Christian Pop singer/songwriter Ian James recently released his new single “By My Side.” You can listen to the song HERE!
With comforting lyrics like gotta lotta hopes and gotta lotta plans, gotta lotta dreams, but take my hand and I will go wherever you wanna go, “By My Side” is sure to resonate with many listeners.
“By My Side was born out of a very difficult season in life, when I had just lost a job and was searching for direction,” Ian explains. “I reminisced on the serious trials I had faced in life: my birth deformity, my mother’s cancer diagnosis one week before I left for college, and my own spiral into an unhealthy party-focused lifestyle. Through all of this, I had felt a presence that encouraged me and stayed by my side, and kept me going. Whether one attributes this to God or just a presence, it was clear I was helped through these times by something greater than myself. So I wrote this song as a declaration to this realization, and as an anthem for those who truly need inspiration through extremely difficult times.”
Tell us about the story of your act:
I started my solo career as Ian James in January 2019, after playing in a pop/rock band the previous 3 years. I was the drummer in that band, but I had a growing desire to write my own songs and try out the solo pursuit. I also just felt a calling to write songs that could reach people from all backgrounds, through the words and themes. The music I’ve released so far was my first set of songs I wrote, and they’re all about my faith and how that’s guided me in life. However, I have recently been working on some new material that I’m extremely excited about, as I’ve found my sound and style more clearly, and the themes are going to relate to people beyond the topic of faith.
What is the message behind your art?
The entire purpose of my music is to bridge the gap between all people, regardless of their backgrounds or beliefs. I have always been someone with friends from all walks of life: faith, race, interests, etc. So I feel like the music I write can, and should, be able to speak to people in some way, no matter who they are or where they come from. Overall, I want people to be inspired and encouraged by my lyrics and message, and have the words feel real and authentic to them as they listen.
What are some sources of inspiration for your lyrics and storytelling?
Everything I write is based on real-life experiences, or else there’s no authenticity; I’m just writing robotically. My song “I Look Up” was written about how I look towards God every moment of my life, and feel Him there even in the worst times. “Will for Me” is about how in my life I choose to pursue what I feel led to do by God, in all areas of life. “By My Side” was written during a time when I felt completely lost and without direction; I thought back to all the incredibly difficult experiences in my life, like my Mom’s cancer diagnosis 10 days before I left for my freshman year of college, and how through it all I clearly felt a “presence” encouraging and guiding me. Whether one attributes that to God or not, it’s clear I’ve been helped by something greater than myself. Going forward, the songs I’ve written have come from previous relationship experiences; I’m shaping the lyrics to relate to my personal experiences but also relate to anyone listening.
Who is an artist that you look up to more than others today?
There are too many to name just one. The pop artists really inspiring me right now are Justin Bieber, Ed Sheeran, and Lauv. Bieber specifically inspires me because of his willingness to be bold about using his massive platform to constantly share his faith; it’s just awesome to see.
But I’ve recently really been inspired by Brandon Lake, Cory Asbury, Chandler Moore, Robbie Madison (one of my best friends and most talented vocalists out there, look him up!), and Maverick City Music. Specifically, they all inspire me both because of their consistently awesome talent, and because of their authenticity and message. They stay who they are and are truly representing their hearts through their music. They 100% are artists who “bridge the gap” and that’s my entire aim.
All-time favorite record?
If I’m picking an all-time classic, then it’s Thriller by MJ. I used to listen to that whole album and drum along to every song for hours. My second choice would be “The Reckoning” by Needtobreathe. That album personally is just always going to stick with me forever.
Tell us about your latest release and how it came about
“By My Side was born out of a very difficult season in life, when I had just lost a job and was searching for direction. I reminisced on the serious trials I had faced in life: my birth deformity, my Mother’s cancer diagnosis one week before I left for college, and my own spiral into an unhealthy party-focused lifestyle. Through all of this, I had felt a “presence” that encouraged me and stayed by my side, and kept me going. Whether one attributes this to God or just a “presence,” it was clear I was helped through these times by something greater than myself. So I wrote this song as a declaration to this realization, and as an anthem for those who truly need inspiration through extremely difficult times.”
You seem to be fusing several musical genres. What inspires your sound?
I’m a big pop fan, so my sound is very much in that vein. I’m very inspired by the pop artists I listed above: Bieber, Sheeran, Lauv, and many others. Stylistically, I definitely feel similar to those guys. The music I’m currently working on will showcase this style in an even more defined fashion going forward.
What excites you the most about what you do?
I just love hearing people’s reactions to my songs, and seeing how the lyrics speak to people. For example, I had a lady reach out to me via social media after seeing my music video for “By My Side”, and tell me she was very inspired and loved that I touched on mental illness. You just can’t always predict what people will take away from your music. I also truly love the performance aspect: there’s just nothing better than getting to play music in front of people and connect to them through the music in an intangible but undeniable way. It’s the most fun moments I’ve ever had in life.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I hope to be writing and releasing songs for years to come. So in 5 years, I would hope to still be doing what I’m doing. Honestly, the capacity doesn’t matter much. Whether I’m doing all my own original material, or writing for other people too, it’d all be amazing.
Your style is very original and elaborate. How do you take care of your aesthetics?
I’m extremely lucky to have some very talented people around me. My friend Dalton Rook Barber is an incredibly gifted photographer, and he’s the man behind nearly all of my photo content. I definitely also was blessed to have a very fashionable Mom! She was a professional model in NYC for Wilhelmina, so growing up I was always dressed to the nines. My drip was flawless.
What was the most daunting moment in your career so far?
To be candid, when I first began my solo journey I just jumped right in with almost no experience doing lead vocals, and also hadn’t found who I was musically or artistically yet. So I had several bad gig experiences, which discouraged me a lot. But over the past year I worked very hard on those areas, and also gained a newfound perspective on my pursuits. So there’s still so much room to improve and grow, but I’m re-energized and inspired to go after these dreams, and to see how my music speaks to people.
What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
I don’t remember the specific quote, but after my bad gig experiences I was very discouraged and wasn’t sure if I even wanted to pursue this anymore. However, my friend Dan inspired me to start from scratch and build myself back up, whether he even realizes this or not. It took some time for me to use his advice, but all the work I put in last year and continue to put in, honestly stemmed from that conversation. I’ve realized that it takes one step at a time, over a long time, to improve and overcome the challenges.
Where do you think the next game changer will be in the music industry and entertainment scene?
Can I say myself? Just kidding, although I definitely would love for that to be the case. It’s hard to answer that question because you can’t possibly keep up with all the music that’s out there now. I just think in general, we’ve seen such a big movement towards collaborations, and also a coming together of different people with different backgrounds and beliefs. We’re seeing artists with incomprehensible fame, like Justin Bieber, being outspoken about his faith. So as far as game changer, it’ll be the artist(s) that are able to bridge the gap between people from all different backgrounds, beliefs, personalities, ethnicities, etc. It’s impossible to reach everyone and relate to every single person, but I definitely think the next game changer will be someone who accomplishes this on a global scale.