At a time when popular music leans toward the bland and impersonal, a musical architect of Michael James' quality and candor is both unheard of – and a must-hear. With the release of his new EP, “To Raise an Army for Love,” James escapes the notion of a typical “love song” without abandoning the single most important element in his music: his undeniable gift for pouring his heart into every song and allowing the listener to momentarily become the characters he sings about.
In 2005, the Denver native released his last album, “Everything We Used to Be,” to enthusiastic reviews. The album scored regular rotation on independent radio throughout Colorado and was played on a number of internet radio stations everywhere from LA to New York. “Everything We Used to Be” went on to be nominated for a Kweevak.com Music Award in 2005 and the video for the first single from the album, “Room to Breathe,” was showcased at the 2005 Planet Ant Film Festival (Detroit, MI) and spent time in regular rotation on several independent music video programs. Since his last release, James has played colleges, clubs, festivals, and conferences nationwide. He has been named a showcasing artist at: D-fest (Tulsa, OK), The Hyperactive Music Festival (Albuquerque, NM), The Millennium Music Conference (Harrisburg, PA) and NXNE (Toronto, Canada). In 2007, James was invited to be a featured performer on the Emerging Artist's Stage for the Virgin College Mega Tour '07 before going on hiatus to write songs for what would become the new album, “To Raise an Army for Love.”
Rising above a range of influences such as U2, Death Cab For Cutie, Sufjan Stevens, and Damien Rice, Michael James’ music embodies heartfelt songwriting that is rich with hook-driven melodies, a slice-of-life story telling, and atmospheric guitars. James clearly possesses two distinct styles of songwriting, which he manages to seamlessly integrate on “To Raise an Army for Love.” The sparsely orchestrated, but emotionally stirring song “Stethoscope” highlights James’ mellow, acoustic, indie-folk side, while others like “Poetry and Mix Cassettes” show off a more emotionally charged, mid-tempo, indie-pop feel. However, the place in which the two styles find their common ground is in James’ melancholic voice and his intimate stories of love and loss. It is there, in his husky tenor, where the songs truly come to life.
Of the album, KC Active says, "To Raise an Army for Love evokes a kind of Death Cab for Cutie-Ben Folds Five vibe, particularly on the intro track “Poetry and Mix Cassettes,” which makes excellent use of James full-bodied vocals and light guitar-licks…”
The underlying theme of “To Raise an Army for Love,” produced by Grammy winner John Seymour (U2, Dave Mathews Band, Bouncing Souls) and mastered by Dom Maita (Plain White T’s, Fall Out Boy, Herbie Hancock), revolves around two central ideas of love and war. James’ songs delve into the battles that are fought every day for the sake of the people we love. James shares, “I have always been intrigued by the fact that those ideas can be so opposite and contrary to one another, but still have a common thread at their core...they almost need to coexist to exist at all. I think where you find love, many times you will also find a fight going on just to keep that love from dying.”
Michael James’ strength for using unique imagery and universal narratives in his story telling is one of his best characteristics. However, it is clear that with the new EP, James sought to explore a more poignant emotional core than in his past work. “Don’t Know What I Saw In You” is a powerfully uneasy song that builds effortlessly to an overwhelming and epic release, while “If I Fall” employs a guitar-driven, hook-filled chorus that begs for an arena-sized sing-a-long.
Recently on Denver’s local front, James’ single “Poetry and Mixed Cassettes” has seen airplay on both 93.3FM KTCL and 99.5FM The Mountain. He is also fresh off an appearance as a showcasing artist at the 37th Annual People's Fair (an event that draws over 250k people into downtown Denver over two days).
Michael James - Guitars & Vocal
Full Band Performance:
Acoustic Guitar / Electric Guitar / Piano / Bass / Drums
To Raise An Army For Love - 2008
Everything We Used to Be - 2005
Loft Sessions - EP - 2004
Acoustic - Folk: SPOTLIGHT - Michael James
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As if it weren’t enough being part of Denver’s indie outfit Fiancé, Michael James is one of the ambi...As if it weren’t enough being part of Denver’s indie outfit Fiancé, Michael James is one of the ambitious few with the talent and the drive to pursue a solo project simultaneously. And while there are those out there who play an occasional solo show, Michael’s aspirations have included recording exceptionally produced albums and even touring nationally. Even more, Mr. James’ solo material isn’t an exact replication of Fiancé’s music, but a profound departure. Spanning three album releases and a number of years, Michael’s solo career has matured over time, although it seems his greatest strides have taken place over the last year.
Michael has a voice all his own, a soaring and honest rendition of his passion of life, to be embraced by all. His cunning lyrical abilities are mirrored by his ability to produce well structured phrases and triumphant voicing. James’ sweeping melodies, most likely written on an acoustic guitar, come to life in his latest release, To Raise an Army for Love, produced by Grammy winner John Seymour (U2, Dave Mathews Band, Bouncing Souls). Soothing tracks like “Poetry and Mix Cassettes” accentuate Michael’s powerful voice and keen understanding of smooth, delay-ridden guitar work. Big toms drop into this very atmospheric hit, to be followed by an upbeat tempo, full of crashing symbols and undeniable indie-rock appeal. While traditional pop sensibilities are immediately apparent, lyrical substance and a large degree of depth maintain a sense of intrigue, demanding the listener’s attention and keeping it, from the beginning of the track to the end. His attention to detail is apparent by the inclusion of subtle reverb laden tambourine accents, and other percussive nuances. Add a pinch of organ and orchestral strings, and James’ recipe is complete, a testament to the production credit of his latest effort.
After further exploring the album I was pleased and impressed with this multi-dimensional artist, after discovering the inclusion of a different song type, songs like “Stethoscope.” This soft and sultry tune has a sweet progression nothing short of something the Beatles would have written in a 21st century setting. Michael’s “back to the basics” approach to songwriting should be an example to any writer, whatever their genre may be. Michael carries the ability to produce both the ballad and the rock song, an art that has seemingly vanished from most modern bands’ arsenal. His flair for arranging slowly building masterpieces is an inspiration to my own personal songwriting aspirations, and is reminiscent of something you’d hear at the emotional climax of a movie soundtrack.
Visit James’ MySpace site where you’ll find links to purchase To Raise an Army for Love in both hard copy and iTunes download. Michael is currently on the road as a showcasing artist for the ‘08 NACA Central and Northeast Showcases in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Hartford, Connecticut, although he’ll be making his way home for a November 22nd date at the Walnut Room, appearing with Matt Morris.
FEATURE: Michael James
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We all have that special someone. It doesn't necessarily have to be a boyfriend or girlfriend, just ...We all have that special someone. It doesn't necessarily have to be a boyfriend or girlfriend, just someone who can always pick you up, someone who can always make your day.
Singer and songwriter Michael James embodies those feelings in his newest album, "To Raise an Army for Love."
Produced by Grammy-winner John Seymour (U2, Dave Matthews Band) and mastered by Dom Maita (Plain White T's, Fall Out Boy), "To Raise an Army for Love" is a collection of heartfelt and meaningful songs, compiled in a way that creates a fresh, soulful sound.
With inspirations like the Beatles, U2, Death Cab for Cutie, Coldplay, Sufjan Stevens and Damien Rice, James builds the base of his newest CD.
In his intro song, "Poetry and Mix Cassettes," music review Web site kcactive.com said that "(it) evokes a kind of Death Cab for Cutie/Ben Folds Five vibe … which makes excellent use of James' full-bodied vocals and light guitar licks."
Although seemingly autobiographical, "Poetry and Mix Cassettes" is told from a storytelling point of view.
"I was in my basement going through boxes of old stuff, and I ran across a box of memorabilia from a girl I had dated eight years ago," James said. "I had no idea why I still had it, but seeing it sparked a story about someone who is still hanging on to the physical things on an extremely deep level."
Scrounging through his basement is not the only time James has been affected by his past. When James was 10, he was sitting on his couch watching MTV - "when MTV used to play music videos" - and had an epiphany moment.
"I remember sitting there watching the TV and thinking, 'I need to do that,'" James said. "I remember that moment like it was yesterday, even though at the time I really didn't know what it meant."
James has never lost that dream, and it's with his years of experience and struggle that he offers his advice to up-and-coming musicians.
"Just don't give up," James said. "If you really love it, and you really want to have it, your passion, your drive, your desire will lead you through."
It is songs like "Poetry and Mix Cassettes" and "Stethoscope" that make "To Raise an Army for Love" so different from James' last CD, "Everything We Used to Be."
When asked how the two CDs were different, James simply said, "In general, ('To Raise an Army for Love' is) more polished. The stories and general theme have a more intimate sense. 'Everything We Used to Be' is more of a collection of songs written over many many years, while this one is more of a thematic album about love and the war we must fight for love and how they inter-mix."
James' recent work has earned him a spot performing at the National Association for Campus Activities Central Regional Conference today through Sunday in Tulsa, Okla.
James' association with NACA confirms his talent and shows the appeal he can hold for college and university students.
Indie Star on the Rise
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Indie artist Michael James has been raising attention and stereo volumes quite a bit lately. Hailing...Indie artist Michael James has been raising attention and stereo volumes quite a bit lately. Hailing from Denver, Colorado, the solo artist has been introducing his new sound, a mix of Death Cab for Cutie and Damien Rice, to people everywhere. According to his MySpace music page, James dropped out of engineering school to live for his music. James’ songs are all personally written and performed by him. His beautifully written music is passionate and inspiring.
If you haven’t heard his name, you more than likely will in the coming months. The independent artist has been chosen to perform with the National Association for Campus Activities (NACA). This is a great accomplishment for solo artists because the chances of being chosen to showcase with the NACA is about 10%. Self-represented artists rarely get such an opportunity. Over 700 applicants in the Northeast region are received each year to showcase with the NACA. Most of those applicants are big time performers such as Leno and Letterman, Last Comic Standing, and Saturday Night Live. NACA is one of the nation’s most well known collegiate organizations for campus activities.
James has been a member of the NACA for three years. This year will be his big break performing at NACA Central on October 6 in Tulsa, OK, and at NACA Northeast on November 6 in Hartford, CT.
FEATURE: Michael James
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Equally well-suited for close listening and as background music for an evening of romance, Michael J...Equally well-suited for close listening and as background music for an evening of romance, Michael James' Everything We Used to Be is a wistful collection of acoustic-guitar-led songs that suggests a less idiosyncratic Dave Matthews. With his Jeff Beck good looks and distinctive voice, the Denver native's approach has won him fans and praise across the country. James has earned significant college radio play and high-profile gigs at the Hyperactive Music Festival (Albuquerque NM), Diversafest (Tulsa OK), NXNE (Toronto), 2007's Virgin College Mega Tour and many others.
Everything We Used to Be and his first solo effort, the 2005 Loft Sessions EP are currently available from www. MichaelJamesMusic.com, and Michael is already working on his next album, due soon. "I really feel like I've grown as a writer and as a singer since my last album. I want that evolution to shine through on the next one."
Review: To Raise an Army for Love
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According to his myspace page, Denver’s own Michael James dropped out of engineering school to becom...According to his myspace page, Denver’s own Michael James dropped out of engineering school to become a musician. While for most that would mean a rapidly approaching career in the fast food or pizza-delivery business, James is on his third album now and it pretty much proves that he made the right move.
To Raise an Army for Love evokes a kind of Death Cab for Cutie-Ben Folds Five vibe, particularly on the intro track “Poetry and Mix Cassettes,” which makes excellent use of James full-bodied vocals and light guitar-licks (also probably helped that he had Grammy winning producer John Seymore from U2, Dave Mathews Band, etc.).
With help from Bobby Lynch (piano) and Rob Struck (bass), James has produced a far more adult and compelling form of love song than the average mid-20’s musician, particularly on tracks like the lush and magical “Don’t Know What I Saw in You”. He does stumble a little bit on “So Long”, which has a rather annoying keyboard track, but that’s a middling complaint at most.
Really, the worst thing here is that at just five songs the album ends right when you get into it, but you can get the first two CDs at a cheap price on www.cdbaby.com (a website that has happily taken the “industry” out of the “music industry”).
Gotta Have Heart for Success
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The passion for music that Michael James encompasses is inspiring. His risk to not graduate college ...The passion for music that Michael James encompasses is inspiring. His risk to not graduate college at CU and pursue a life as a musician was not an easy transition to make. James realized, luckily sooner than later, that life as an engineer was not something that would make him happy. Playing music was his true desire.
“I finally just got a revelation that what I need to be doing is writing songs and performing them live,” said musician James, 28. “I need to play, I need to write.”
And his passion as a songwriter is reflected in his music. James’ creative solo mix of electric and acoustic guitar while incorporating life experiences into his lyrics allows him to establish a personal emotion to his songs.
His music dedication was inspired by his understanding that if he was going to be happy, music is what would lead to his ultimate success.
“If [your career] makes you happy, then you’ll be more successful,” James said. “When you give it your all and you are doing what you want to do, then you’ll be happy doing it.”
James has always had the dedication and determination to put his full heart into his songwriting. It was not until late college when he figured out that songwriting was what he would be fully committed to.
“The pursuit of music was the right decision. Either I keep doing something that makes me unhappy or I start doing something I like,” he said.
Starting at the age of 12, James wrote songs in Denver, just as early as he picked up a guitar. Being influenced early by 80's artists such as U2, Peter Gabriel and eventually by everyone from David Gray to Death Cab for Cutie, James said he took “little cookies” from each generation of music and “developed my own way of doing it.”
Each little cookie that James took, he added on his own sound.
“I hope that I sound like me and not a mediocre attempt at being someone else,” he said.
According to James, there are two types of artists. There are the ones that are influenced by artists but only emulate their sounds, and then there are the ones that take their influences a step further. James is an artist influenced by other artists, but one who expands and excels on parts of their sounds by making new and original sounds that are unique upon himself.
James is playing at Club 156 tonight. Doors open at 8 p.m. He has a new album called “Everything We Used To Be,” that was released in the fall of 2005. You can always visit his website for songs, videos and his blog at michaeljamesmusic.com.
CD REVIEW--Michael James: Everthing We Used to Be
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The first thing that hit me in a big way with Michael James was that his vocals reminded me of Steve...The first thing that hit me in a big way with Michael James was that his vocals reminded me of Steve Hogarth (Marillion) on several occasions. He has that emotive style that is deeply rooted in his soul and every word he sings he actually feels, then so do you while you are listening.
Everything We Used To Be is about relationships, the entire album encompasses you in the feelings and stories found in each track. If you look at the title, it is in direct proportion or parallel if you will, to every song. It sounds as if James based the recording on a beautiful relationship he once had and how it went sour, followed by the ensuing situations and emotions caused by the event. ‘”Room To Breath” says a mouthful and “Perfect Disagreement” is the road to divorce in any relationship, after a while it wears you down and you both give up and suddenly one of you is “Half a World Away” and the other is “Lovesick” with an “Empty Bed.”
While the words, punctuated quite well by James’ convincing vocal style make it all happen, the instrumentation ends up being the perfect bedfellow for his lyrics and tasteful nuances. The music creates atmospheres that fit the words like a glove, from brooding and sad to melancholy and ecstatic, the entire range of emotions gets equal time on all eight tracks.
This was very moving music and I enjoyed how real James made this for me while listening. It was like he (or whomever he is singing about) jumped inside me so I could feel everything that was being said. That is powerful stuff and it does not happen that often. Bravo Michael! You stole my heart and mind away for 30 minutes. Now that is what music is supposed to do.
CD REVIEW--Everything We Used to Be: COMPELLING!
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Michael James' music is melodic, acoustic rock with a modern edge. He writes personal lyrics that ar...Michael James' music is melodic, acoustic rock with a modern edge. He writes personal lyrics that are serious and soulful. Michael uses a variety of vocal textures to convey assorted moods and tones in his music. Everything We Used To Be is Michael's second release featuring eight expressive songs. The new CD is an evolution of an artist as James continues to define his musical vision and mature as a writer. Michael is a genuine artist singing songs about life experiences that people can relate to and thus connect with him. 'Lost In You' is the opening track with haunting, intriguing lyrics in a layered, acoustic arrangement. 'Room To Breath' is heartbreaking, honest and hopeful – lyrically, musically and vocally. Michael James is a compelling and convincing performer and Everything We Used To Be is intricate and original!
Michael's acoustic show is comprised of original pop/rock songs and a select number of covers from artists like David Gray, Ben Harper, Tears for Fears, and U2. The show can range in time from 1 to 2.5 hours based on the needs of the venue. Rates are also negotiable according to venue, occasion and budget.
Brand New Shoes
Color Of Love
Come My Way
Die With A Smile
Don't Know What I Saw In You
Half a World Away
House Of Rain
I Choose You
I Hope You Won't Be Wrong
If I Fall
Lost In You
Lonely at 6'5"
More Than This
Poetry and Mix Cassettes
Room to Breathe
Room With A View
Say It Won't Be Long
See You Soon
She Just Wants To Be Adored
This Little Life Raft
This Time Around
Throw It All Away
Tragic Love Affair
Current Cover Songs (*ever-changing list):
Hyper-Ballad - Bjork
Another Lonely Day - Ben Harper
In My Life - The Beatles
Mad World - Tears For Fears
Time After Time - Cyndi Lauper
This Year's Love - David Gray
Where The Streets Have No Name - U2
Driving With The Breaks On - Del Amitri
PDF RiderPerformance Rider (subject to change according to venue & artist requirements)
There are no upcoming dates at this time.