Derek James
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Derek James

New York City, New York, United States | SELF

New York City, New York, United States | SELF
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The best kept secret in music


"Derek was great; along with his band, he entertained over 5,000 students at our college with his
unique sound. I definitely want him to come back and perform again next
- Patrick Craig, Vice President for University Programming

Another Yorkie visits Toledo this week as acclaimed musician Derek James comes to town. From Australia to Europe to all across the States, James has carried his singer/songwriter vibe all over the globe and never let a fan down. With a melodic, sort-of-old timey country folk vibe, James' bouncy tunes could have been as popular in '65 as they're destined to become now. Some music makes you feel relaxed in that fact that at least someone understands, Derek James has that.
- Toledo City Paper

"I worked with the British Svengali Simon Fuller (creator of American Idol) and was told by Simon himself that I have an ear for successful artists and songs. When I first heard Derek James single, 'Ain't no thing is perfect,'? I paused knowing I was listening to something that would shine across the airwaves. This was a song that you turn up in your car and hear coming out of radios on beaches and in cafes."
-Samantha James
Angrypop Music
- Samantha James - Angrypop Music

Anyone remember when Jack Johnson started out? He had so much to say musically that it was really inspiring. Hey, speaking of which; do you remember Dave Matthew's first couple albums? Now those were some great tunes. So what have Jack and Dave been up to lately? Oh, that's right. They've been pandering to the MTV crowd of frat boys and girls too lazy to form their own musical tastes. Well, if you dig early Dave Matthews and just about any Jack Johnson, then I think I might have a special treat for you - a young man named Derek James.

With Derek James's deubut album, we have a musician at an interesting point in his career. He's got the fire and intensity that most musicians do as they step into the wonderful world of recording. But thankfully, there's also some great talent present. Some of his songs are almost impossible to classify because of their vast amount of influences. I suppose out of all the songs on this album, I'm the most smitten with One More Day. The only bad thing that I can say about the track is that with the right could wind up being played repeatedly on MTV. It's not only a good song, but it really does have mass appeal.

At times it seems that Derek really wants to join the ranks of Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews by being a folky, grooving type of songwriter. But just when you think you've easily got him pegged as a one trick act, he goes and does a complete musical 180. I'm really impressed with the versatility shown on this album, and it's making me wonder where he'll go from here.
- Matt Jordan

The debut album STRAY from New York's newest musical firecracker, Derek James, is pleasantly ironic and stuffed to the max with artistic spunk. Why ironic? Well, the ultimate reason lies in his super-infectious, barnstorming mega-TOP 40-hit-in-waiting, Ain't No Thing Is Perfect. Despite it's highly respectable life perspective, the song actually turns out to be a hullabaloo of melodic and lyrical pop music perfection without coming across contrived or dumbed down one bit. In fact, I would dare say that you will be hard pressed to find a tighter, more perfectly crafted hit song anywhere in the indie market this year that demands such immediate heavy rotation at Clear Channel Stations across the country.

Secondly, for a "stray", Derek James exudes a welcome confidence in this, his freshman introduction. As a result, STRAY ends up feeling less like a stranger or mutt we are letting in and more like a favorite cousin that decided to drop in for a surprise visit. Derek's musical canvas is at once a streak of vintage icons, at other times shades of contemporary flavor, but primarily, a whole lotta fresh charisma.

Throughout the album, James displays a masterful range of artistic versatility with the quality tunes popping out one after the other. James excels at proving he can "bring the party" with tunes like the modern day Elvis swagga' of What's That Sound, or the ragtime "HoneyPie" (McCartney) sibling jive, Smoky Light. Additionally, he is capable of bringing out the lighters and melting female hearts everywhere with the bittersweet beauty of the title track, the glorious "Coldplay/Train"-wreck of "Summer", and the cello-laced misery of "Dust in the Wind". As if that isn't enough, the guy even brings a sense of optimistic balance to the whole political angst of the last year or so with the sunny whippersnapper, "There is the Sun".

Derek James is a hit making machine, but less Jason Mraz and more Josh Rouse...that's a GREAT thing. With the latter still fighting to become a household name after countless classic albums, will the general public be more willing to invite this new torchbearer of mature pop into their finicky home stereos? Let's hope so, Fido, let's hope so.
- Jeremy Owens

Move over, Mraz. Take a seat, Mr. Mayer. There’s a new kid in town and he’s poised to take over the pop-rock, singer-songwriter throne. And he’s no Jason or John or even Dave. Derek James is his name, and his debut disc, Stray, is full of eleven perfectly poppy songs that are succinct, snappy, and damn sexy.

The disc starts out hot with the song “Free Love,” in which James sings about a temptress who’ll “Melt you down to a puddle of a man/ just looking for his pride.” After repeated listens to this album, however, it’s hard to imagine James loosing his cool. For a freshman release, this album is surprisingly confident. James never waivers, but he’s also never cocky.

This confidence is evident in the hit “Summer," which is ready for relentless radio rotation. It’ll make you want to sing the line “she doesn’t know who I am” over and over with your car windows down and your shades on. “Ain't No Thing Is Perfect,” another ready-for-radio ditty, about a girl in search of the perfect man, will make you bop your head and shake your booty while repeating that great mantra.

James has a knack for writing love songs that are intelligent and heartfelt, and will surely make the ladies swoon. “Skye” is a sweet coming-of-age love song about a young woman searching for her identity. “It’s time to be me said she/ then she shed her skin and out there came original life through every vein,” sings James. He continues saying, “She was life/ felt her through me/ like warm showers from the sun/ let it rain.”

“Pretty Lady” is a standout love song. It’s so soft, slow, and sweet that you can almost see that look of love in his eyes as he whispers to his woman, “Pretty lady I don’t want to ever say goodnight/we’re burning strong let’s keep the flame alive/ pretty lady you feel me/ pretty lady go on and breathe me all night.”

Every song on Stray is an absolute gem, each with its own flair, but not so different that it’s alarming. There’s a ragtime feel to the song “Smoky Light,” and "Dust in the Wind" features a great cello intro. There’s even the political and poppy “There is the Sun,” in which James expresses frustration about anti-American sentiment and the state of current U.S. politics. Regardless of your opinion, he says it’s important to be heard. James even adds the French phrase “Ca donnez moi l'espoir,” which means “that gives me hope.”

And while his catchy pop-rock licks certainly have a major Beatles influence, James is fresh enough to retain his own distinctive sound, possibly due to the help of his Williamsburg production team Assaf Spector and Eytan Oren.

The only thing wrong with Stray is that after 37 minutes, it comes to an end. - Arien Rozelle


Untitled LP - 2010 Howling Clue Records
produced by Assaf Spector & Derek James
(release date August - 2010)

Stray LP - 2005 Howling Clue Records
produced by Assaf Spector, Derek James & Eytan Oren

Firefly EP - 2004 Howling Clue Records
produced by Derek James



Derek James wears a fedora. A Frank Sinatra, Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash sing-a-long, his boots can be heard stomping to his old-time rhythms. Having worked with producers Roger Greenawalt (Crosby/Nash, Rufus Wainwright) and Godfrey Diamond (Frank Sinatra, Kool and the Gang), Derek's retro pop sound, hummable melodies and jug-band spirit will have you swinging in your skivvies.

His song "Smoky Light," an upbeat ragtime toe-tapper, was recently featured on the Travel Channel. Derek's songs have also been featured on MTV, Lifetime, A&E, and the upcoming "Nude America the Movie." He has performed with Blues Traveler, Eric Hutchinson, Ben Kweller, Sugar Ray, OK Go, Gin Blossoms and many more. Touring both as a solo troubadour with his guitar, kazoo and ukulele in tow, as well as with his band the Lovely Fools, Derek James spends a good portion of his life rolling over gravel.