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(2019 - Spring Issue)


Upon seeing 18-year-old Colin James perform back in the 1980s, guitar and blues music legend Stevie Ray Vaughan knew then James had the chops to become a talented and award-winning musician. Having Stevie Ray Vaughan (killed tragically in 1990 in a helicopter accident) as a mentor meant a lot to James and he regrets Vaughan never had a chance to hear him later in his career as he honed his musical skills.

James, 54, born and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan, had parents who instilled in him a love for music. James released his first album in 1988 although he had played in bands since his early teens. In fall 2018, James released his 19th album, Miles to Go, a sequel to his critically acclaimed Blue Highways album and an homage to blues legends including Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson and Blind Willie Johnson.

Never affixed to a particular music genre, James instead keeps fans guessing as he roams the musical landscape for elements of blues, swing, rock, big band and other influences he may happen upon. Nowadays success is measured differently than in his youth. “Success for me is making sure I’m putting out good, high-quality records—trying to get better at what I do. I think all of us still want to write that one ballad that makes people cry. The ultimate goal is to really connect.”

James has had many highlights in his career from performing for Queen Elizabeth II in Saskatchewan, appearing on David Letterman and Conan O’Brien and playing with music legends such as Carlos Santana, Keith Richards and many more. James has won six Juno Awards along with 17 nominations, and in 2013, he was inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame.

Performing live on stage has always struck the most responsive chord for James and his fans but his most important fans are his wife Heather and their kids, Deghan and Ryland. Their Victorian-style home in North Vancouver keeps him grounded and provides stability—a challenge for any musician. James hits the road again in spring 2019 on a Canadian tour for his latest album. His passions include travelling wherever he can be in tune with his music, fans and Canadian roots.


What gives you satisfaction as a musician?

I love it when a young kid comes up to me after a show and says, “I’ve heard you all my life! My mom and dad raised me on you, and I can’t believe I’m here right now. I play guitar because of you.” That’s the best. 

What’s your favourite venue for performing?

Toronto’s Massey Hall is always amazing. It’s such a trip to mention all the people who have played there. The crowd is intimidating because the people are so close to you. Also, the Commodore in Vancouver because I cut my teeth there. 

What’s your dream destination?

I’ve always been curious about Tibet or Dharamsala (where the Dalai Lama lives in exile in northern India).

A favourite place to visit?

I always go to Italy. Venice is just amazing. I love Venice!

What’s a favourite family holiday?

We stayed in a beautiful little Tuscany villa near Sienna. I cycle so my family did their thing and toured around the towns while I biked 60 kilometres out into the wilderness of Tuscany and stopped for lunch at a beautiful place and enjoyed a cappuccino. On a bike you have to watch the wine or you end up in a ditch!

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I collect weird antiques. I don’t like expensive, really beautiful stuff. I like one-eyed dolls. I have a whole wall of one-eyed dolls from around the world.

Any travel pet peeves?

Body odour on a plane! 

Favourite restaurant where you live?

My Vancouver favourite is Tavola for homegrown Italian cooking—just good home-cooked, wicked-awesome food. The brick chicken is insane and you can always count on the fresh burrata. 

A love affair with Canada?

I love everything about Canada. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I love my home in Vancouver.

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