Colin James doesn’t fit neatly into one musical box.
“I hate being pigeonholed,” the Saskatchewan-born musician said. “I’m inspired by a bunch of styles. I don’t have a favourite genre. I love a Macy Gray record as much as I love a Ray LaMontagne record as much as I love a Black Keys record.”
During a music career spanning 25 years, James has tried everything from rock and blues to pop and swing. His latest album, aptly titled Fifteen to mark his 15th release, pays tribute to that history by going back to his rock roots, with hints of blues, gospel and pop thrown into the mix.
James’ latest tour – which will bring him to the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts on Friday, Oct. 26, at 8 p.m. – also pays tribute to the singer-songwriter-guitarist’s varied past.
“We’re being pretty eclectic on this trip,” he said. “We have tried to learn a lot of the older book, a lot of the newer book.
“We have a horn section, we have two saxophones. It really allows us to do rock, blues and R&B. You name it, we can do it.”
After 25 years in the business and creating 15 albums, James said his inspiration and desire to make music has never waned.
“I’ve never had trouble with that because I love music,” he said. “It’s everything to me.”
James’ love of music began early in his life.
His parents weren’t performers, but music could always be heard playing throughout the house.
“They loved all kinds of music, from Pete Seeger to Dylan to Taj Mahal,” James said. “I got to see a lot of concerts as a kid. I was exposed to so much just being on the stereo, so by the age of 10 I knew what I wanted to do.”
By the age of 14, James was staying out late jamming with 30-year-old musicians.
At 18, he got the job that launched his career – opening for American music legend Stevie Ray Vaughan.
After losing out on a job as a guitarist in Vancouver for a harmonica player from San Francisco, James moved back home devastated.
“I went home to Saskatchewan to cry,” he said. “And then the phone rang.”
The caller invited him to open up for Vaughan, one of James’ music inspirations. In a short time, he had to come up with a band and head to Saskatoon.
“We got along like a house on fire,” James said of his relationship with Vaughan.
After that first show, James was invited to join Vaughan on tour, opening for him at shows throughout Canada and the United States.
That experience is something James says he will never forget and something he tries to keep in mind when meeting emerging artists.
“I know where the inspiration comes from and where that spark comes from,” James said. “It can be from meeting someone to give you that faith to go on. I remember being a kid in Saskatchewan thinking ‘how am I going to be taken seriously as a blues guy in Regina?’ And it happened. It should give a lot of hope to people.”
Tickets to see Colin James cost $49 and can be purchased at the Sanderson Centre box office at 88 Dalhousie St., by phone at 519-758-8090 or online at www.sandersoncentre.ca.