The buzz behind Justin Hines and his newest album Sides is palpable. The soulful-acoustic, folk-pop record hit stores a few weeks ago and his first single "Wish You Well" is already circulating radio stations across the country. But unfortunately Hines' talent isn't usually the first thing people notice about the young singer songwriter.
Hines' is living with Larsen Syndrome a genetic disease that causes his major joints to dislocate on a regular basis and confines him to a wheelchair. But rather than let the disease be a hindrance to his career Hines says he sees it in a positive light, "in a way it's been pretty beneficial for me," Hines explains that in an industry where it's become increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd, he at least has a way to grab people's attention.
In fact he grabbed the attention of thousands of people at his very first public gig at the Air Canada Centre. At the age of fourteen a blossoming Hines won a radio contest that earned him the privilege of singing the national anthem at a Raptors game. Hines says the experience was "tremendous." And that though the task was daunting it did teach him one thing, "It eliminated any stage fright I might have" he says "it made me very comfortable in my own skin."
The Raptors gig also gave Hines' career a bit of a jump start, but not necessarily in the right direction. The popular gig pushed him in a pop music direction that didn't really suit him. The frustrations caused him to take a break from the music industry and make a record he really wanted to make, "I hate to sound selfish," he says, "But it was sort of a vanity project."
The record with a 50's, 60's and 70's singer songwriter sound that harkens back to Hines' idols like James Taylor, Jim Chroche and Cat Stevens was exactly the record he wanted to make. Focusing on great songs rather than production or marketing the all acoustic record was really something that Hines was proud of and it was something that his current record label is proud of too.
Sides was completed before Hines even signed his record contract which gave him a chance to pour a lot of himself into the record, "the songs come form a deep place, that's sometimes uncomfortable writing about," he explains.
Because of this songs like the introspective, melancholy "Never After" the Hines poured his soul into for three to four years, "it's the most time I've spent on a song," he says, "It's about someone that had a big impact on my life, and I'm pleased about how that turned out". Another of his personal favourites is the poignant and emotional "Another Way to Cry", "I remember exactly where I was and what I was feeling when I wrote it," Hines recalls "I was hurting for the world at the time."
Though his album was only recently released, that doesn't mean that he'll be taking a break from making music. In fact Hines says he is writing songs all the time, "It's just a part of my lifestyle," he explains, "It's very therapeutic."
He'll be writing songs during his fall tour, that is not quite finalized, then who knows a new album may be just around the corner.
Writer: Michelle Garcia