As part of this year’s Jazz Festival, Colin James is performing three consecutive nights at the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, June 25th, 26th and 27th. In a recent phone call, Colin talked to me about his career and the upcoming trio of shows.

Montreal Days

Colin James has played Montreal many times on his cross country tours, but his history with the city goes back to his late teenage years. “I guess [I was] about 18 and I lived in Lachine and I lived in Verdun for a period of time,” explains James. As a struggling musician, he took to busking in the metro. “I’d have to go and put my name on that little list. You can’t just show up, you have to be on a list. You have to get up at like six or seven in the morning and do the circuit, and put your name on the different stops and pick a time slot. I’d do two or three in a day. I was pretty broke the whole time I was in Montreal, but it’s a beautiful city.”

Montreal Nights

With 16 studio albums under his belt, Colin has a wealth of songs to choose from when preparing his set list. The Montreal shows, billed as The Acoustic Sessions, should prove to be a blend of old and new songs. “Although, it’s going to be acoustic, I’m actually bringing a drummer and a bass player to the Montreal show. Which allows us to have a bit of a back beat and do some of the stuff [off the latest album, Hearts on Fire]. So, it’s basically going to be one of those shows where we start off acoustic and we build through the night. And we still do play some of the hits. We play the “Why’d You Lie”, “Keep On Loving Me Baby” and “Five Long Years”.

“I try to do a cross section of all the different records and then take advantage of some of those nice moments of when it’s just two acoustics playing together. The nicest thing about having just two guys is you can just change up on the fly and do what moves you. We’re still playing electric slide, electric Strats, but we’re also playing full on acoustic stuff, as well.”

A Who’s Who of Music’s Best

Colin’s first big break came when Stevie Ray Vaughan took notice of the young player’s guitar prowess. Since then, Colin has played with many legendary musicians: Albert Collins, John Lee Hocker, and BB King, just to name a few. “You know I’ve been so lucky to play with most of the people that I really wanted to. Bonnie Raitt’s become a lifelong friend. I love Bonnie; I think she’s the best. … I always go see Lucinda Williams when she’s around. ”

A musical chameleon, Colin James has proved to be at home in multiple music genres: rock, pop, blues and big band. Might there be more musical exploration in the future? “I like rockabilly, sometimes I fantasize about doing a rockabilly record, but only sometimes. Lately, I’ve been sitting in with a bluegrass band. I’m a mandolin player. I haven’t played in years, but Barney Bentall has a little band called the High Bar Gang … it’s two acoustics, and a mandolin, with really tight harmony. So I’ve been enjoying that as kind of a moonlight fun thing.”

Tools of the Trade

Over the years, Colin has collected countless guitars. One in particular has been with him at many memorable moments. “Lady, we call her Lady, that’s what she’s just been called over the years. She’s called Lady because I’ve got a little 1950’s sticker on the bridge. Something I got at the very beginning of my career, right off the get go and it was a Fender. I had a Fender endorsement so I got about 2 or 3 guitars off the start. … It was with me when I did [The Late Show with David] Letterman. It was [with me] when I played with Stevie [Ray Vaughan], … it’s just been through everything. I just bought a 1950 Gibson acoustic that I’m loving, right now. You get a guitar like that and it’s been through the mill and it’s usually light as a feather, but they resonant like no one’s business. I’ve got other guitars [that] I love and I’m not done looking for guitars yet.”

For the Montreal shows, Colin will be bringing about 15 or 16 guitars. Among them, there will be at least two acoustics, a slide, a couple of Stratocasters and a compulsory Les Paul.

An Evening With

“The acoustic shows have really taught me something. All those years of playing rock shows, which I still do and I love it. I love doing a big stage – in front of 35000 people – that’s awesome, but the acoustic shows really taught me to sit down and talk to the audience a little bit. Sometimes you’ll reminisce about how you set out to write a song or about a song you really love or you’ll tell a story. I like that, I think it brings people in and it’s just a more intimate evening.”

Colin explains, “I’m so excited because, how often do you get to go to Montreal for three solid days in a row! I’m looking forward to it.”

We’re looking forward to it too, Colin.


To purchase tickets:    514-866-8668

Colin James official website

Théatre du Nouveau Monde
84 Ste-Catherine Street West,
Montreal, H2X 1Z6
Located in the Quartier des Spectacles area