When Justin Hines was 13 years old, his mother was driving him to school one morning when an announcement came on the radio.
The radio station was sponsoring a singing contest; the winner would sing the Canadian national anthem at a Toronto Raptors basketball game. Hines had always been musical, singing in the church choir in his hometown of Newmarket, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto, and at home while his father played guitar. In fact, Hines’ family story has it that baby Justin was singing before he could even talk.
In the car that morning, mother and son had a brief chat, and made a change of plans. “We made a U-turn and drove straight down to Toronto,” Hines recalls. “I played a little hooky! I ended up being the first person to audition for the contest. A couple of days later, they called to tell me that I had won. It was pretty shocking!”
Hines’ first public performance took place in front of 17,000 people. The Raptors were playing the Charlotte (now New Orleans) Hornets, so he sang both “O Canada” and “The Star-Spangled Banner,” a tall order for a young teenager.
“Music had always been my obsession,” Hines says. “It was all I ever knew.” After that Raptors game, everything clicked. “From then on, I knew music would be my full-time thing.”
Creating the Path
Hines, who has a congenital joint disorder called Larsen syndrome and uses a power wheelchair, spent his teenage years figuring out how to move from that one-off performance into a musical career. “I started doing children’s shows, performances oriented to my age group,” he says. “I was learning how to write songs with other people, honing my craft, figuring out where I wanted to be musically.”