In his latest recording, the 2009 EP Such Noble Men, James delves into the political as well as the personal, tackling topics ranging from gay marriage (“Sunset”) to gun control (“With All Due Respect to Mister Heston”) to the grief of a loved one (“Kilcrease Road”).
The production of Such Noble Men highlights James’ artistic evolution since 2007’s Landlocked. Where Landlocked was stark and played to James’ country roots, Such Noble Men is decidedly thicker and groovier, showing that this singer/songwriter is no stranger to rock and pop. While braving new sonic territory, James maintains the organic and intimate quality that his fans have come to expect.
How do you describe your music to people, Jeremy?
That's a tough one. I'm heavily influenced by folk music, to be sure, but I don't always feel like I fit in with the coffee-shop-finger-picking crowd. I've heard the term alt-folk used to describe my music, and I like that. It's a little subversive, political, and a lot of people don't really know what it means (myself included). My songs are almost always acoustic, and more often than not have an underlying message that I'm trying to get across.
Tell me about how you originally got into your craft.
I was a self-proclaimed band geek back in high school. I played a number of instruments - clarinet, saxophone, even the tuba - in my school's marching band. And as much as I enjoyed that, I never felt like I could really connect with people in that medium. So I focused on writing during my college years - poems, short stories, and plays mostly. It wasn't until my mid-twenties that I really started playing guitar and writing songs. One of the first songs I ever wrote was "Postcards from the UK," which wound up appearing on my first album Wasted Youth. I remember the first time I played it for some friends and their reaction. One of them said, "Jeremy, that's actually good." It just sort of snowballed from there.
What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
I really enjoy just vegging out on the couch with my fiance Josh and our five cats, maybe hanging out with our friends. I'm pretty boring when I'm not on the stage, and I tend to revel in that.
What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
The entire business side of music is a challenge to me. What I'm really in it for is the connection between myself and the audience at a show, or someone listening to one of my albums. It's like a conversation to me. And the whole act of sending out press kits, booking shows, marketing myself as some sort of product - while that business side is obviously an important component of being a musician these days, it's not what gets me up in the morning.
When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
I was on the Bozo show when I was about 5 or 6 years old. Bozo the Clown asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I told him I wanted to be a fisherman. I had never been fishing at that point in my life, so I'm not sure what I was thinking. My dad took me fishing a few times when I was older, and I learned quickly that I had grossly misrepresented my interests to that clown.
In what way has your community impacted your development as a musician?
This is a great question. I find that so much of my music is rooted in either a geographic, social, or cultural place. I feel like I belong to a lot of communities. I'm gay, I grew up in the South, I live in the Northeast now, I'm a bleeding heart liberal - and all of these things affect my music tremendously. Without the people around me and the places I've been, I often think I wouldn't have much to write about.
What other artists out there do you love?
I love, love, love the Indigo Girls. I had the pleasure of meeting Amy and Emily earlier this year and got to tell them that were it not for their music, I would have never picked up a guitar. I cut my teeth on their older work, and it has shaped me not only as a musician, but as a human being. I also really enjoy what Jenny Lewis is doing, both in her solo career and with Rilo Kiley, as well as Feist, Bright Eyes, Death Cab, Girlyman, and some of the older stuff, too - Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Carole King. Nothing soothes the soul like Tapestry on vinyl. I've had the pleasure of meeting so many talented artists in my music career, and I would be remiss if I didn't mention Namoli Brennet, Chris Pureka, Nathan Duprey, and Almost Awake. They have all made frequent appearances on my iPod.
What does your future hold?
I made a decision a while back that I'll keep writing and singing as long as folks are listening. So by all means, keep listening, because I've got more yet to say. Thanks!
See more from Jeremy James at jeremyjamesmusic.com, facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.