INTERVIEW: James Brant
James Brant is a talented singer/songwriter from Philadelphia. With the release of his beautiful and emotionally charged album, Strange By Design, James is here to show us why his music matters.
Ryan: Your album Strange ByDesign is very vulnerable and almost fragile in many ways, was this intentional at all or just the way it turned out?
James: The fragility is something that comes naturally to me and you’ll probably hear this quality in the music I will put out there in the future. I am generally a quiet, reserved, and shy person even within my close circle of friends and family and these traits come through in my music. That is a compliment that you picked up on these qualities as it helps to confirms that I am putting the kind of music out there that is truly a reflection of myself.
Ryan: Your songs are strongly focused on guitars, how long have you been playing for, and what brand were you playing on the album?
James: I’ll probably be revealing my age here which is something that a boy is never supposed to do. I’ve been playing guitar for about 25 years. There have been periods during this time that I did not touch the instrument much. The longest stretch of that silly behavior was 2 years. Other things I had going on in my life at the time took my focus away from music.On this album I exclusively played a Martin D35E Retro.
Ryan: Can you take us through your song writing process a bit?
James: For me the music and melodies come easy. It is the lyrics that I tend to struggle with the most. I record ideas that I come up with on my phone and usually sing some gibberish lyrics just to capture the melody I have in mind. Then they sit there for a while and I’ll listen back to them from time to time. I literally have hundreds of these song fragments. Some of the ideas will themselves grow into songs and others will combine with one another to complete the piece.
Lyric writing is an event and I have a love/hate relationship with this part of the process. It is often the most rewarding part of the songwriting process for me. It’s a time where I dig down deep inside of myself trying to relay something meaningful to me to others.
Ryan: Artists gather inspiration from multiple places, where did you get your inspiration from for this particular album?
James: The majority of these songs on the album had been around for several years in fragmented form. Most of them are based on real life events and experiences. The album was a way to process, deal with, and express my feelings on these events. I find that my songwriting tends to be a place where I can work these sorts of things out. I want to try and make my next release less personal but I have a feeling that may be hard thing for me to do — time will tell.
Ryan: How would you describe your sound to anyone that has not heard your music before?
James: This is a tough question for me to answer as I have trouble putting myself into any one category. But I will give it a go.
It’s music that you can listen to during the day while you’re going about your business and it won’t get in the way. It’s not a distraction rather a nice accompaniment as you go about your business. You’ll notice the melodies and the overall tonality of the songs. It’s when you listen later in the day with no distractions that it pulls you in, becoming relatable, and I hope in some cases therapeutic. These songs have helped me get through some stuff and the greatest complement I can receive is that they have done the same for someone else.
Ryan: If you could collaborate with another artist for a project, who would you like to collaborate with and why?
James: Michael Penn. He has always been a big influence on me and I greatly respect his songwriting. He hasn’t made an album in a long time and I’m hoping that changes soon. If any of you out there know him let him know that I want to work with him. I predict his response will be something like: ‘James Brant? I’ve never heard of him.’ But hey, it’s worth a shot.
Ryan: I really enjoyed the song Know You, and that is my current favorite track on the album. Do you have any songs that you would consider your favorite?
James: Thanks Ryan, ‘Know You’ is one of my favorites as well. That one really came to life when recording it in the studio. Prima, Stranger In My Skin, and Fell Into Your Past are other ones that I have a special connection with. I wrote ‘Stranger In My Skin’ in about an hour — which is a rare thing for me.
Ryan: At this point in your musical career, what are some of your most memorable musical moments?
James: The solo thing is a relatively new adventure for me – so I am hoping to make some memorable musical moments worth mentioning soon! I was in a Philadelphia band called ‘Transient’ from 2004-2006. We made it to the final round in a national battle of the bands competition and were able to play at the TLA in Philadelphia. This was a big deal for me since so many of the musicians I looked up to also had played on that same stage. We were also a headlining band at MusikFest in Bethlehem, PA. It was the biggest crowd I have ever played in front of in my life. However — three songs into our set it started to rain and lightening so the rest of our set was cancelled. Bittersweet for sure.
Ryan: Do you have any advice for anyone looking to record an album as professionally as yours?
James: Well thank you for saying that my album sounds professional – that means a lot. I recorded this album in my home studio where I tracked, edited, and played all the instruments myself. So from a home studio prospective I would say invest in some good equipment but don’t go overboard. It is easy to get stuck in the mindset of wanting the expensive toys that your idols record with. In reality you can make great sounding recordings with affordable gear. Do your research – there are a lot of really great home recording resources out there. And practice recording as much as you can. If you are dedicated, then I guarantee you will be producing great sounding recordings sooner than you think.
Ryan: How would you describe the theme that runs throughout the entire album?
James: Love, loss, and purpose in life. This album is a glimpse inside my head of how I have and continue to process, deal with, and express my feelings concerning some the heavier things that life has thrown and will continue to throw at me.
Ryan: Lastly, and thank you for your time. Is there any news from the James Brant camp that you would like to tell your fans about?
James: Ryan – thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to give your readers more insight into my musical world. I’ve begun working on my next album and hope to release it late this summer. At this point in time I think that it will be a digital only release. I’ve also been working on booking some shows that I hope to announce soon. Keep an eye on my official site and Facebook page for those announcements.
by Ryan Donnelly
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