With a debut album arriving worldwide June 3, Brendan James has a lot to live up to given Simon's comments on his talents. The singer songwriter is eager for audiences to hear his music and does not shy away from comments such as hers. "I've been writing songs for years and put my favorite ones on this album. I can't wait for people to hear my music," James said.
When James decided to move to New York City, far from his New Hampshire home, the singer was keenly aware of the pitfalls of musicians making it big in Manhattan. But, he was also in good musical company in The Big Apple. It is the famed locale for singer songwriters, from Neil Diamond, Paul Simon and Carly Simonherself, all emerged from that city.
"The Day is Brave" is an introspective project that paints pictures as rich as any Monet canvas. Not shy about putting his emotions on the page or stage, James credits the singer songwriters before him for allowing him to feel free with his emotions through heartfelt music.
SheKnows sat down with Brendan with just weeks before his album is released and found a grounded, insightful and deeply talented individual the world is about to discover.
SheKnows:Brendan, there seems to be a bit of excitement about your upcoming debut album. As the artist behind it, what are your thoughts as the world readies to hear your music?
Brendan James:It's very exciting to be where I'm at right now. To see that there is a buzz and so much hype about it, feels really great.
SK:People mention you in the same sentence as Carly Simon and James Taylor, artists who have really inspired you. What is it about those singer songwriters that molded your songwriting?
Brendan James:I grew up around it, both my mother and father appreciated singer songwriters. So when I started to write songs myself, it was only natural that I write somewhat autobiographically. I keep it intimate. I don't know, I think it was a natural way for me to go. When I sit at the piano, I like to keep it simple.
SK:As a live performer, I would think it would also be a special to perform your songs because of the intimacy.
Brendan James: Yeah (laughs). I think because they are intimate and they are sometimes about me or people close to me, it lets me perform them anew each time I do it. It lets me dig into what they're about each time I play them. It's enjoyable for me every time as well.
SK:Because those songs are so personal for you, you are not shy about sharing your emotional journey with your audiences, are you?
Brendan James:(Laughs) It takes a little bit of guts to get up in front of certain audiences to really play certain songs. Those are the songs that people end up commenting on the most. The ones that are the most honest are the ones that reach the most people.
SK:I particularly am struck by the song, "Green," the personal nature of the song comes right through. I know it's about someone who wore a lot of green.
Brendan James: Yeah…
SK:Was there any other thoughts about how to go with that song other than to title it a color?
Brendan James: There's a bit of a story behind it and I tell it when I sing it live. I can tell you that when I lived in New York, I had to get a job at Urban Outfitters to pay the bills. Andrea, who the song is about, is the girl I met there and the more I got to know her, the more I came to admire her for her strength and what she had been through in her own life up to that point. It was a very emotional, passionate relationship. It ended with a few things left on my mind. One of them was that she wore the color green every day of her life. I never knew why but it was her comfort, you know?
SK:That is something else. Another track close to my heart is "Manchester." As somebody who also grew up in New England…
Brendan James:Really, that's great. (Laughs)
SK:I went to Northfield-Mt. Hermon, which is right on the New Hampshire border, so we were up in Manchester quite a bit in high school. "Manchester," is not necessarily the happiest of tracks. Is that because of your parent's divorce during the time you were there?
Brendan James:It might have been, inadvertently. I might have written that in a somber tone as well because it was a pretty tough divorce and it (Manchester) definitely was where my father lived most of the time after the divorce. I really tried to paint the picture of a strong, but incredibly normal New England town. There's something about that town that is beautiful, and painful, and there's poverty, there's money, there's all these opposites that go into making a town what it is. I tried to paint that picture in a song. It's a song about how there are good people in every town in this country, you just have to look for them.
SK:As someone who used to frequent Manchester, you really captured it.
Brendan James:Thank you.
SK:When you decided to move to New York, given what you wanted to do for a career, it was something you had to do, was it also something you wanted to do moving to the biggest city in America after living in New England?
Brendan James:Yeah, it was something about spending 18 years in New Hampshire. I had a real desire to move on to something. Some people just have that curiosity in them. I wanted to check out a big city. I was excited to move to New York. I picked New York because of the singer songwriter tradition it has.
SK:Did you make any pilgrimages to Greenwich Village?
Brendan James:(Laughs) Oh, yeah. The other night I was walking down Bleecker Street, there's a place where I got my first gig when I moved here three years ago, The Bitter End.
Brendan James: You know I didn't realize what The Bitter End was while I was sitting on the stage. Then, the owner told me that Stevie Wonder, Jackson Browne, and James Taylor and Carole King had all been on that stage. It blows you away.
SK:Another feather in your cap, I would think, is to have a song on a hit TV show. When you heard that "Private Practice" wanted to use your song, was it a pinch yourself moment?
Brendan James:It was. It was great. I had heard about the show. My girlfriend and a lot of her girlfriends, my mom, my sisters, they all love that show. To tell them that I was going to be on it was really exciting. They ended up airing the episode sooner than we thought, I wasn't prepared for it. I was performing a show. I have this message from my mom when I got off stage that (takes a motherly voice), 'you're on TV right now! I was just watching the show to get a feel for it before you were going to be on it. And then all of a sudden your voice came singing through the TV.'
SK:What a moment for any mom.
Brendan James: It was really special for her.
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