A little more than a year ago, Sudburian Justin James Remeikis quit his job as an RBC financial adviser to focus on his goal of making it in the country music business.
Although it was tough leaving the security of a steady paycheque, it was a move that seems to be paying off for the 27-year-old Chelmsford Valley District Composite School graduate.
Remeikis, who goes by the stage name of Justin James, even moved to Nashville, Tenn. for a time last fall, and was playing regularly there, trying to get noticed by those in the music business.
Ironically, though, it was when he came home to Sudbury for Christmas that he got a really big break.
He was given a few weeks' work as an actor in "Valentine Ever After," a Hallmark movie being filmed in Sudbury (the film will air on the Hallmark Channel on Feb. 13, by the way).
When the filmmakers learned he was a musician, they asked Remeikis to submit some of his original songs.
They decided to use two of his songs in the film — "Rowdy Tonight" and "This Girl."
He re-wrote some of the lyrics to make them conform with Hallmark's family friendly standards, and recorded them, with local musician JoPo — who also has some of her music featured in the film — singing harmony.
“They're both featured multiple times throughout the film,” Remeikis said. “That was a really cool experience. I guess that's my first credit as a songwriter.”
Since shooting wrapped on the movie, Remeikis has gotten several other gigs in Northern Ontario — including opening for North Bay musician Cory Marquardt — so he's decided to stick around for awhile.
But he's determined to make Nashville his permanent home, and will head back there once work dries up in his hometown.
Remeikis plans to carve out a career as a songwriter, hoping to land a publishing deal in Nashville that will see his tunes pitched to more well-known artists to record.
Now that he's garnered some songwriting credits on the Hallmark film, Remeikis said he'd also like to do more work for the film industry again.
Eventually, he wants to put together an EP and full album, but he's in no hurry.
“I'm not content with putting out something just to get it out there,” Remeikis said. “I'd rather wait to have something I'm really comfortable with.”
Incredibly, Remeikis only got into music five years ago, when he was a Laurentian University student. He'd taken a guitar class in high school, but never took it seriously.
“I moved in with a friend when I was going to university, and he was a guitar player,” he said.
“We would just be fooling around on the weekends, and I'd start singing. My friend said 'You actually have a decent voice.'
“I thought, it's my birthday — maybe I'll get a guitar for my birthday. I started playing. I picked it up really fast. It came super natural to me.”