Audiences can often be moved by the emotional prowess of a performer. But it was J. Gaines who was moved by the strength of his audience during a special show in Kosovo last year.
Gaines (the J stands for Jacques) and his band the Soul Attorneys played for the young members of a local Cub Scouts outfit, which was set up by a group of Canadian servicemen.
"It was so touching," says the Montreal singer during lunch at a downtown eatery yesterday.
"They walked in, sat down in the concert hall where we did our show and we played So They Say (from his new album) and One of Us by Joan Osborne.
"To see these kids looking at you and not quite understanding what's going on was very touching. First of all, because they're hearing this music for the first time and because they've gone through so much suffering that they can't even muster up the strength to smile or laugh."
Gaines was in Bosnia and Kosovo to play for Canadian troops stationed in the war-ravaged region.
"We found out last summer that our record was being released in February, so we had nothing to do and I wanted to step away from the writing process for a bit," he explains.
"I called my manager and said, 'Get me a gig man, anything, just get me travelling.' He phoned me up and said, 'So you like to travel, eh? How about this? You can play for the Canadian troops in Bosnia and Kosovo.' "
Back home, Gaines is hoping to gain some support for his latest album, Another Day.
Originally known as just the Soul Attorneys, the R&B-based pop band released its self-titled major label debut in 1996 and toured with Celine Dion.
Gaines added his moniker after writing partner and core member Eric Filto left the band because of health reasons.
Gaines teamed up with '80s rocker-turned-jazz guru Aldo Nova, who produced and co-wrote much of the album.
"I wasn't a fan of him at all actually," he admits.
"The only thing I knew of him was (his 1982 hit) Fantasy. When I went to see him, I went kicking and screaming. I didn't think it was a good idea at all.
"But as it turned out, our first single, Better Man, was written the first day we met."
Being the singer, Gaines has always been the most visible member of the group, but he says it was still hard to get used to being the only one in the spotlight.
"I'm just beginning to deal with it. When I first saw the album cover and looked at it and saw the photo of myself, I had the shivers. It was like, 'Wow, that's just me there on the cover.' But also, if things go bad it's: 'Wow, it's just me.'
"But, in terms of what you see, it is just J. Gaines, but behind the scenes, it's still the same band."