Photo: Christine Flynn

We’ve got Justin Rutledge back on FTS, ahead of the release of his new upcoming album, Islands. We caught up with Justin to chat about life without live shows, musical influences, and recording an album that re-visits previous releases.

From The Strait: It feels like a lifetime ago that we filmed our “Live From the Strait” clips with you and Rob Baker at Warehouse in St. Catharines – how has it been for you, not being able to perform lately, even intimate shows like that one?

Justin Rutledge: I won’t lie, it’s been difficult. Having live shows non only strips away a significant source of income for me, but fundamentally it doesn’t allow me to connect with my audience, and that hurts.

FTS: Speaking of live shows, “Jellybean” was often your finale, as an audience singalong. (One that left a lasting impression, and stayed in my head for weeks after!) You chose that as your leadoff single to your upcoming album, and included some heavy hitters to lend their voices. How did you manage to capture that “live” feeling on this recording?

Justin Rutledge: Well, due to the pandemic we weren’t allowed to get a group of 20 people together to record a group vocal, so I recorded the guitars and then sent the files off to friends who had little home studios. They would record their part and send it back to me. Chris Stringer mixed the album, and he did a great job of making it sound like it’s a bunch of people in a room singing into a mic. I guess you have to do whatever it takes to make an album during a global pandemic.

FTS: The new album, Islands revisits previous releases, and you re-recorded them with minimal accompaniment. What made you decide to take on this type of project?

Justin Rutledge: After eight albums, I felt like it was time for a bit of a look back on my career. I couldn’t do a ‘Greatest Hits’ because I don’t have any hits, so I selected a small group of songs that represented some of my favourite musical moments, as well as taking into consideration what songs resonated most with fans. It was a worthwhile project, and it felt refreshing to walk into the studio with the songs all ready to go.

FTS: Who were your musical influences growing up, and how do they differ from your current ones?

Justin Rutledge: Mostly singer-songwriters like Leonard Cohen and Dylan. These days it turns out that most of my influences are friends of mine. I have so many talented musicians in my life who are doing such remarkable things and creating incredible music. They are the ones who are inspiring me these days.

FTS: Do you have any musical guilty pleasures? (Not that we actually believe in guilty pleasures, but for the sake of a Q&A! we’ll pretend)

Justin Rutledge: Not really—I love classical music. Especially Bach.

Have a listen to Justin Rutledge’s recent single, “Jellybean”, and then go check out his cover of The Tragically Hip’s “Nautical Disaster”, out today