“Enjoy the moment.” This is what singer/songwriter Justin Hines says to his fans who attend his concerts. During the Parapan Games, I heard Hines say this when he performed at Nathan Phillips Square one hot August afternoon. Prior to that day, I got to interview him for Enables Me.
Interviewing Justin Hines recently was a great moment for me, because I got to learn more about this talented folk-pop artist, and the people that influenced him and his music along the way.
“I was always into people who weren’t kind of flashy,” Hines says. Hines grew up in Newmarket, Ontario, with family members who were musical. This includes his father, who played guitar. In addition to his musical family members, Hines credits Cat Stevens, Carole King, James Taylor and Jim Croce as influences. “I have always loved the singers who would go on stage and tell their stories through songs… I thought that was really cool, and I wanted to be that guy.”
Hines was born with a rare joint condition called Larsen’s Syndrome. Hines says he doesn’t think about his disability too much, preferring instead to share his gifts and talents with his fans.
Hines’ began singing as a child, with his earliest public performances at church services. Hines’ formal entry into the music business came at the age of 14. “I had won a contest to sing the National Anthem at a Toronto Raptors game (1996). From there I kept getting these kids show gigs. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but it ended up being the start of my journey going forward.”
After paying his dues for the next decade, he signed with an independent label called Orange, which has a distribution deal in place with Universal Music Canada. His second album, Chasing Silver, has a song called “Say What You Will.” The song encourages the listener to say what is on your mind when you’ve got the chance. Staying silent could result in a missed opportunity.
“Say What You Will” became a #1 hit in South Africa, and its popularity led Hines to film a music video there. It also led to Hines and colleagues to donate school supplies to the Despatch Primary School in Reservoir Hills.
“Going to South Africa was really emotional for me,” Hines says. Their educational campaign was inspired by the song. Witnessing people help each other out on a huge scale is something I never dreamed I would be a part of. The whole experience was life-changing when I look back on it.”
Hines has enjoyed many spectacular moments in his career so far. Over the past decade, he has released five CDs, toured throughout Canada and internationally, received the Order of Ontario, and was made a founding artist of The Agency for Extraordinary People. When I asked him what his favourite moment has been, this was his response:
“I don’t look back too much. I can’t isolate anything in particular… everything has been amazing… I never thought I could make it to this level… I feel blessed…”
So, what enables Justin Hines?
“Having a strong support system… I believe that’s the key for people like ourselves striving to find a really good support system. A lot of people haven’t been as fortunate as I have. I say to them, if you didn’t have it yourself, then maybe you can be that person to somebody else, and recognize how important it is to really be there for each other.”
BONUS: Justin Hines talks about the moment he realized he and his wife Savanna were meant to be together.