B Willing
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B Willing

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"MAYDAY! Musical Rescue"

"At first glance lead vocalist Brendan James might resemble a young and romantic Jim Morrison, but his roots in our multicultural, multidisciplinary postmodern moment are far more diverse. "...My early influences were Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, Audioslave and Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes..." His melodious voice is as mesmerizing as his presence when he performs, rarely opening his eyes, lost somewhere in the music..."

~ Christopher Fielder - Ventura Life & Style Magazine


"Immaculate Inspiration"

"Most successful musicians can recall the moment of their personal big bang — that explosive instance where the path of their lives suddenly appeared before them, beckoning them to follow. Brendan James, the 26-year-old frontman for Ojai-based quintet Shades of Day, is no different. Only, he’s not quite sure there was any single catalytic experience. Music is certainly burned into his DNA: His mother plays guitar, and his father replaced Sammy Hagar as the vocalist for ’70s proto-metallurgists Montrose. But up until his mid-teens, James virtually ignored what appeared to be his birthright, preferring sports and other, more “traditional� adolescent activities.

Then, at 14, he picked up a bass, and nothing else mattered.

Call it “immaculate inspiration.�

Since then, the LA-born songwriter has been chugging straight toward his goal of becoming a professional rocker. And he just recently crossed a significant mile-marker: Last month, his band celebrated the release of MAYDAY!, their first self-produced disc of driving, Southern-tinged hard rock.

Shades of Day formed in 2000 after James left Los Angeles for Santa Barbara. He dove into the college town’s open mic scene, honing his songwriting skills and struggling to get over his anxiety of performing for other people — even though, more often than not, there wasn’t that many to actually perform for. “I was nervous doing songs in front of other people,� he says. “But as hard as it was, it was extremely appealing. I was bitten by the songwriting bug, and I wanted it bad...�

~ Matthew Singer - Ventura County Reporter


"Ojai's Brendan Willing James has a blast juggling solo shows and gigs with Shades of Day"

Brendan Willing James will sing for his supper and put yours in a bag. By day, along with half the musicians in the 805, James works at Trader Joe's.

James, sometimes booked as himself or as the clever B. Willing for solo gigs, also fronts one of the best local indie rock bands, Shades of Day.

The band will pack tiny Wine Lovers in Ventura on Friday night, which figures to be its final show of 2007. Then, on Sunday at artist-friendly Zoey's in Ventura, James will be part of a songwriter-in-the-round gig, sitting alongside Nathan McEuen, Delaney Gibson and Pi.

James, who writes for himself and Shades of Day, should have no shortage of songs. This year he embarked on a solo coast-to-coast adventure tour. In between he played all over with the band.

James was more than Willing to discuss the latest during a recent phoner.

How's the Shades of Day biz and solo dude biz?

They're both really good. Shades of Day is in the studio, and we've got five new tracks that are kickin' ass. We just played a sold-out show at the Wildcat in Santa Barbara, then a show with Alter Bridge at the Ventura Theatre and we're all pretty stoked. We're trying to figure out how to work together as a band as we get older — we're all about 30 — and (come up with) a good plan of attack for '08. We want to get some new music out there that's downloadable, maybe some ring tones — whatever it is they do these days.

When you do a solo gig, are you yourself or B. Willing?

Willing is my middle name, so I did B. Willing because I really liked the idea, and a lot of people like it, but I've gone back to my full name, Brendan Willing James — that'll be the name when my next real record comes out.

Could there be a Trader Joe's band?

That's funny because there are so many musicians and artists that work there. We're always talking about starting a Trader Joe's band and going on tour, playing all the stores and getting paid whatever our wages are.

You have a job, you're in a band and you're a solo guy. How do you find time for it all? Most people can't even do one thing.

Well, you find the time because you have the passion. Usually I stay up until 4 or 5 in the morning, sleep for a few hours, get up and do the work thing, get on the computer or start writing, grab my guitar and throw the song down. The next day I can go into the studio with the band and lay that song down or play it at Zoey's and get some feedback. The next day I go to work. It's kind of a blur, man.

What have you learned on the road?

I did a three-month tour across the country in the spring, then another month in the Southeast. It was a big undertaking, and in hindsight I should've done a little more local touring, but I learned that I really love to move. It's hard to be stagnant; traveling and getting out of your comfort space is what brings the songs. It's what brings the music into me. I get to South Carolina and talk to someone, and because I'm not sitting in Ojai thinking about going to work the next day, I feel a lot more creative.

So you booked the tour yourself and have phone bills to prove it?

Yeah. I even got up to Canada. I found some places like Zoey's, but rarely — Zoey's is a unique place where people actually listen to you. I was rockin' out, but you can only rock so hard with an acoustic guitar. I was really wishing for my band at that point so I could just blow 'em out.

Do band songs begin as solo Brendan songs? How do you decide who gets what?

Good question. I write most of the stuff — lyrics, melody and guitar parts — then take it to the guys. If they're interested, we start to arrange it and put more interesting musical parts in, whereas when I'm playing solo, it's more focused on the melody. Playing with the band is a different beast. They all want to jam and we want it to be powerful and together. Lately I've been jamming with Nathan McEuen — we've been doing harmonies — and his brother, Jonathan. The three of us recorded three songs together. Those dudes are amazing, and I've learned a lot about songwriting and guitar playing and just letting your inner freak out.

How would you describe your music?

I look at it as an Americana thing. It starts off with a real strong melody and the lyrics are kind of coming from a heartbreak. The lyrics are very troubled, but I'm trying to come out with a positive message. I'm trying to show people that there are outlets. If you're a musician, it's writing or performing, but for others it could be exercising or painting or building a business. It doesn't really matter what it is, but I'm trying to elicit that.

What's your take on the local scene?

I think the local scene has got kind of an underground vibe. I've met a lot of musicians around here that I didn't even know existed. There needs to be more venues and a radio station where artists can get their music to the people, like a college radio thing. There's MySpace and Facebook, but I think we're fighting this battle in Ventura where no one wants it to be Santa Barbara, and L.A. people don't want the rest of L.A. to come here. There are a couple of key venues, but something I can't quite put my finger on keeps it underground, and there's a certain beauty in that. Personally, I wish I could've experienced Café Voltaire — that's all I ever hear about from singer-songwriters.

— E-mail music writer Bill Locey at blocey@pacbell.net. - Ventura County Star


"Notable"

Has Performed with:
Blind Melon
Ziggy Marley
Natasha Bedingfield
Big Head Todd and the Monsters
Snow Patrol
Alter Bridge
Devon Allman
Blondie
Little Feat
Jonathan McEuen
Glen Phillips
Kenny Loggins
Edwin McCain
Jesca Hoop

*Shades of Day Voted Best Band in Ventura County 2006, 2007, 2008.

*Goes commando.


- Public


"Shades of Day At Sandbar, Wednesday, October 1"


By Ben Preston
~Monday, October 6, 2008

Thanks to bands like the White Stripes, the Black Keys, and to some extent, Wolfmother, a resurgence in the raw, classic sound of early '70s rock has been underway for several years now. I can only speculate that musicians — tiring of a general trend of overproduction resulting from the well-worn corporate success formula — opted to revert back to this bygone era of music. In the manner of a blue faced Jimmy Page churning out creepy riffs on his Fender Telecaster, these crusaders for what is right with rock 'n' roll have come to adopt this gritty style as their own.

In Ojai, five guys calling themselves Shades of Day got together to do the same thing in 2002, and have since recorded an album and played numerous shows all over the Western states. They play regularly at nearby venues, including the Wildcat Lounge and the Majestic Ventura Theater, and have opened for such acts as Blondie and Little Feat. Although the band hasn't risen too far above regional popularity, this lack of fame belies the finely honed collaboration of talent between the band's various members. From hard-driving guitar riffs and melodic ballads to the occasional cover, Shades of Day distinguish themselves not only with their technical mastery of the instruments they play, but with an exposure of their innermost selves during every song. Their reverence to the '70s is apparent just from viewing the front page of the group's Web site — which depicts an 8-track of the band's album jammed in the faux wood grain dash of a GM behemoth — not to mention the two covers I've heard them play better than the original bands — Blue Öyster Cult's "Godzilla" and the Band's "The Weight."

The best parts of Shades' Sandbar show came by way of their original tunes, which are raw, powerful, and well-executed. Lead singer Brendan James, who commands attention with clear, strong vocals, does not draw undue notice away from the other four members of the band, as is so often the case with powerful frontmen. The quintet functions in that vein of professional musical teamwork reminiscent of luminaries Led Zeppelin. Not too shabby for an up and coming act from our very own backyard.

The guys will next appear at the Majestic Ventura Theater on Thursday, October 23, when they open for Blind Melon. Tickets are available by calling 653-0721 or visiting ticketmaster.com. - Santa Barbara Independent


"Interview by TAXI"

Q: Where did you grow up?

A: Down in Southern California near the Port of Los Angeles. A place called San Pedro. Used to ride around on my bright red banana seat bike picking up pomegranates and playing with my pet snail, Frank. Until that fat kid next door came over and stepped on him... I've been a snail lover ever since.

Q: What made you realize that music was your path?

A: Lying awake with my headphones on at night while my mom and stepdad were screaming at each other. She let me borrow her guitar and although I couldn't play it well, I started writing really bad songs almost immediately. I mean cheeseball, but they meant so much at the time. More than anything though, it was everyone telling me to steer clear of the music business that made me want to pursue it even more. I fell in love with creating something that was all my own, and sharing it with friends and family was easy, so I started performing at open mics and formed a band... and here I am in the thick of it, loving every minute.

Q: How would you describe the music that you typically create?

A: Moody. If I have an acoustic guitar in my hand, I steer towards folky americana with hints of dark pop. I'm really into lyrical ideas and the abstract, and I've found a great relation to the way Jeff Tweedy of Wilco writes. They're dreamscapes, not the bluntness of today's contemporary country, but streams of consciousness. If I have an electric guitar in my hand, or I'm singing with my band it's a different story. I'll tend towards the early nineties rock sound of Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and The Black Crowes, with really powerful vocal melodies and angrier, more pointed lyrics.

Q: Who are your biggest musical influences?

A: I had a girlfriend in college who took me to a Glen Phillips show in Santa Barbara. Changed my whole outlook. I became hooked on acoustic guitar rhythms and learned how to play the percussive style I play now. My father, Bob James was the vocalist for the 70's rock band Montrose, after Sammy Haggar left, and to this day is my inspiration in all things vocal. He sang with so much soul and conviction. Other songwriters that have inspired me are Ellis Paul, Elton John, Ian Anderson, Chris Cornell, Lowell George, Robbie Robertson, Edwin McCain, Jeff Buckley, Jude, Keith Urban, Jeff Tweedy, the McEuen brothers, Harry Nilsson, Lennon and McCartney...

Q: What makes your music unique?

A: I don't spend a great deal of time trying to sound like another singer or player. I listen and get inspired by them, and then I create an answer. As I move through life and the years pass, it all blends into my subconscious and comes out in my voice and my playing style. The way my voice sounds is different than anyone I've heard, and in certain notes and fluctuations, folks will inevitably say "you remind me of someone, but I can't put my finger on it." Perfect. It's the blend of familiar with unique that I believe is the winning combination. I haven't heard a voice yet that's even close to what mine sounds like, and that's just fine by me.

Q: Has there been one particular moment in your musical career that you're most proud of?

A: Yes. After years of wondering what it was like to tour the country and feel those experiences, I decided it was time to leave the comfort zone for a while and embark on a mission. I booked three months of shows all around the country, packed my truck with as little as I possibly could, and took off solo into the great wide open. There was no plan, no huge prospects, and no one pushing me. It was so incredibly liberating and beautiful. The day I drove off I was beaming with pride and filled with an intensity that I've come to accept might never be paralleled.

Q: What's next for you?

A: I've just finished my first solo EP called "the breakup sessions" and will be working on a full band record for the remainder of 2007. I'm currently on a short tour of the southeast promoting the EP, and am hoping for a publishing deal sometime in the next year. My ultimate goal is a number one hit, whether it is sung by me or not doesn't matter. I love writing, and will spend the rest of my life creating and working on my craft.
- TAXI.com


Discography

The Breakup Sessions - EP - released October 12, 2007

Shades of Day "MAYDAY!" ~ Full Length Rock Album Independent Release May 12, 2006

Now Playing on:
Upstreamradio.com
Creamyradio.com
Live365.com
KJEE 92.9 Santa Barbara
KCSB 91.9 Santa Barbara
KWSS 106.7 Phoenix
Living Rocks Radio

Photos

Bio

B Willing ~ Singer, Songwriter, Troubadour.

While living for the last few years in the 21st century neo hippie love nest of Ojai, CA I've performed with Ziggy Marley, Natasha Bedingfield, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Blondie, Little Feat, Snow Patrol, Sugarcult, Alter Bridge, ALO, Devon Allman and Edwin McCain writing and singing for my band, Shades of Day. It is quite an honor to have played with all of these artists, but through the years there remained in me a starvation for touring that I just HAD to feed.

In 2006, Shades of Day released a full length album called MAYDAY!, recorded and self produced in our Ojai recording studio, The Red Barn. The album sold well regionally and the band created a strong local and regional buzz in Santa Barbara and Ventura, being voted the best band in Ventura County for the last three years. *VC Reporter

However, the band did not tour behind it, and I still had this unwavering desire to get the wheels on the pavement, radio up, windows down, the show on the road.

So in the spring of 2007, I set off on a three month solo tour that led me all over the states ~ Ojai to Boston and almost everywhere between.. Dubbed "The Great Couch Tour" it was a full taste of life on the road, and I fell in love. We'll always have Niagara Falls...

While in Nashville I recorded 15 songs, 6 of which turned into an EP called "the breakup sessions"... And that's a hell of a story. Some other time perhaps..

Getting back to the relative present! In the summer of '08, I planted myself in the heart of Los Angeles to start writing and producing material for a new record, collaborating with artists I respect, and really to just live in my next chapter. My next scene. Incredible!

**I blog/rant frequently. Please do check in often: blog.myspace.com/bewilling and brendanwillingjames.com

email: bwillingmusic@gmail.com