Former UBCO student, James Struthers, returns with hit songs

He cut his teeth at The Well Pub; now he returns with hits on Canadian contemporary music charts, major YouTube play and friend Kate Morgan.

  • Feb. 16, 2012 6:00 a.m.
James Struthers

James Struthers

There’s no time like Reading Week for a tour and when Kate Morgan and James Struthers hit town next week it should be a “uni” reunion to remember—even if Kate has yet to hit college.

Originally from Winnipeg, Struthers spent the better part of his songwriting and performing years attending UBCO, where snowboarding and playing The Well Pub did great things for his music, though little for his academic career.

Now back at the University of Manitoba, where there’s less distraction to prevent him from finishing up his psychology degree, he’s decided to spend Reading Week in his old haunt, taking new friend, Morgan, along for the ride.

“I have an extensive group of friends out there and they come to every show in full force,” said Struthers, noting most of the people he expects will be lifelong friends he met in university.

Kelowna was also his home when he fell in love for the first time, a pretty critical part of his artistic development. Morgan and Struthers share a love of writing about the more amorous side of life and say their music is accessible to a wider audience because they focus on a universal subject matter.

“I don’t know that relationships become any less important as you age, but the shape and form of them definitely change,” said Struthers.

Kate MorganHe and Morgan foraged a quick songwriting relationship themselves over the summer after deciding to tour together on a lark. Writing songs en route to gigs, like the Squamish Live (Festival), they wound up creating a joint project, James and Kate, and perform the collaborative work after their solo acts when touring.

“Every waking moment we would be firing off different song lyrics, trying to build on different ideas and sentiments,” said Morgan, admitting it was a pretty amazing way to spent the summer.

Only 18 years old, Morgan has already participated in Lilith Fair, though travelling with Struthers marked her first touring experience.

“It was fantastic. I don’t know if I consider myself a spontaneous person, so it was a little bit scary at first to just jump in on his tour, but it worked out really well,” she said.

“It would be hard not to get along when you get together with somebody whose equally passionate about their craft as you are though,” she added.

Both claim they’re aiming for a career in music, with Struthers saying he’s hoping the psychology degree will help him hone his people skills, while his management minor provides a backdrop for the marketing and organizational skills needed to make it in the increasingly diverse music industry diaspora.

No matter what happens from this point forward, the pair seem to have one thing down—they understand that human need for relationships. Interviewed on Valentine’s Day, Morgan offered up a humorously acidic take on the day of love that matches the “love and lack thereof” theme of her music.

“I call it Singles Awareness Day,” she said, with all the angst needed to revel in her age.

Morgan began playing at 14 years old and started performing in front of audiences almost immediately, whereas Struthers, now 23, really didn’t get going until university; his first shows were largely covers of others’ songs he would trot out while hanging at The Well Pub.

“I played a lot of ’90s hits and Heartbreak Hotel, a lot of Teenage Dirtbag by Wheatus, and other stuff off Big Shiny Tunes,” he said with an embarrassed giggle.

Originally coming out of Kamloops, Morgan said she has always been a romance songbird.

“I truly am very fascinated with how people treat each other in romantic relationships. I guess it’s just my thing,” she said.

That thing called love seems to be working for her; so far, Morgan lays claim to sharing the stage with Sarah McLachlan and Sheryl Crow as the youngest headline performer to ever play Lilith Fair. She has also performed at the Grey Cup Festival and 2010 Olympic Games and opened for The Sheepdogs, K’naan and Fefe Dobson.

Struthers is coming off a big hit with Blue Christmas. The single slid into the top ten on the national adult contemporary charts this past December and his new video You, Me and Optimus Prime has 177,000 hits on YouTube, though only released within the last two weeks.

Struthers and Morgan will play the Minstrel Café on Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 8 p.m. There is a $5 cover charge. Each will play their solo act and then the pair will play from their collaborative project James and Kate.

Kelowna Capital News

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