morissette‘s drummer, Colbie’s bass player and then, as we were recording, I thought of Jake Shimabukuro for this song I wrote called Perfect Sometimes. So my management team reached out to Jake, and fortunately he liked the song and came on board.”

James was back in the Islands six months ago to record his promotional music video for the title track. And he’ll be back this weekend for a May 7 performance at Breakers and May 8 at Lulu’s Waikiki.

“I’ve got surfboards in Hawaii, and I can’t wait to get there and jump in the water,” says the 33-year-old. “I love Hawaii. I’ve written songs about Hawaii. In fact, Perfect Sometimes I wrote while sitting on the beach in Hawaii.”

Perfect Sometimes was just picked up by Hollister Company as well as Delta Airlines and McDonald’s. Meanwhile, it has been holding a steady spot on Star 101.9’s play list, even making its Top 25. - Midweek.com - May 2010

"Justin James"

Dude, you need to relax. Slip on your flip flops, grab some lotion with a good SPF, and head on down to the beach. It is officially summer and that means it is time to “chill out” and “hang ten”. That’s what the kids are saying nowadays, right? While you are frying on the hot sand you are going to need some tunes that will mellow you out. Thankfully singer-songwriter Justin James paddles by on his surf board blasting the good vibes that you are seeking.

I don’t want to be a downer, but you need to know that a few years ago Justin was attacked by a tiger shark while he was surfing. Yeah, a tiger shark. That brush with death gave Justin a deeper appreciation for life and his music reflects his renewed focus on living life to its fullest. The music that springs forth on Justin’s second major label release, Perfect Sometimes, is collection of warm feel good tracks. This album is a follow up to his 2007 debut, Sundrenched, which garnered a lot of attention with placement on a string of television shows.

So here is the deal. We here at Fresh Scouts give you the permission to cut out of work early, drop all of your responsibilities and make a b-line for the nearest beach or water park. On the way there you will need to take the top down or shove your head out the window. And what should you be listening to on this most awesome get away? Well, Justin James of course. You’re welcome. - Fresh Scouts - June 2010


Islands - 2013
A Beautiful Life - 2011
Perfect Sometimes -2009
Sun Drenched -2007



Justin James is a Canadian-born singer songwriter from Vancouver, Canada. He grew up in the British Columbia Boys Choir and was an avid cello player at the Vancouver Academy of Music.

A professional windsurfer in his teen years, Justin was attacked by a tiger shark off the coast of South America when he was 20 years old, cutting major arteries, almost severing his foot, and leaving him with 250 stitches. This moment would prove to be a watershed in Justin's life when during a yearlong recovery his grandma gave him a guitar and his first song was born.

Justin's debut full-length studio album Sun Drenched was released via 10 Spot/Universal in 2007. Produced by Juno winner Tim Feehan, the lead single California was featured in MTVs Laguna Beach and The Hills. Other songs off the album gained recognition from placements on network shows including ABC's What About Brian, CBS' Ghost Whisperer, USA's The Starter Wife, and NBC's Las Vegas. His song "Love Me More" was used in the highly successful Korean TV drama "Iris".

Justin's second full-length studio album Perfect Sometimes was released via Gold Sky Records in 2009. Sony International picked up "Perfect Sometimes" for release in Japan and the title track, which features Hawaiian ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro, peaked in the top 10 on the Hawaiian charts in the summer of 2010. Songs from this album have been licensed by numerous corporations including Hollister, McDonalds, Delta Airlines, Adrianna Papel, and Arhaus Furniture.

"A Beautiful Life", Justin's third full-length studio album, was released via Gold Sky Records in late 2011. The title track was honored by American Bride as the "Wedding Song of the Year" and was also recently licensed for use in a Susan G. Komen fundraising campaign video.

Justin's latest CD "Islands" also released by Gold Sky Records was released on August 13, 2013. A four month international Tour in support of his new album, Islands kicked off on April 20, 2013, with dozens of stops including Vancouver, San Diego, Miami, Tallahassee, New Orleans, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, Albuquerque, Minneapolis, Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, St. Moritz (Switzerland), Bremen (Germany), Cologne (Germany), UK and The Netherlands.

Since 2009 Justin has toured in the USA, Japan, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Germany, Holland, U.K., Canada, Costa Rica, and the Caribbean, and has performed with many high profile artists including Jason Mraz, Colbie Caillat, Matt Kearney and Switchfoot.

Justin is endorsed by Taylor Guitars, D'Addario Strings, Fishman, Nalu Ukulele, Analysis Plus and Frankenstein Guitars, and has been honored previously with a best male vocalist and hot adult contemporary single nod at the Los Angeles Music Awards and Best Pop Album at the San Diego Music Awards. Justin also received recognition as a finalist in the International Acoustic Music Awards.