Search
  • The Sound Cafe

A Conversation With Colin James



Colin James has been rockin’ the Canadian music world for more than 30 years. He’s a platinum-selling artist who’s garnered a bucketful of awards. His latest release, Open Road, is the third of a trilogy of albums that have taken the blues world by storm. He’s played with the best musicians and there’s good reason for that because he’s also one of the best.


Ken Wallis Interviewed Colin James for the radio show Blues Source Canada. The following are excerpts from that interview.



Ken Wallis

Colin James has a new album out. It’s called Open Road and joining us is Colin James to talk about his new album. Colin thanks for coming on the show


Colin James

Pleasure


Ken Wallis

So, tell us, why did you select the title Open Road for your album?


Colin James

Well, it's my third record with this kind of road series. We've done Blue Highways starting it all off. Blue Highways was a book that came out a number of years ago, kind of about the byways, the secondary highways of America. It had a nice sound to it. Miles To Go we followed up with. I think it was a Robert Frost “miles to go and before I sleep” was the kind of thought of that one. We debated whether to go on with the road theme; you don't want to do it too many times but Open Road especially considering the pandemic and what we've all had to go through seemed to be a hopeful title. The song itself was one of the more modern songs on the record I suppose. It was an original and that seemed to make sense.


Ken Wallis

I love the line Every life is an Open Road.


Colin James

It was that line that kind of cemented the song getting done. I sat with just a pad of paper one day and I went, every life is an open road and I thought I like that in itself. Not everyone has the same privilege or the same road, God knows, but everyone has choices to make inside of their own their own milieu. I like the idea of that, and I I enjoyed working on it, long distance. I had most of the idea together, then I thought about Craig Northey, Craig would be a good person to phone and help me through it. We didn't even talk. I sent him the bed track with the chorus in there and some words, and he sent it right back just like it is.


Ken Wallis

One thing for sure, musicians always like to evolve their music, Do you feel this album is a little bit different from your previous albums?


Colin James

These last three records have been kind of accepted below the border in the States. I've kind of been reinvented as a blues guy after being kind of a pop blues guy all my life. That's presented new opportunities for what they call Americana, which is a further extension from the blues world, as far as it opens up anything from John Hiatt to Lucinda Williams. to as far as Robert Plant and Allison Krauss. There's a kind of a wide swath of music that it encompasses, and we don't really have it in Canada as a radio source like they do in the States. It'd be wise to look at that, especially someone like me who tended to go from rock, to blues, to little big band. I've kind of moved inside my own career a fair amount. I loved making Blue Highways and it was so nice to see it embraced like it was. I was signed to a pretty major label, Virgin Records America as my first recording contract and it was a pretty big label. They had people like Iggy Pop and Keith Richards as their first signings as well as me. it's important to show growth and I'm really just so excited to be able to make records and start connecting with people south of the border. These last three records have been exciting and nice to be moving into new territories.


Ken Wallis

Do you have a favourite song on this album? Is there one song that speaks to you the most?


Colin James

I have different reasons for loving things. I love the Koko Taylor, well it's actually not a Koko Taylor track, but I heard it from Koko Taylor, That's Why I'm Crying. I love that super traditional blues with the beautiful reverb on the rhythm guitar. I've always been a sucker for Charles Brown, Ray Agee, some of those real traditional blues artists that had that sweet tenor voice. Well, I guess Charles Brown, you couldn't call him a tenor. He'd be more of a baritone, but he had a sweet voice. I love the Dylan track [It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes a Train To Cry], the rocking track on the record. I'm still a rock fan and this record was nice for me because I could go from the Tony Joe White's thing to a real traditional Albert King thing to Open Road, which is a bit more of a J.J. Kale, on to Bob Dylan, where I could just be a rocker for a tune. I enjoy all the differences; I enjoy different songs for different reasons. Raging River I might say, is my favourite on the record only because I meant to record it for years but didn't get to it for 20 years of my life. Me and Colin Linden wrote that in 1993, maybe even earlier, and he put it on a record of his, but it was never quite right for me. It was a little too in the Country Americana vein for me to feel comfortable putting it on some of my records. Just now was the time and Colin played that beautiful ambient slide in the background which is so gorgeous.


Ken Wallis

And you've got some really special musicians on this album with you.


Colin James

I'm proud to say that the people on my record are my band. Generally, I do have Craig Northey playing some rhythm guitar, and I love using Craig as a rhythm guitar player because he doesn't play like a blues player. He's a pop player, so when he takes on a shuffle, he plays in a very distinct way, and I like it. He's so different from how I approach the guitar. It’s a great counterpoint. Other people in the band, Chris Cadell playing rhythm guitar. He's been playing with me for years. He just recently moved on to the band, Big Wreck. Simon Kendall on Hammond organ has been a stalwart of the Vancouver scene for many years. Jesse O'Brien from Hamilton on keys. I love Jesse. On bass, we had Steve Pelletier on some of the record and we had one of my oldest friends, Norm Fisher playing bass and he's a Vancouver bass player who did the last 10 or so years with Bryan Adams. Norm is one of the most musical bass players I've ever heard. The way he plays on that Bob Dylan track just slays me. In the old days I used to get name musicians to join me on records, which I loved, Mickey Curry or Wadi Wachtel, but on my last three records I kind of used my band.


Ken Wallis

You’ve done just incredible stuff; seven Juno Awards, 27 Maple Blues Awards. What keeps you motivated and what keeps you wanting to create music?


Colin James

Strictly the music itself. We went on a short tour before the pandemic, before the third wave hit and I got out and played some shows. And it was like shockingly cathartic and healing after two years of sitting around. Being a musician who has been playing since I was 13, you forget that it's kind of part of your DNA and I’m sure it's been pretty devastating for a lot of musicians with this inactivity. It showed me just how strongly it runs. Just playing some shows was just so good and to get my chops back together on the guitar and my running a show, talking to the audience. Just everything about it. I'm still so excited to work on a new record and a new project and just making music. It's just thrilling.


Ken Wallis

Well, I certainly hope we can see you on tour someday soon, when things start to open up. Where can fans buy your record, and I say buy, not stream. Let's go out there and support musicians and buy.


Colin James

Well Colin James.com has got everything on it you need to know. I suppose you could also buy it through Stony Plain Records, my record label, and any other vendors obviously. I know I'm happy that people use Spotify and Apple, but it is a different set of rules as far as the compensation is concerned, but it's really what we have to deal with now. I'm really looking forward to this tour with Buddy Guy; we're doing 21 shows in the States with Buddy starting in L.A. on the 13th. I've run into Buddy all my life and more so in the last five years than previous years. I think I played my first show with Buddy when I was 21 or so and I'm 57 now, so looking forward to playing some beautiful venues all through the States and really looking forward to getting some Americans out to see me and get better known down south of the border.


Ken Wallis

Well, it certainly would be well deserved. I hope the American audiences feel the same way Canadian audiences do about you. Hopefully soon we will see you appearing in Canada. Colin thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.


Colin James

Pleasure is mine, thanks.




Website: colinjames.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ColinJamesMusic

Twitter: twitter.com/ColinJamesMusic

Instagram: www.instagram.com/colinjamesmusic