Seven years ago David James was watching the film Walk the Line with his girlfriend when he began to sing Ring of Fire.
“She went ‘oh my god, do that again’,” James said. “You sound better than this guy.”
That’s when James got the idea to form a Johnny Cash tribute band, known as David James and Big River.
“I sounded so close to him, I guess to some people, that’s what they thought I should be doing this (covering his songs) for a living,” he said.
On New Years Eve, David James and Big River will be performing at SimonHolt.
“Its another gig and it’s going to be a lot of fun,” James said. “We’re going to be playing everyone’s favourite Johnny Cash songs.”
James is originally from the small community of Tofield, Alta., approximately 68 kilometres Southwest of Edmonton. He explained that during his youth he listened to country music, but also enjoyed other genres.
“I hung out on a lot of farms so there was always an old radio on in all the barns. I didn’t personally grow up on the farm but all my friends did, my dad ran a hardware store in town,” he said. “I listened to a lot of country and eventually I got into stuff that most teenagers were into in the day, like KISS and stuff like that. I wasn’t really a country fan for a lot of years.”
However, it wasn’t until his girlfriend at the time suggested that he should begin covering Johnny Cash that he really got into the legendary singer.
“I’ve always really liked him, but I never dug into him until about seven years ago,” he said.
Prior to forming the tribute band, James spent time in various other cover bands, but wasn’t singing too often.
“I was more of a rocker,” he explained. “I had played in cover bands as a lead guitar player and people always said you need to sing more, Dave.”
James said once he began paying tribute to Johnny Cash he noticed something had changed in the crowds the was playing too.
“When I started doing Johnny Cash cover songs I immediately saw reactions in the crowd …
the dance floor would be packed,” he said.
Todd Sacerty, Colin Stevenson Duncan Symonds make up the rest of David James and Big River.
“They’re all dynamite back singers, which brings a lot to the band,” James said about his bandmates. “Not to condemn Johnny’s band but they didn’t sing a lot and they weren’t all that good singers.”
David James and Big River are no stranger to playing on the road. The tribute band have previously performed throughout British Columbia, as well as in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Washington State. They have even played to a crowd of 10,000 in Quebec.
“I thought there must have been five or 10 bands when we got there,” James explained about the Quebec show. “But then they said ‘no it’s just you.’”
“It doesn’t matter the size of the crowd, it matters if they’re into Cash,” he added.
James said that anyone who plans on coming to the New Year’s Eve show can expect a good time.
“If you are coming to the show and you’re a Johnny Cash fan you better fasten your seat belt and hold on tight because you’re in for a ride,” James said.
David James and Big River perform at SimonHolt tonight (Dec. 31). Doors open at 9:00 p.m. Tickets $25 in advance by calling 250-933-3338.
For more information on David James and Big River, please visit www.johnnycashtribute.ca.