INTERVIEW: James VIII
Hi James, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
Hello! I am doing well, thank you for having me!
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Set You Free”?
It’s about what I think the benefits of music are for us as humans, and what I hope happens when people listen to my music. We all have tough times, we all have stress and anxiety eating at us on some level, but when you hear a song that makes you groove and tap your foot you tend to let that stuff melt away, if only for a few moments. So that’s what I’m saying with the song, let go for a while.
Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?
I had several songs that were getting close to being finished, and I was sitting in the studio one day and I was hit with a huge wave of appreciation for music, and how I could go into the studio and forget the rest of my life for a while and how beneficial that is for my mental wellbeing that I can let my troubles go just by focusing on music. So by the end of that night I had the whole song written.
Any plans to release a video for the single?
Yes! There is a live-take video that is in the works, should be following the release very shortly and I’m super excited about the guys I’ll have playing with me on it so it should be really fun!
The single comes off your new album VIII – what’s the story behind the title?
Well my full name is James Gray Dawson VIII, hence James VIII, and the EP is made up of a handful of songs that I wrote over the course of a few years, and each of the songs came about from a particular experience or love in my life. As such, the tunes represent a lot of who I am as a person, so being eponymous for this project seemed fitting.
How was the recording and writing process?
The writing process was mostly me in my room with a guitar, so essentially a lot of meditative-therapy sessions with a guitar in my hand. The recording process was me and an engineer/co-producer named Myke Johnson out of a studio called, The Key, in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was an incredible learning process that lasted a little over a year and a half. There was a lot of trial and error figuring out how to arrange these songs before I felt like they were where I wanted them to be, so it was a lot of bouncing ideas off of Myke’s ear in the studio and seeing what stuck, what helped the song, what might be too much, etc. I loved the process though, I learned a lot from that experience and it gave me a renewed sense of appreciation for music.
What role does Brooklyn play in your writing?
Well I am a recent Brooklyn transplant, although I’m originally from the SF bay area, and like SF there is no shortage of diversity in Brooklyn, which has always been writing fuel in the tank for me. Meeting new people, who are from every walk of life you could imagine, is very eye opening and inspiring, and when you meet enough people you start to see more of what makes us all the same rather than what makes us different. It has made me much more empathetic in my thinking and writing.
Known for playing with a wide variety of genres – how do you get to balance them together?
That is a good question, and I wish I had an answer for you because it would probably make my life easier, but with my music so far I’ve always just tried to keep the sound or genre of a song in line with whatever the message of the song is. Focusing on what will best serve the song has always been my first thought, not necessarily thinking about how to add elements of different genres.
What convictions did you get to explore on this record?
There’s a lot of love (surprise!) and a lot of what I think love is, how it can help us learn about ourselves, how it can help us grow as well as how it can be abused.
Any plans to hit the road?
I will be trying to gig as much as possible when everything’s released, nothing on the books right now but that will change very soon!
What else is happening next in James VIII’s world?
I have already met a lot of killer players in the New York scene and I’m playing and writing with a lot of really talented musicians so there will be something coming quickly next. Not sure what it is yet, but I can already feel that it’s going to be good.
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