|Colin James. (Eric Plummer, QMI Agency files)
When you've been around as long as blues rocker Colin James, who still looks boyish at age 48, it's easy to get some famous contributors on your latest album.
Or so it went for the Regina-born, Vancouver-based musician on his 15th studio collection, the aptly titled Fifteen, which features first time co-writes by Ron Sexsmith and Gordie Johnson, and return collaborations with Tom Wilson and Thomas "Tawgs" Salter.
"We've run into each other at the urinal at the Junos," jokes James of his many Canadian music pals.
More seriously James says the first Sexsmith collaboration, Finally Wrote A Song For You, came to him as he was coming back from a 24 km ride on his road bike.
"I sung it into my iPhone and thought right away, 'Ron Sexsmith.' And I didn't think twice," says James who just began a Canadian theatre-club tour that runs throughout October and November.
"By the time I got back to my garage studio, I sat down in my chair, he had already spit out two verses back at me. And boom, we had a song within hours. I demoed it that night, sent it to him back in England. He got inspired. And then eventually he came to my place and we wrote Shoulder To Cry On."
Johnson also flew in to work on two songs, Sweets Gone Sour, and I Need You Bad, with James, who says first-time collaborations can be risky.
"It can be very daunting when you don't know somebody very well," he says. 'Alright, let's go and be creative.' Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. But in both these situations, I was so happy. We came up with material just like that. And in the case of Ron, Shoulder to Cry On is one of the prettiest songs on this record. I think it's going to be one of those songs that hopefully gets covered by others because I think it's got a lot going on. I think Clapton could do it tomorrow and do really well with it."
Speaking of covers, Fifteen finds James trying his hand at John Lennon's Jealous Guy, Fleetwood Mac's Oh Well, and Robert Palmer's Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley, the latter which is an Allen Toussaint tune.
"I think the best song wins," says James, who was mentored by Stevie Ray Vaughan early in his career. "I've never been one to go, 'They all have to be my songs.' Like I love writing but it was never like a calling of mine. Some people were always writers. I wasn't. I just wanted to play guitar like Steve Miller or Buddy Guy. I always had my heroes and writers weren't part of that. So writing was something that I've really had to learn as I've gone on. I enjoy it now but there was a time when I just hated it."
COLIN JAMES TOUR DATES:
OCTOBER 10 PALAIS MONTCALM QUEBEC CITY, PQ
OCTOBER 11 CHEMIN DU MONT ARTHABASKA VICTORIAVILLE, PQ
OCTOBER 12 THEATRE PALACE ARVIDA, SAGUENAY, PQ,
OCTOBER 13 METROPOLIS MONTREAL, PQ
OCTOBER 15 NAC OTTAWA, ON
OCTOBER 17 STOCKEY CENTRE PARRY SOUND, ON
OCTOBER 18 BROCK CENTRE ST. CATHARINES, ON
OCTOBER 19 BURLINGTON PAC BURLINGTON, ON
OCTOBER 20 GRAND THEATRE KINGSTON,ON
OCTOBER 21 SHOWPLACE THEATRE PETERBOROUGH, ON
OCTOBER 24 ROSE THEATRE BRAMPTON, ON
OCTOBER 25 BROCKVILLE ARTS CENTRE BROCKVILLE, ON
OCTOBER 26 SANDERSON CENTRE BRANTFORD, ON
OCTOBER 27 RIVER RUN CENTRE GUELPH, ON
OCTOBER 30 BURTON CUMMINGS THEATRE WINNIPEG, MB
NOVEMBER 1 CASINO REGINA REGINA, SK
NOVEMBER 2 SOUTHERN ALBERTA JUBILEE AUDITORIUM CALGARY, AB
NOVEMBER 3 MEDICINE HAT ESPLANADE ARTS & HERITAGE CENTRE MEDICINE HAT, AB
NOVEMBER 6 PORT THEATRE NANAIMO, BC
NOVEMBER 7 ROYAL THEATRE VICTORIA, BC
NOVEMBER 8-10 COMMODORE BALLROOM, VANCOUVER, BC
NOVEMBER 12 KELOWNA COMMUNITY THEATRE KELOWNA, BC
NOVEMBER 14, MEMORIAL CENTRE, RED DEER AB
NOVEMBER 15 NORTHERN ALBERTA JUBILEE AUDITORIUM EDMONTON, AB
NOVEMBER 16 DOUGLAS J. CARDINAL PERFORMING ARTS CENTRE, GRAND PRAIRIE, AB
NOVEMBER 17, VANIER HALL, PRINCE GEORGE, BC