THINK YOU DON’T LIKE COUNTRY?
TORONTO-BORN, L.A. BASED
COUNTRY ARTIST & SONGWRITER BRANDON JAMES
WINS OVER FANS OF MANY GENRES WITH A
COOL WEST COAST COUNTRY VIBE ON
HIS FOUR-TRACK EP, ‘DOWN IN THE SAND’
The Multi-Talented Performer, Also A Culinary
Enthusiast With His Own Country Rock Recipes
Website, Transcends The Ongoing Comparisons
To The Legendary James Taylor On A Set
Produced By Skip Saylor (Dwight Yoakum, Tom Petty,
Guns N’ Roses, Bon Jovi, Roberta Flack, k.d. lang)
Brandon James (www.brandonjamesmusic.com) knew he was destined to become a “naturalized citizen” of Los Angeles when he performed his country debut show at the renowned pub Molly Malone’s in the fall of 2010 after moving there from his native Toronto.
He had just put together an explosive new backing band featuring his powerhouse drummer and musical director nicknamed SUMO Sommers and the gig went so well that the band scheduled after them didn’t even bother to take the stage. Even better, after giving his new sounding rock-country songs a strong reception, no less than 20 people came up to James immediately afterwards with the same comment: “I’m normally not a country fan, but you guys were awesome. I loved your show and music. What do you call it?”
That night inspired James to create the perfect descriptive phrase – “West Coast Country,” which ultimately became the name of his independent company that is currently releasing his latest recording Down In The Sand. The four-track EP produced by renowned mixer, engineer and producer Skip Saylor, another “country convert” who didn’t know he liked the modern version of the genre until James won him over.
Saylor’s legendary credits include Dwight Yoakam, Roberta Flack, Tom Petty, Bon Jovi, Guns N’ Roses, Santana, and k.d. lang, and he is the owner of Skip Saylor Recording Company, a 30-year-old L.A. facility whose superstar clientele over the years has included Elton John, Eminem, Billy Idol, Michael Jackson, Michael McDonald, Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Aretha Franklin and Tupac.
James recently released a music video for the EP’s title track and first single, “Down In The Sand (With Me),” which earlier this year was “top-rated” and made it’s radio debut on The Ranch (theranch.fm – KKUS 104.1, KFRO 1370, KCUL 1410), part of the East Texas Radio Group.
“The four songs I chose for the EP show off the laid back, lighthearted and optimistic side of me as a person and artist,” James says. “Anyone who has seen me perform on stage with my band knows I like to have a lot of fun in my show, and when I’m not working on my music, I love going to the beach and relaxing. ‘Down in the Sand (With Me)’ and ‘Walk In The Sun’ are both outgoing and positive tunes that show off the playful, let loose party side of me.”
“‘The World’s On Fire’ and ‘Beautiful Eyes’, on the other side of the coin, emerged from very emotional moments for me,” he adds. “’Beautiful Eyes’ is a song that I wrote for the woman that I love. She was in a dark place at the time and it hurt me every day to see her that way. This song was my reminder to her that in everyone’s life there are good things to be grateful for and that we were actually doing just fine. So long as each day we woke up, gave thanks for what we had, and tried not to feel burdened by all the dreams we didn’t have yet, it was the best that we could do.” ‘The World’s on Fire’ is more introspective. It came from a conversation I had with my brother who is putting himself through school and was having a tough time. “It’s about that moment when you’ve given everything you have ever believed you had inside and hitting the wall. All that’s left is take a step back from the struggle, throw everything down and for a moment, and pretend not to care. If ‘The World’s on Fire,’ I’m singing, just watch it burn.”
James sees himself as something of an ambassador for the likeable, accessible “West Coast Country” sound. His mission: to win over more fans by representing for all the country fans out on the West Coast. Prior to Down In the Sand, James earned much acclaim for his debut album Souls On Fire and many of the gigs he did at L.A. hotspots like famous Whisky A Go-Go, The Rainbow Bar, The Mint, Gypsy Lounge and Dakota Live Music Lounge. James’ band, which he considers more of a family unit includes SUMO and another character, bassist Austin “Tasty Goods” Underhill.
While developing his sound which ultimately became “West Coast Country”, behind the scenes he also showcased the songs from Souls on Fire in the Toronto stage production of “Looking Through the Window,” and his emotional ballad “No Intentions” was included in the soundtrack of the Out Of Exile Films’ 2008 thriller “Detached.”
In early 2008, Brandon began a musical collaboration with April Matson, star of ABC Family’s “Kyle XY” and FOX’s “Quintuplets.” Their first song “Right In Front of Me” appeared in the Season Two finale of “Kyle XY.” Soon after, Brandon co-wrote and co-produced April’s international released debut album, Pieces of My Heart.
Knowing that James had been looking for a way to give back and support an important charitable cause, April—via her sister, whose son has Asperger’s Syndrome—asked him to join her as a performer and later a host for the Autism Society of America’s annual run/walk fundraiser in Boise, Idaho. James got involved with the organization in 2008 and co-produced and headlined the “Rock For Autism” benefit concert in 2010. The event raised funds and awareness for the local chapter and the families it supports.
Not everyone will make the same connection, but James believes his favorite classic singer-songwriters like The Eagles, James Taylor, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Carole King and Tom Petty wrote songs that could have been considered or been easily translated into today’s country music. In the spring of 2010, he says, “I decided to follow my heart and stop making my country songs into rock songs. At the core, it was always country. I guess that was the divine trajectory all along, even the inspiration for moving west – hey, there were cowboys and cowgirls out there!”
One part of Brandon James remains steeped in country culture—his passion for cooking, which he shares via posts on his website blog “Country Rock Recipes” His current hobby has its roots in his family’s Toronto based bakery business that his parents started when he was 12. James learned how to cook in the family kitchen—and considers food as being a big part of the country lifestyle and culture. “You can’t have good country music without good food.”
“The recipes on my blog range from the quick and easy to make items to more challenging dishes I cook in my kitchen,” he says. “The inspiration behind my cooking endeavors came from the fact that I love cooking and when I’m on the road performing, I don’t want to eat lousy food all the time. I want to cook whenever I can. The recipes are just good home cooking with no specific style, everything from great drinks I’ve created to a unique way to prepare tilapia. One of my signature recipes is my own Honey Garlic Sun Chip Chicken. Sounds good right? You’ll have to visit my blog to find out more on that one!”
“I love cooking for the same reason I love music, because every time I perform a song or make a recipe, I’m open to those special moments of spontaneous creativity that I love to share and inspire me to become better at what I do.”