You may know Emily James as the creator of the song, “Never Chase a Boy.” That song has skyrocketed to millions of plays on Spotify, bringing James a bit of broader attention. But some of us have been following her career for years from her approachable folk acoustic YouTube videos to her rising pop star music videos. The combination of all facets of James – from her charming demeanor to her curated and authentic “look” – put her in a position to take off in a meteoric rise of star power.
In our interview, I started with her beginnings in music. James explained that she has been singing her whole life and began playing piano at age five. She took to songwriting at an early stage. She transitioned to guitar as a second instrument to make going to gigs easier, but the focus has always been on the craft of songwriting. When she was 16 she decided to move to Nashville where she fell in love with the songwriting culture and the authenticity of the city.
When I asked about influences, I was anticipating stories of iconic female singer songwriters or maybe even country artists. Instead, without hesitation, James mentioned that Adele is her biggest influence. In fact, she credited Adele as being the “reason” she turned to songwriting. As for inspiration for her music now, the every day situations with friends, movies, and books speak to her to spark an idea that grows into a song.
It starts with an idea, then “things just start coming out of me.” The song is inside and it’s a matter of discovering its story. It’s the songwriter’s craft to let the song out. “It feels almost like my subconscious is speaking.” What an incredible and humble sentiment from an extremely talented songwriter. She ads, “once its out ‘ahhh that feels better.” The process, she explained in a word, has to be “organic.” That’s probably why we love her music so much.
Despite the success of “Never Chase a Boy” I took my editorial prerogative and asked about the story behind “Dancing with a Thief.” James said it was inspired in part by a song by John Mayer, but also has shades of Adele and Ed Sheeran in it. She started with chords on guitar and the melody just came out, the lyrics soon followed. The recording capture the rawness in the room. It was kept simple to show the vulnerability of the message.
When I asked about genre, James handled the question about avoiding putting her artistry in a box. I was curious especially about the transition from more of a folk acoustic act to a pop style. Really it’s a practical explanation; after working with a producer on some of her earlier music, James learned how to develop the bigger sounds that she wanted to make all along. Now that her ear and skills are in tune, she is able to produce more complex sounds that are much more in the vein of that Adele-style pop music.
The lyrics in Emily James’s music are often fascinating. Even though as a mid-30s male (probably not her demographic) I find myself able to relate to her subjects. Even emotions I haven’t had for many years can take me back to moments in my life when I did experience them. She explained that she writes some songs for herself and some are explicitly for others. And it works. She receives messages from young women explaining the effect her songs have on their lives. “Music brings us together,” she explained, sincerely. “I want my music to make a difference for somebody.”
Right now she’s playing some shows in the LA area while studio recording some new music. If you’re interested in following her, she can be found on all the big ones like Spotify, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. I asked her if there’s anything she wanted you all to know about her and she gave this inspiring statement. “My mission is to create art that I love and feel passionate about and makes a difference.” After a few charming and exceedingly thankful comments, she punctuated the interview saying, “I just want to make a positive impact doing what I love to do.”
This might be the most important point about Emily James and why we’ve come to support her music. She uses words like “authenticity” and “help others.” Her music is not a vapid attempt to sell herself for fame or fortune. She’s seeking to tell the truth in a world that so desperately needs it. Her classy persona is accessible without being crass and her cultivated image seems to defy all that is mainstream pop music, so we want to see her have immense success based on her great songwriting and beautiful voice.
Photo credit: Emily James IG – https://www.instagram.com/emilyjamesmusic/?hl=en