The potential for musical greatness was always there for singer/songwriter Brendan James. It wasn’t until he went to college at the University of North Carolina that he realized it.
“It was in college that I discovered my love for songwriting and, at the same time, my love of performing,” James said. “I was in an a cappella group called the Clef Hangers and I laugh about it now, just because you look back and it’s funny how you take things so seriously at the time. We took it pretty seriously and it ended up really teaching me about performance and composure on stage.
“I’m forever grateful for that experience. At the same time, I was going to the music hall, to the basement of the music department, and figured out that I love writing songs. I was performing with the group and I’d go write songs in the basement. It was amazing for my musical career what college did for me. And I studied some, too.”
On the cusp of releasing a new CD, James will be on stage at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, Va., on Saturday for two shows.
His new CD, “Simplify,” marks James’ return to the fundamentals.
“It’s kind of my, how should I say this, it’s probably my favorite album to date because it’s really me taking it back to the basics,” James said. “I did a lot of the writing on my own. I walked into the studio with a real vision of simplicity and I just had a lot of fun. It felt like a very organic and effortless process to record the music that was really deep down inside.”
Like a lot of artists, James turned to crowdsourcing to help fund the production of “Simplify.” While his original Kickstarter goal was $20,000, he ended up receiving $33,984 from 385 different backers.
“I actually think Kickstarting, or some form of Kickstarting, is the way of the future,” James said. “I think Amanda Palmer said it best in her TED talk when she said that we should stop forcing people to pay for music. She, and musicians like me, are simply asking people to contribute and they do. It’s really amazing. It’s putting the power back in our hands and it’s a nice movement to be a part of.”
For the show at Jammin’ Java, those who buy tickets in advance will be entered into a drawing to win a copy of James’ new CD, plus a handwritten copy of one of his songs.
“I think that was their idea,” James said. “I like it, though. I love that idea. I feel like I should do that at all my shows. Yeah, that’s a great idea.”
While music has been in his blood from early on, James spent some time performing on stage in shows. However, James doesn’t see himself becoming an actor.
“That was definitely something that I used to love to do when I was a kid when I was in high school, but basically acting just led me to singing,” James said. “I’ve never really been interested in getting back into acting, but I’m sure glad it made me realize I could sing. That’s why I like musicals so much. Who knows, though? Who knows? Why say no to anything? Who knows what can happen in the future?”
Even though he’s on tour now and has the new CD coming out, James has absolutely no plans to slow down any time soon.
“The future for me has never seemed brighter, to be honest,” James said. “I finally feel like I’m at the reins of my own career. I’m writing the songs I’ve been meaning to write for years and years. I see myself touring more and more, making more albums and better albums and really sort of trying to find comfort in my element as a performer and writer. It’s going to be an exciting decade, I think.”