Guest Author - Michelle Anne Cope
The Artist – Justin James
The Album – Sun Drenched
The Band – The Sons of Beaches:
Justin James: Vocals, Guitar
Ben Greet: Guitar
Matty Bass: Bass
Ed Fletcher: Drums
Murf Dog: Harmonica, Percussion
Jermey Miller: Keys
The Story – I didn’t know of singer/songwriter, Justin James, until a visitor to the Pop Talk forum posted a note suggesting I listen to the album, Sun Drenched. The title intrigued me because we battled some pretty chilly temperatures in Columbus, Ohio this past winter. It only made sense to bring some sunshine to my music collection. Let’s call that instant sunshine.
I had a chance to talk to Justin via email. He had a story and, as you all know by now, I love stories.
Justin James was born in Canada. At 18, he found a haven of sunshine, beaches, friends, and fun in the Caribbean. He also met someone who would change his life forever – a shark – a tiger shark to be exact.
Justin was surfing off the coast of Venezuela when he was attacked. His left foot was mangled and detached. The nearest town was three hours away and Justin did his best to endure the trip in the back of a truck. He was losing blood fast and eventually lost consciousness. Sunshine, beaches and good times were suddenly replaced by physicians, blood transfusions, a delicate surgery, stitches, and time.
Lots and lots of time – most of it spent bedridden broken up by sessions of intense physical therapy. It was a hard time, a frustrating time, and a time of change. Justin refers to one particular event as a blessing in disguise.
One day, his grandmother gave him a guitar to help pass the long tedious immobile hours and he soon found that he had a gift. No, let me rephrase that, Justin James found his art. He could play, he could write songs and he could sing.
Wow! Let’s talk about change. Since we are going with a summer time theme in this piece, can I say this is a true example of someone taking the lemons life threw at them and making lemonade – like the best lemonade evah!!!
I was interested to know why Justin’s grandmother had given him a musical instrument during his recovery time. I mean, when I have friends who are recovering from an illness or injury, I usually give them the latest best sellers, magazines or puzzle books. It was almost as if Justin’s grandmother knew that a talent lay dormant, that it just needed a little push.
“She just wanted to give me something that would pass the time,” Justin said. “She knew I loved music.”
That love of music led to melodies and lyrics that later turned into an album. To make the story a little shorter, I will tell you that Justin was signed by 10 Spot Records, an independent label. I asked him what life was like with an Indie label as we seem to be seeing more and more great artists emerge this way.
“Well . . . I’m just finding out because I was signed just a few months ago. It’s nice to call up the president of the label and discuss my issues. It’s also nice to know that you’re not gonna be lost in the shuffle and that their time and energy is focused on your career,” he said.
Justin also gave me some background information. “10 Spot Records is part of the Universal Music Family which allows them to use Universal for distribution/marketing and other key areas. That alone separates them from 99% of most Indies.”
The shark attack changed the direction of Justin’s life and the story does have a happy ending, or should I say new beginning? However, there are some lingering reminders.
“I have a limp,” Justin said. “And my foot has no feeling cause my nerves were so severely damaged.” Justin paused at this point in his email and inserted one of those smiley faces you make with keystrokes. The next line said, “But, I can still dance!”
I Got Sun Drenched!
I love hearing from readers. I like to read your email and forum posts about your likes and dislikes, as well as your opinions and reviews on pop music. It was a simple note in the forum telling me about a great album called Sun Drenched that led to this article. I downloaded the album from Napster and it was like a mini beach party in my writing studio. It had all of my favorite elements! Songs with well written meaningful lyrics, catchy melodies I could hum along with and even a couple of tunes that made me want to dance. My cat, Gus, was an unwilling partner – his loss, so I danced alone. The first song I listened to was “California” which MTV used in its reality show, Laguna Beach. I asked Justin what inspired him to write the song. This is how he answered.
“My life! I’ve been down here in Cali chasing my dream and although there have been some down times and tough times, like every starving artist has, it can never get that bad cause I live on the beach in sunny California!”
I noticed right away that Justin’s album did not seem overproduced. I asked Justin how much input he had into the final version of Sun Drenched.
“A lot,” he said. “I wrote or co-wrote every song. I was involved in the recording process as well. I went to school for recording engineering so I was able to utilize my knowledge. Backroom Studio recruited some of LA’s top studio musicians to play on my record and I was blessed to have Tim Feehan produce it.”
I listened to Sun Drenched several times and kept hearing subtle vocal resemblances to Dave Matthews. I asked Justin if anyone had commented on the similarity before.
“Yes,” he said. “But I get more references about J. Johnson, John Mayer and Jason Mraz. All in all, I’m just myself, Justin James.”
And being himself, being Justin James, is what makes this album one of my new favorites. I’m not trying to be simplistic, just truthful, when I say I find Sun Drenched to be a combination of musical and lyrical creativity, vocal art and just plain fun! It makes me happy every time I listen to it. Making people happy with his music is exactly what Justin wants to do.
“Music to me has always been about recording songs that make your toes tap,” he said. “I want my music to make you smile, I want my songs to make you want to just hang out.”
If you want to “hang out” with Justin James and Sons of Beaches, check out the MySpace link below for tour dates. You can also hear some cuts off of Sun Drenched, buy your own copy and see what other fans have to say about this new "very talented" artist.
Have a great week!