A new artist has arisen on the North Grenville music scene and he’s letting his country roots show in his first solo album. Justin Ralph comes from a very diverse musical background. Although he is a local boy, born and raised in Oxford Mills, he moved to Toronto to pursue a career in acting and music. He began singing at the age of 17, with the intention of getting into musical theatre; but his instructor pushed him in a very different direction and he fell into the world of opera. For ten years, he had a successful career as a tenor in Toronto, performing in both traditional and non-traditional opera productions. “The last contract I had was with a show where we interacted with the audience,” he says.
Justin says that, after spending a decade in Toronto, he knew he was ready to let his career in opera wind down and get back to his rural roots. He and his then-pregnant wife bought a century-old farmhouse in Oxford Station and moved back east to be closer to both their families.
Although life as an opera singer treated him well, Justin says his heart was never truly in it. “I even wore my black cowboy boots with my tuxedo,” he remembers. As a musician, you make certain sacrifices and he knew that, if he was going to make those sacrifices, he wanted to be making music he loved. “I’ve always loved folk music,” Justin says, sporting a Johnny Cash t-shirt, paying homage to one of his favourite artists.
Justin describes his debut EP, By the Old Railroad, as folk/country music, and it includes three original songs that were inspired by his newborn son and the area that surrounds him in Oxford Station. His goal was to write songs about the area, similar to what people would have written 100 years ago, while still letting himself be influenced by his operatic career. “People underestimate folk and county music,” Justin says. “I tried to keep my vocal range in the songs.” It seems like Justin is finally at home in his music, which evokes open fields, blue jeans, plaid shirts, and cowboy boots. “How I live my life has gone into my music,” he says.
Justin’s focus for the time being is getting his music out there and building an audience. He played several times at the Kemptville Farmers Market this summer, which he says was an awesome experience. “We left with a lot of free food,” he says, smiling. “We made four things with one giant zucchini.” He is playing at Literary Follies at Grenville Mutual on October 22 and has a slot booked at the South Branch Bistro at the end of January. Justin’s music is available on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, and through his website, www.justinralph.com. CDs are also available and will be on sale at all his shows.