NOTHING BETTER THAN
an interview with
written and produced by
Robert Silverstein for mwe3.com
Being handicapped didn't always mean that an artist would not make
it. In modern pop history Stevie Wonder, blind since birth, became
a huge sensation, starting in the early 1960's. Legendary songwriter
Doc Pomusone of the key architects of the early rock n
roll soundspent much of his time in a wheelchair. One of the
true song writing geniuses of all time, Doc would have loved Days
To Recallthe 2011 CD from Canadian singer-songwriter
Justin Hines. Although Hines himself is wheelchair bound, his
spirit is clearly undaunted on an album that sounds inspired by the
upbeat, multi-faceted music of legends like Elton John and Paul McCartney.
Commenting on his physical limitations, Justin states, There
have been so many blessings. Its afforded me so many other opportunities.
Its a bit of an attention grabber. But then my job is to keep
people interested and keep their attention with my music. Hines
is at his best on upbeat tracks here like Nothing Better Than
Today, Tell Me Im Wrong and Come Around,
all of which mix solid backing with a memorable hook and melody. Justin
gets solid support from his band including co-producer Justin Abedin
(guitars), Kevin Adamson (keyboards), Marc Rogers
(bass), Kevin Fox (cello) and Jorn Juul Andersen and
Roger Travassos (drums). Among a rising, elite group of 21st
century singer-songwriters who are expert at combining heartfelt,
upbeat pop and rock, Justin Hines is in a class of his own. www.DeccaRecords.com
following interview with Justin Hines took place by phone on September
Where are you now? Are you in Canada now?
HINES: Yes, back home in Canada. We just got back from a tour
of the midwest. We were doing promotional stuff, which was fun.
mwe3: What do you like about Toronto? Thats where you grew up
JH: Yeah, Ive always lived a little bit north of Toronto, Ontario.
mwe3: I guess youve been to New York City?
JH: Quite a few times actually. Love New York. By far, one of my favorite
cities in the world, easily. Where have you been in Canada?
mwe3: Long time ago I was in Montreal!
JH: Oh, nice.
mwe3: Which was pretty illuminating for a New Yorker like me, because
New York can be a pretty rough place right?
JH: For sure! (laughter)
mwe3: Its different in Toronto right?
JH: Its very diverse. Actually its funny, Toronto has
always been described as a little bit of a smaller version of New
York. We have a lot of diversity, a lot of arts...a lot of good things
going on so...
mwe3: Id love to go there sometimes. New York you can get an
JH: (laughter) It is stimulus overload for sure! A lot to see. Were
you born and raised in New York?
mwe3: Yeah born and raised in New York City and grew up on Long Island.
Thats where Im calling from. Little Neck is the last stop
in Queens! (laughter) Its so little here, they even cut the
bus route to the trains!
JH: No way! (laughter)
mwe3: Can you say something about a quote you said, Its
not the height of the wall, but the hammer that you swing. I
guess we all feel small sometimes but I guess you have to set your
sights high. I guess thats what you meant.
JH: (laughter) Yeah for sure. The reality is, we all have our challenges.
In my case I guess everybody can see what my challenges are, but for
most of us, its sort of an internal thing. You know, we all
have them and to us, theyre the biggest, most important things.
Theyre the hardest things to tackle but I think were all
very capable of rising above those challenges and coming out a better
person at the end of them. So...we cant escape them though.
mwe3: Its about building inner strength...
JH: For sure. Theres this amazing story coming out of Joplin.
We shot a video around the town of Joplin and how the people there
decided to turn this tragedy, this disaster that happened to them...and
they just decided to flood themselves with hope. They look at it as
sort of a new beginning for their town. Its amazing, the spirit
of that and what that can do for people.
mwe3: It didnt seem like Canada got impacted by all the hurricanes
and tornados like the U.S. did this year.
Canadas an interesting place. Were certainly like the
little brother, I guess, of the United States. Were all, for
the most part, pretty laid back. One thing I noticed, being Canadian,
watching whats been going on in the U.S., is how amazing the
U.S. sense of camaraderie is. When people are kind of down, they really
do tend to rally behind, especially small town communities, and theres
so many examples of that. Thats a pretty amazing thing.
mwe3: Your Days To Recall album is brilliant.
JH: Thanks man, I appreciate that.
mwe3: How did Days To Recall come about and how do you think
it compares to your earlier CDs and how does it represent your musical
evolution so to speak?
JH: Well first and foremost I feel pretty fortunate that I have the
opportunity to keep making albums. That is a huge blessing and as
an artist, its always a big honor when you have that chance.
So for me on this one...you mentioned the word evolution, we decided
we wanted to try different things, using strings and horns and just
kind of...for us, taking the next step. Ive always been sort
on acoustic guy but I guess every artist goes through that period
where they just want to expand a little bit. Thats what this
is about. My lifes changed so much in the last two years and
I guess this is sort of a reflection on that.
mwe3: So Days To Recall is more of a band album in places?
JH: Theres definitely more of a band on this one. My first couple
records were primarily just acoustic instruments. Not a lot of electrics
and no strings or anything like that. It was more kind of stripped
down I think. Now its bothin a lot of ways its stripped
down but theres a lot of more lush sounding tracks. Im
singing out a little bit more I guess. Like I mentioned, my lifes
changed so much. Ive been married in the last couple years and
on a music level, things have shifted quite a bit. So, theres
just a lot more going on, I guess musically. It feels still kind of
right thoughyou take a little bit of a step out of one temperate
zone every once in a while.
mwe3: I got married too about four or five years ago. I got married
a little older in my life. Im 57 now. Im kind of older
now, but the music keeps you young right?
JH: Absolutely man. Its a beautiful thing in that sense. I think
thats a cool story that it was a late thing for you. I know
for myself I never thought it was going to be a reality at all, so
its kind of an amazing thing when it does happen...almost unexpectedly.
mwe3: I guess you dont get too many chances to find the right
person...Once you find that person it changes your life, hopefully
for the better.
JH: Absolutely! Well the funny thing is with music, theres been
so many love songs written over the years, as you know. And everybody
has said, seemingly everything there is to say about love. So I was
always kind of nervous about writing any love songs because I didnt
want it to sound like everything else. I want it to mean something.
So it wasnt until I actually had the true love experience, then
I was finally able to write the kind of song I wanted to write. But
its an amazing thing having to change your whole perspective
and I agree, definitely for a good thing.
mwe3: Decca did a great job on the Days To Recall album? How
did you start to work with the legendary Decca Records label?
JH: Its still a little surreal to be honest. Im a lucky
guy because here in Canada I found a great home and record company
called Orange. Theyre very much about having more of a family
rather than just being a label. And then in the U.S. to sort of hook
up with, like you said, one of the most legendary names on that side
of the business, its a little surreal. Its the best of
every world and its just a privilege. I gotta be honest, I never
really saw myself being in that position. Its just been a real
trip and a real ride. Its just an honor. Im just enjoying
it while its here.
Days To Recall has both lush sounding, band based moments and
then theres the more acoustic based tracks. Im just curious,
which do you prefer?
JH: Im not sure I have a preference. My heart and my original
inspiration will probably always go back to the more sort of sparse,
acoustic thing but now that its sort of taken a little bit in
this direction, Ive come to really appreciate and see the emotional
beauty in what can be done with more instrumentation. Im truly
a fan of both and at this chapter in my life, this is kind of where
were at. Ive heard stories of artists coming full circle
in their journey and for whatever reason, this is where were
at right now. I like all kinds of music, but in my heart, definitely
will always be rooted in acoustic music.
mwe3: What was it like working with your co-producer Justin Abedin?
JH: Yeah, Ive been working with Justin actually for about seven
years now and hes produced all my albums and hes my guitarist
for that period as well. Hes just a really solid, talented guy.
I personally dont know a lot about musical theory so it was
great to work with somebody who would essentially transcribe what
Ive been trying to say for years. Hes just a great interpreter
of music and really kind of understands what Im trying to get
at. So, hes been a great bridge, and a good friend. Its
been a cool journey. He actually introduced me to Aubrey and the record
label Im with now, Orange, so hes been a great link in
mwe3: The playing is superb on the new album. Do you want to mention
some of the other musicians youre working with?
JH: Oh, thanks man. Well, Justin did all the guitar work on the album.
We actually have a couple guys that we use for basically every instrument.
So, we have a couple drummers that we use and a couple of bass players.
Its great, because in Canada, in Toronto specifically, theres
so many amazing musicians and each, I find, brings such a beautiful
thing to the table and its just a pleasure to get to work with
them. Canada is just a great hub for guys like that.
mwe3: Canada is so vast. Are there big differences in different parts
of the country up there or do you think its more unified?
JH: Well Canada is such a huge country. I dont know if people
really realize how big the landscape of Canada really is. And per
capita, we dont have that many people. Theres a lot of
open space in Canada, but within that, theres actually quite
a bit of diversity. Like if you go to British Columbia, which where
my wife is from, its a completely different experience than...say
here in Ontario. Its a very different experience. In B.C. its
more of a relaxed way of life and in Ontario, theres a lot city
and a lot of city life...an urban kind of thing. So, its like
the U.S. Its just a miniature version, Id say, of how
diverse the U.S. is. Its really interesting traveling in the
U.S. recently, seeing so many different cultures and lifestyles kind
of amalgamated in this giant place. Pretty amazing actually.
mwe3: How about England? That seems like a great place for your music.
We just actually got back from London. Theyre big fans of Canada
Day out of London, so we had a huge celebration in Trafalgar Square.
They essentially brought in a whole bunch of Canadian artists to play
for tens of thousands of people. It was unbelievable. That was quite
exciting. It was pretty unreal actually. London is an amazing hub
for music and very much its own scene in a lot of ways. Have you been
mwe3: Yeah, Finland and Sweden too. Have you been there yet?
JH: No I havent been to a lot of these European countries. I
would like to get out there one day. We spent some time in Italy recently
but not so much in Sweden or places like that.
mwe3: Its a big world!
JH: Its a huge world, yeah...
mwe3: Everybody meets online so it seems small but its really
JH: Yeah, its an amazing thing cause the more I think
you travel, the more you learn to appreciate people in general. You
know, we have cultural differences and were all doing our own
thing but for the most part, theres a certain thread of humanity
thats pretty much all the same. Weve just got something
that ties us all together and its pretty neat, going around
the world seeing what that really means. Its pretty awesome.
mwe3: You had actually gotten to perform in China.
JH: Yeah it was quite an experience. The interesting thing about China
and how they react to music...its very different than here in
the west. How they applaud, for instance, is much different. Like
theyll applaud really feverishly and really quickly and then
just stop, so you dont really know if you really connected or
not. But as it turns out, its a big compliment when they go
feverishly. So its really fascinating. Little differences like
that was amazing and of course, singing in English was an experience
because theres a huge language barrier so youre kind of
forced to try to connect with people on a real deep, emotional level
and hope that theyre sort of feeling you rather than hearing
you. Fascinating, really fascinating.
Ive been following you on Facebook and I was reading how youre
trying to shake the Monday blues today! With all the songs about Monday,
it seems if you can get past Monday, youve got half of it licked!
JH: Yeah...the funny thing is, its just another day. People
are sort of stuck on the whole negativity of Monday, but I was kind
of thinking its just a new start, the beginning of something
new. Its a good thing. (laughter)
mwe3: One of the highlights of Days To Recall, Nothing
Better Than Today is totally brilliant. How did that track come
I appreciate that. Funny enough, its actually the one we probably
spent the most time on. It was one of the ones we did sort of go through
a few incarnations of. We were trying to paint a picture of hope for
everyday and not just the days that are are just good. Theres
something we said about everyday and every challenge as well as all
the good moments in our lives. So I guess that was kind of the message
we were trying to put out there, so I really appreciate you mentioning
that one actually.
mwe3: Tell me about the PBS special that you recently filmed.
JH: Honestly, it was incredibly quick. We were actually in Italy at
the time that we got confirmation that we should go ahead and do it
and it literally took about two weeks to plan and film and then another
couple weeks to edit so it was just like a whirlwind. We had to sort
of get the guests together quickly, get the venue...it was just madness
but it was such a...Ive watched PBS my entire life and always
thought the programming had so much credibility. They were always
saying something in the programming. To be a part of that family,
its amazing actually. We had so much fun filming it. It was
just a crazy, crazy day. We started ten in the morning and wrapped
up at night time. I was so glad that we decided just to do it. (laughter)
So the PBS special was filmed in Toronto?
JH: Yeah, actually this old cinema called The Royal. I think the cinemas
been around since the 1940s or so? Not really used as a concert
venue, until now. I think we were one of the first shows they ever
had in there. It had a lot of built-in character already. So we turned
it into a concert venue for one night. The crowd was great. It was
great to play with an orchestra. It was just awesome.
mwe3: Who are your biggest musical heroes and some favorite albums
JH: Well my dad is a really great folk guitarist and, growing up he
would often, well all the time, play people like Cat Stevens, James
Taylor, Jim Croce and Carole King. Sort of a bit more story telling
artists. So I grew up totally wanting to be in that realm because
I really thought they were saying something. Being in my situation,
I was never going to be a really flashy, choreographed kind of pop
thing. (laughter) so I thought I could always be one of those story
telling kind of artists where I could convey something through a song.
So definitely, those people have stuck with me over the years. Actually
I just saw James Taylor in concert a couple months ago. We were in
the front row and its been a while since Id seem him.
Heres a guy whos been at this for so long and during his
entire intermission, which was like twenty minutes long, he stood
at the end of the stage and signed peoples things, talked to
people and took pictures. For the entire intermission he didnt
go backstage once. So basically he went right from the stage, back
to the stage. I thought, heres a guys whos been at this
for so long and has nothing to prove and is still so connected with
the people that support him. I thought, wow thats definitely
something to look up to in that regard. So he just goes out there
and plays the songs and does his thing. Definitely those kind of artists
will definitely be my heroes...the kind of artists I strive to be.
mwe3: Not only does James Taylor have such a great voice but hes
such a well rounded player.
JH: Unbelievable guitarist. Some of the most memorable acoustic guitar
licks Ive heard. Great stuff. Funny thing is, I think a lot
of those singer-songwriters often dont sort of get kudos for
their musicianship, like in their playing. I find that quite often
that as they become known as a singer-songwriter, often their playing
gets pushed in the background. Which is not bad...but its good
to appreciate it yknow?
Can you say something about the Justin Hines Foundation work?
JH: Well, theres people doing wonderful things all over this
planet and sadly, only a small portion of people actually get any
kind of attention for the work theyre doing. And most people
dont do it for the attention. Its kind of an honor to
be in a position now where we can help shine a little bit of a spotlight
on just normal people doing amazing things. So doing charitable work...its
people coming together. I dont really look at it as one guy
going in and helping. Its more about people helping themselves
and like I said, to be in a position to sort of be a catalyst for
that, or to make a contribution. Its a pretty amazing thing
and its definitely a huge blessing for this journey that Im
on. The only thing we have is the love and support of people around
mwe3: How do you think all this Facebook social media has affected
JH: Im just getting into it now. I havent been resisting
it but I havent been the greatest at it up until...Im
still not really good at it but...but Im just sort of getting
my head around what it really means for people in music. I can see
how much of a tool it can be. Theres some people that are so
dedicated to it. Its almost a full time job in itself. Im
doing the best I can and it seems like you can really develop a great
network of supporters and friends on there. Its really incredible
how connected we really are, through these kind of things. (laughter)
For musicians its an amazing tool to build a base...a fan base
and really get more connected to people that are supporting your journey.
Theres definitely sort of a yin and yang of it. Im sort
of learning to find that balance and then, in the meantime, its
been fun connecting with people.
mwe3: How about plans moving forward?
JH: I havent really had a chance to play in the States very
much, so Im really excited to have that opportunity and then
keep visiting more and more cities and seeing what you guys have to
offer! (laughter) Truthfully, Im excited just to keep going
and to have the opportunity to keep going. I think thats always
been my goal. As a kid and growing up, I always swore that Id
be happy doing this if nobody was listening...so I remind myself of
that, that everythings thats happening is just a big,
giant bonus and I kind of enjoy it while its here. Thats
Thanks to Justin Hines @ www.JustinHines.com
and to Jodie Thomas @ www.DeccaRecords.com