Canadian Singer/Songwriter Justin Hines is Making His Mark in Music
Ask Justin Hines how he got into the music business and he won’t miss a
beat before giving an answer. “I don’t remember wanting to do anything else,”
he says. “I’m a very lucky guy. I never had to figure out what I wanted to do.
As a child, I knew I wanted to sing, so I never had to think ‘maybe I’ll try
this.’ It was always music.”
Born in Newmarket, Ontario, Hines grew up loving the music of the
singer/ songwriters from the ’60s and ’70s—artists like Cat Stevens, James
Taylor and Carole King. But his musical influences are varied. “A lot of people
have inspired me and served a purpose at different times,” he explains.
Hines credits his parents for a lot of his early inspiration: his dad
plays guitar and his mom sings. When he was a child, Hines used to spend hours
sitting by his father’s jukebox in the basement, listening to and memorizing
Hines’ parents were extremely supportive of his musical aspirations and encouraged
him in the face of obstacles. Because of a rare genetic joint condition called
Larsen syndrome, which is characterized by congenital dislocation of multiple
joints, Hines uses a motorized wheelchair and his joints can easily dislocate. He’s
the first to tell you that any difficulties have had more to do with things like
accessibility at venues or on airplanes than feeling different or overwhelmed
by his situation.
“As a child, my experiences were a little less traumatic than other
people’s may have been,” he says. “I credit that to having my own personality,
carving my own path and getting to where I wanted to be in life. I was just
Justin. It was just what it was. I saw myself not as different or special. And
I think other people saw that and thought, ‘He’s not making a big deal of it,
why should I?’”
It’s apparent that Hines still doesn’t make a big deal of it. “He has a
way of moving on stage, people don’t even notice he’s in a wheelchair,” says
Justin Abedin, a renowned Canadian producer and musician who has worked with
Hines for seven years. “Even in the studio, he paces!”
Abedin, who produces and plays guitar on Hines’ albums, calls the
singer/songwriter one of his favourite people to work with because he is always
positive and brings his best to every performance. “He lets things roll off
him,” explains Abedin. “He never gets stressed…it just doesn’t faze him.
Justin just wants to capture what happens when we get together in a room and
just start playing.”
Although his love of music was apparent almost from birth, Hines’
musical career really took off at the age of 14 when he beat out thousands of
entrants to win a radio contest to sing the Canadian national anthem at a
Toronto Raptors game. “It was my first exposure to a big audience,” he recalls.
“Before that, it was churches and old folks’ homes. [Singing the anthem] was
good, because I got rid of any stage fright, and everything seemed a bit easier
after that by comparison.”
Hines has gone on to tour all over the world and has released three
well-received albums: Sides, Chasing Silver and the Christmas album Season’s
Greetings. In 2009, within 48 hours of its online release, “Say What You Will,”
his haunting single from Chasing Silver, became the number one downloaded singer/songwriter track
on iTunes. Walmart used his song “Wish You Well” to advertise its Walk for Miracles
on television, and he also sings on the “There’s No Place Like Ontario advertisement
for Tourism Ontario.
“I feel like this is what I’m supposed to be doing in life,” Hines says.
“It’s not always an easy journey, but I’m passionate about it and it’s what I
wake up thinking about. It makes it easier to tackle challenges.”
Touring while making an album at the same time is one of those
challenges, but Hines is taking it on and plans on having his record finished
by the end of the year.
He’s also busy working on an initiative in South Africa with his
charity, the Justin Hines Foundation (justinhines.org), which supports various
organizations and environmental associations around the globe. He has remixed
“Say What You Will” with a South African choir comprised of people with
disabilities. Proceeds from the song and music video will go to various schools
across South Africa.
“I think the whole world needs a hand; we’re all in need of something,
somehow,” says Hines. “I want to spread it out as much as possible, rather than
focus on one specific cause.” Besides his own charity, Hines is involved in
several others and is an active performer at benefit concerts, in order to
raise money and awareness. “Ultimately, I just want to keep going,” he says. “I
hope that 40 years from now, I can still find a way.”
Despite his amazing journey and all of his accomplishments, Hines says
he didn’t get into music expecting to become famous…or even successful. “It has
made me feel incredibly grateful, the way my life has evolved,” he says. “I
always knew it could happen, but I never expected it to or believed it would.
Still, if it all ended tomorrow, that would be okay. It’s been a great ride.”
To learn more, visit www.justinhines.com
Erin Stringer is a writer/editor based in Vancouver. Her work has
appeared in a number of Canadian and U.S. publications.