Over the three years, Lemonade Magazine has had the privilege to speak with some fantastic, up-coming indie artists such as Daisy Mallory, Poppy and of Verona and few superstars like Ellie Goulding, A Fine Frenzy and Eric Whitacre to name a few. Justin James’s songs are worldwide, yet still maintain that down-home, tropical feel that is so often lost in popular music today. He has been on both side of the coin of the music industry as a signed artist and as an independent artist.
We are honored to introduce everyone to Justin James!
Lemonade Magazine: Thank you so much for taking the time out of your schedule to have a chat with us. You seem to be quite the traveler over the last couple of years moving from Canada to the Caribbean with a few stops in between. How was the transition from Vancouver, BC to the Dominican Republic?
Justin James: Yes, I’ve been bouncing around the world and I love it. In the last 3 years, I’ve been to Europe, Asia, South America, Central America, Canada with three massive US tours coast to coast and, of course, the Caribbean where I live.
I fell in love with the Dominican, the people, the ocean, the beaches.
I left my home and native land and first moved to Hawaii as a teenager to pursue windsurfing, the sport then brought me to the Caribbean. I fell in love with the Dominican, the people, the ocean, the beaches. Even when I moved to California for a decade to chase my music, my soul was always on the island. So to answer your question…the transition was made in my heart a long time ago. It was like a coming home party when I moved back full-time.
LM: Very cool! I have to ask. How is the food down there?
JJ: Incredible! Small fishing boats will pull up on the beaches and unload a bucketful of brilliantly-colored fish. You just choose your pescado (fish) and they grill it up over an open flame, then add some rice, plantains, a squirt of lemon and you have my favorite meal.
LM: That sounds absolutely amazing! Nothing better than fresh off the boat fish! You have released a few albums and EPs over the last little while, but Islands seems to be a tribute to your new home. What influences have you incorporated from your time in the Caribbean?
JJ: Islands is a tribute to my lifestyle. The locals are so friendly and they have a huge passion for music and dancing. Merengue is the music of the island; it was created in the Dominican. Island days are filled with music, dancing and a lot of rum.
It’s undeniable that you are influenced by the sounds, beats, rhythms and grooves. It’s all around you. I wanted to write an album that could drift you away with your toe-tapping the whole way.
LM: You own your label and release your music independently. What are the advantages and disadvantages of being your own boss?
JJ: I started Gold Sky Records in 2009 after having signed a bad deal with another label. You know what they say, “no better way to learn than getting ripped off!” So there I was, an artist becoming an entrepreneur out of necessity.
Writing a song comes from the heart yet so many artists just sign away their rights for a chance at stardom. I’m not in this business for the bling-bling. I tour in a little motorhome and then I go back to the island. A simple life is all I need. Having my own label calls for a lot more work, but I love it! And at the end of the day I get to directly reap the rewards of my hard work.
I might be building it slowly, but I know it will last longer. When you sign to a major you hold a lottery ticket but you have zero security. If they decide to not release you or you don’t sell the numbers they want…you are dropped! Most times you won’t even get your music back. That is a scary proposition. For me the advantages of running my own label outweigh the disadvantages by a mile. I write it, record it and I own it!
And at the end of the day I get to directly reap the rewards of my hard work.
LM: If you could go on tour with any artist or group, past or present, who would it be and why?
JJ: Ohhh! So many artists…my head is spinning. If I could only choose one…James Taylor. I still remember where I was standing when I heard his music. It was my sister’s CD and I said, “Who is that?!?!”
I asked to borrow the CD and when she asked for it back I told her I lost it. I love the tone of his voice and the songwriting is incredible. It’s just timeless music, and honestly, when I first picked up a guitar all I wanted to do was sing a James Taylor song. I never knew it would turn into this blessed career.
LM: That is awesome! Thank you again for taking the time to chat with us. It has been an absolute pleasure!
If you are interested in owning Justin James’s new album, Islands, which is due out on August 13, go to the link below and pre-order the album! https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/islands/id672858819
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