Eric James
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Eric James

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


THE GREATEST GAME ON EARTH

….James was the guitarist for The Cool Grand…. [who] together covered the east coast, gracing the airwaves of many college and independent radio stations and selling CDs by the thousands. But in May of this year they broke up. This is where the life of Eric James the front-man began.
“It took a few months to decide where we were going to go,” [James] said.…so he made a serious investment in voice lessons and recording time in order to “skip the crappy demo years” he had gone through so many times before. What resulted is “Games of Love” an 8-song EP that will serve the purposes of a demo, but plays with “a quality that I can sell unashamedly.”
And, by all measures, he accomplished it. In fact, while the disc was playing in the halls of a [college] dorm, two people mistook (sic) it for Pete Yorn and another thought it was Coldplay. Like these artists, James’ singing style is subdued but poignant. In many songs he sets a relaxed tone with devices like arpeggio piano parts and then adds vocal doubles or guitar distortion for a powerful contrast. With half the CD driven by a full band and the other half characterized by more intimate acoustics, the dynamic range of songs is remarkable.
James also points out the contrast audiences will hear between his recorded and live music a la Counting Crows. In every song, though, will remain the pervasive depth of insight. Lyrically, James believes a good song should be judged by its truthfulness to the author. “A song that isn’t true can’t be performed as well and people won’t feel it as well,” said James. He feels he accomplished this in the title track, which was written about a girl he met at a show and “the ridiculousness of the games we have to go through.” In light of this, he ends the song saying “Well I don’t want/ To play/ Anymore.”
Fortunately, that statement doesn’t apply to his music. “What gives me more drive is the songs that I have yet to write,” he said. Another driving factor was his conversion from side stage to front and center. “Being able to control the message and the vibe coming from the stage was perfect for me,” he said. But by this he doesn’t mean the message is self-centered. “I still want people to hear something other than me,” he said. To me it sounds like the birth of a promising new artist.
- Blake Lightholder


Saturday, November 15

Every member of every band at least one time has a lofty glimpse at having the spotlight all to themselves. Some try and fail -- it nearly drove Kiss apart when all four members released fairly lousy solo albums record stores just couldn't get rid of -- but some manage to get it right. Eric James, former guitarist for the Cool Grand, found a better place for himself center stage. With last month's release of his first solo endeavor, a self-titled EP, he nabbed a significant spot in the local music community. Softly earnest like Duncan Sheik and "sweet" as in Matthew, James places himself among noteworthy contemporary male singer/songwriters who often go for a more orchestrated, fuller direction in their music. A mere acoustic guitar, though at times the only necessary accompaniment for his songs, is sometimes replaced by the more rich sound of a full band. James still performs shows in both the solo context and as Eric James & the Motions, which includes reputable local musicians Anthony Batista, Ryan Brown and fellow ex-Cool Grand member Brett Staggs. Whether he is alone or with the group, his songs carry a structure not overly simple but also not burdened by a too complex guitar line or an overpowering backup sound. His lyrics, when channeled through his soft-spoken tenor, are poetically moving and candid, a trait that is mirrored on his Web page, www.ericjames.com, where one can find a detailed reaction to every show he plays, as well as other personal experiences and musings. - Cindy Yogmas


Discography

Eps:
Eric James EP (2003)
MTV’s Lit Riffs Soundtrack (2004)
C-Sides EP (coming November 2004)

Singles:
"It's Ok"

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Eric James & The New Century
> Pop Without Pretense <

Comparisons to Death Cab For Cutie, Pete Yorn, and the would-be ‘yupster’ movement aside, Eric James is in many ways a throw back. Melding the earthy, rock n’ roll aesthetic of Bruce and his E Street Band with the progressive college pop of Coldplay, Ben Folds and Badly Drawn Boy, James gains a somewhat unique dichotomy: arty pop music without shoe gazing pretensions. “While I get a lot of comparisons to Coldplay, which these days seems to go hand in hand with touching a piano at any point in the set, I have a lot of respect for Springsteen,’ says James. ‘He’s had a lot of things to say and has always found an artful way of saying them.”

An element of heart-on-his-sleeve honestly is a fundamental part of James’ music. In many ways reminiscent of both early and recent U2, this openness allows Eric to explore deeply resonating subjects from an artful but non-posturing attitude. “I’m a fan of a lot of bands out there who would be labeled as pretentious. I honestly don’t really have a problem with them - I just choose not to approach my music that way.”

James’ first gained national recognition as the principle member and guitarist for The Cool Grand, the sunny Pittsburgh pop outfit who broke out regionally in 2002, earning significant regional airplay, and moved 5,000+ copies of their indie releases before disbanding in mid-2003. “You know how it is with bands,’ Eric recounts, ‘you feel like you have your whole life in order, more and more people are coming to shows, things are working...then the singer quits. Perfect. Of course, these are things that make you push yourself into something better.”

Better indeed. Before TCG had even played their last gig Eric was already off and running. “The day of our last show, I had already booked studio time and requested more credit on my Visa,” he recalls. “Rushing into the solo thing was a purging for me. In many ways I’d been hiding behind the band a bit - this forced me to take center stage with my music. It has been a daunting but exhilarating experience.”

The resulting self-titled EP, hailed by Pulp as “poetically moving and candid”, sold out its initial pressing in less than a month and served to affirm James’ as a notable artist is his own right. Pittsburgh radio trendsetter WYEP began spinning the disc and gave Eric feature highlights in its Year-In-Review programs. In February ‘04, James recorded a version of The Velvet Underground’s “I Found A Reason” for MTV’s Lit Riffs, a soundtrack and collection of short stories inspired by lyrics from notable songs.

On the strength of these successes, Eric enjoyed mounting A&R attention in early 2004, with both major and independent record companies expressing interest. In addition to showcases in NYC, Eric was invited to perform for hit-maker Pete Ganbarg (Santana, Run-DMC), and eventually signed as the flagship artist for Ganbarg’s new Pure Tone Music label in late 2004. “The day I did that particular showcase I was ridiculously sick,’ Eric remembers with a wince. ‘It was the sort of colossal debacle that makes for a good ‘Behind-the-Music’ episode. The amazing thing was that Pete heard through that. I decided he’d make a great partner for the next step.”

In the meantime, James released the long awaited follow-up to his solo debut in November ‘04. Appropriately title “The C-Sides”, the new material went the Paul-McCartney-Ram route of self-produced exploration. “The relaxed, lo-fi approach of The C-Sides gave me a sense of license to expand lyrically and raise bigger questions,’ recalls James. ‘I was also right in the middle of learning how to love someone, which can make things wonderfully complicated.”

His new label relationship in place, James hit the ground running in early 2005. Crisscrossing the country, James met with a number of notable arrangers and producers, before finally settling down by year’s end with producer John Fields (Wheat, Switchfoot, Evan & Jaron, Sheryl Crowe). The initial batch of recordings feature Eric performing on most all tracks with a few friends standing in, most notably Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello, Squeeze) on drums. “The whole scene was pretty surreal,” James says. “Over dinner one night, Pete Thomas was recounting stories about recording with Jimmy Page and Greg Allman or something. I felt pretty small - it was fantastic.”

The producer/artist pairing proved fantastic as well, as Fields nimbly captured the scope of Eric’s songs. From the heartfelt yearning of “Daylight”, to the anthematic scope of “Long Road For The Lonely”, the recordings capture James’ in all of his expanding potential. After opening the year with a two-week tour with The New Century (the latest incarnation of James’ live band), Eric is set to spend the first half of 2006 returning to the studio to finish work on his national debut, with continued intermittent touring to keep things interesting.