Photo Credit: Chance Edwards
Jeffrey James is an eclectic pop singer-songwriter based in Nashville, Tennessee. Pairing rich vocals, R&B stylings and reflective lyricism, he creates svelte, brooding tracks that provide deep introspection on the human experience. His music has been used in ads for Xbox Game Pass and Ford and featured in numerous TV shows and films including All-American, Jack Ryan, iZombie, Criminal Minds, Good Trouble and Shameless, among others.
Tell us about the genesis of your project. How did you get to where you are now?
I started writing music in high school after joining a band who needed a singer. I was always in choirs, but that was my first time writing anything original. In college I kept it up and started playing shows as a solo artist around Nashville, TN. I’ve done everything from acoustic college tours, to playing writer’s rounds in coffee shops to full band tours and festivals. Meanwhile I’ve been able to write for other artists and get some songs placed on TV shows and in commercials like, XBOX, Ford, CW’s All American, Amazon Prime’s Jack Ryan, and others. Last year I was on the second season of NBC’s Songland with the song I’m releasing now! That kind of all brought me to where I am today!
What does music and being an artist mean to you?
Being an artist is less about talent, and more about having something to say to your listeners. It’s expressing your views on love, life, and everything in between in a way that is unique and special to you.
What are some sources of inspiration for your lyrics and storytelling?
I pull my lyrics from my life. It’s the only way I know to say something that feels meaningful to me. But I pull inspiration from artists like Dermot Kennedy, Janelle Monae, Bill Withers, and David Byrne.
Who is an artist that you look up to more than others today?
I’ve loved everything Dermot Kennedy has done. His lyrics and voice seem to come from another decade, but it all fits perfectly in today’s music landscape, in my opinion.
Favorite activity to blow off some steam?
I’m a big fan of open world video games. I just restarted Horizon Zero Dawn. I get lost in those kinds of games and can escape the business side of my brain for a bit. I’ve also been into kickboxing the past couple years. Punching and kicking a big bag definitely helps blow off steam!
Tell us about your latest release “We Can Be Heroes” and how it came about.
“We Can Be Heroes” was originally written in Nashville with the production duo, LÓNIS. I had been working with them a lot and they had really gotten a good grasp on my voice and artistry. This song came out of a want to write something meaningful and uplifting. It was later picked by Songland for me to pitch it to Martina McBride on Season 2. She didn’t end up picking my song, but because I was a runner-up, I got to re-work the song a bit with Ryan Tedder! That was an amazing experience and he really helped take the song to another level!
What inspires your sound?
I find myself leaning on more organic sounds and lots of harmonies. My songs usually start pretty stripped and I build them up as needed. But I love to find as much space/silence in my music as possible.
What are some things you do to deal with anxiety and creative blocks?
I kind of just have to wait for them out. I find if I stay busy (writing, practicing, recording), my anxiety level stays fairly low. It helps to write out the good things that happened in my life in the past few months/years, when I start getting too negative. So I can get a better view of the journey. Co-writing is a huge thing for me as well. It takes some of the pressure off getting everything perfect on your own. A creative partner is going to see an angle on the song or recording that you won’t. And you’ll have better songs because of that.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Making more music and playing shows
What was the most daunting moment in your career so far?
Singing on Songland was pretty terrifying. I only had to sing 90 seconds of “We Can Be Heroes” but I was singing in front of three majorly successful and talented producers and songwriters and a vocal powerhouse of an artist, on NBC. The day of filming, I must have rehearsed my song 50 times in a row before going on camera.
What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
Patience. Few artists rocket straight to the top. And the ones who do, rarely stay there long. Shoot for the long and steady music career over the quick burn out.
Where do you think the music and entertainment industry is headed after this past year?
I have absolutely no idea! I’m just gonna keep doing what I do, and hope people like it.