Raised in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia, Peter James went on to broaden his horizons exploring the world while playing in cover bands. To say he is well-travelled would be an understatement. With 15 years of globetrotting under his belt, he's collected memories like passport stamps. While he relays the tales of his journeys casually, he understands how lucky he is to have experienced these things and the joy he has found in living his life as a musician.
Now back at home, he's recorded a new album and is coming into his own as a rising country music star. In a genre best known for its heart, he fits right in with a warmth about him that is as inviting as the music he composes and performs. He took some time to chat with me about life before and after his latest release, Livin' for the Summer.
Did you always want to be a musician or did you have another plan?
Music was always the plan. Since I was a kid, I was always singing, always playing the piano, making up songs, always singing. I was singing while I worked, I would sing while I was walking. I was a happy kid.
What advice would you have for aspiring musicians?
Keep learning. Always learn. Listen to different music. Play your instruments a lot. It depends a lot if they want to be a performer or a musician. Those are two different things. If you're a performer you have to learn how to connect with people. As an instrumentalist, it's all inside.
As a musician, what does arts education in schools mean to you?
It's a door opener. You have a chance to explore. I did everything when I was a kid. I went to painting lessons. I went to music lessons. Drama lessons. You won't know until you try.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I enjoy the feedback from people. When they say a song exactly says how they feel or if I make someone cry or if I do a show and they say it's the best night they've ever had. Knowing that I've made them feel something, that's what I like about it.
You've travelled all over the world to exotic places. Where was your favorite place to travel?
I stayed in Thailand the longest. I got to know that one better. They are all quite interesting in their own ways, different people with different cultures. It's pretty nice there. Playing the piano on the cruise ship was pretty cool, we would go to Papua New Guinea and to all these tropical islands
What was it like acclimatizing back home?
Things are more expensive than in places like Thailand. Because I've always lived out of hotels, having my own place and being responsible for paying bills. You have to get used to it. I'm still acclimatizing. I'm pursuing a dream.
What makes your latest album special to you?
It's the first recording that I've done in Canada since I came back, so that's special. It was recorded in Abbotsford and the Fraser Valley is my hometown. Country is about hanging out with your country folk so it feels very country. It's the first album I've done with studio musicians. I got to play with really high quality people. It's the first one I made a professional music video too. It's the first one I put everything into. The first album I did on the road and it was a compilation of stuff I've done. This one was more planned.
On your website you talk about childhood musical influences. What influences you now?
Anything I hear on the radio. I use the radio as a template of what's going on in the world. It's not the same as when you are young. When you are young, you are sucking in music like crazy. When you are older, you know what you like.
What are you most proud of so far?
Every time I reach somebody with a song and when I wrote it for a purpose and people react and they reaffirm what I did was correct. When I write a song that's supposed to feel like you're outside at a barbecue and people hear it and say "I feel like I want to go to a barbecue!" My favorite was when I was performing on a cruise ship and this man came up after seeing me for 10 days and he said "Four years ago, our son died and my wife she hasn't laughed, she hasn't sung, she hasn't done anything, she's just been sad. While you were playing, she started laughing and singing again." It's special things like that. Or when someone says "That song is me" and they take ownership of a song that I wrote. My gift is to be able to attach music to an emotion or a moment in time.
What's your favorite song on your album and why?
My favorite song singing-wise would be Summer Goodbyes. It just feels really nice singing. I also have another song, Stranded, I really like it because it's not typical. It's a fantasy song; it's not like every other song that's out there.
To hear some of Peter James' favorite songs, you can come listen to him play at the Phoenix Lounge in Abbotsford, B.C. on Nov. 19, 2015, download his album on iTunes or check out his website. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
This post originally appeared on Sparkly Shoes and Sweat Drops.
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