James Apollo
Gig Seeker Pro

James Apollo

New York City, New York, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | INDIE

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Rock Gospel




"drenched in Civil War ghosts"

James Apollo's songs are Americana in the truest sense: drenched in Civil War ghosts, "Steinbeckian landscapes" and the kind of loneliness known only to someone who grew up in Libertyville, Arkansas. - The Times

"drenched in Civil War ghosts"

James Apollo's songs are Americana in the truest sense: drenched in Civil War ghosts, "Steinbeckian landscapes" and the kind of loneliness known only to someone who grew up in Libertyville, Arkansas. - The Times

"A wandering star with beat generation spirit"

James Apollo is a wandering star with beat generation spirit soaring through his veins. Each furrow above this brow is a lasting reminder, hinting towards something straight out of Kerouac's hedonistic masterpiece, On The Road. He left Libertyville, Arkansas, after education began to no longer educate, preferring to learn the lessons life had to teach. Since then the term 'home' has been ill-defined in the mind of this troubadour.

You only have to look at the front of 2010's UK debut, Til Your Feet Bleed, to see a man grappling with a sense of place, as he stands on a desolate rock in the distance, surveying sparse wilderness for answers. The album brought with it a spacious musical backdrop within which the protagonist portrayed on its cover reveals insecurities about the very essence of happiness itself, hitting the bottom after excesses, and then praying for rain once there. "It's only leaving that makes a home at all," is the motto of self-reassuring summation sung on stand-out track No East, No West.

Apollo originally headed West. When land and money began to run out he took a docked boat in San Francisco, simply to put a rusty roof over his head. "I was captain of a sinking ship," he recalls. During a decadent phase Whiskey and Scotch seemingly provided central heating. "I'd rather be born lucky than rich," admits Apollo. "Some things you're born with and some things you learn. If you're born with an ability to cope with this world, well then..."

Upcoming full length album, Born Lucky, is to articulate some of the memories while on these spontaneous journeys. The record compiles the best of a six year career as well as new material, as he once again hits the road, touring the UK in search of his next adventure. "Last time somebody lost the keys to the van on the second day of the tour. We had to break in, get the equipment out and take a train to a show in Manchester," he remembers. Once a new van was handed over? "Then [he] got 40 speeding tickets in the mail. I had to fake my own death or they would have come for me."

Be sure to catch him on tour (if he remembers the keys) and download this exclusive free EP, consisting of new tracks from upcoming album, Born Lucky. The artwork was created by James Apollo himself especially for Q readers to complete the release. - Q

"4/5 stars"

dark deloights with a ghoulish air of danger and charming fragility. 4/5 stars.
August 2010 - MOJO

"quietly epic"

there's something instrinsically beautiful in how [Til Your Feet Bleed} is woven together to such a doleful, quietly epic effect. 4 stars. - Uncut

"quietly epic"

there's something instrinsically beautiful in how [Til Your Feet Bleed} is woven together to such a doleful, quietly epic effect. 4 stars. - Uncut

"haunted, western-rich folk"

The album conjures up a set of haunted, western-rich folk with hints of Latin rhythms and Tom Waits-style cabaret. - The Onion

"Roots musician James Apollo explains his 'code of the hobo'"

FOR MOST MUSICIANS, LIFE ON the road mostly consists of monotonous motorway journeys, with only a Ginsters pasty and a lukewarm lager to look forward to at the end of it. James Apollo has had a considerably more eventful time of it, in more than a decade of adventures all around the United States and Europe.
One night in New Orleans, with no beds of their own, he and his floating coalition of wandering minstrels were chased by the police from their first choice of al fresco accommodation – a cemetery – and ended up sleeping in a hotel laundry bin. On another occasion, they spent the night under the stars sleeping round a sign, which no-one had bothered to read, warning "danger, keep off grass – rattlesnakes".

Apollo has been on the road almost perpetually since he left home his home in Libertyville, Arkansas, at the age of 16, making the occasional stop-off in cities such as San Francisco, where he lived on a boat and scraped together the money to make his first album. These days, he and his current band are ostensibly based in New York – "that's where our suitcases stay open the longest" – but he still adheres to what he terms "the code of the hobo". So, is that like the way of the samurai? "It's probably a little less honourable," he says. "But there's less disembowelment and more sharing of the bottle. If you've got a bottle and a song, you're gonna be a friend of mine."

Apollo applied this very philosophy to the making of current album, Hide Your Heart in a Hive. It took three attempts to produce its scuffed yet slinky Americana feel, dubbed "the Mississippi session, the Brooklyn session and the whisky session". Apollo describes the latter as "a junkyard orchestra of drunken fools playing their hearts out and banging their heads off – consequently those sessions became entirely useless. I have a lot of hungover friends who, to this day, are like, 'dammit, where am I on this record?' "

Apollo's musical beginnings were similarly primitive. "Like a lot of kids, you find a box and some pans and you start making noise and then you put on concerts for your friends and then you start charging too much at the door and after a while nobody comes anymore and you've got to start making songs for yourself. I would just transcribe the songs on the radio and add in a couple of 'oh yeahs' and 'hey babes' and then it would become my song. I always knew I was going to do this, so the question wasn't when but how – and the 'how?' is a continual question."

Apollo once asked Steve Earle the "how?" question. Earle, with sagacious economy, told him "just play". Apollo did. "If you wanna go to South America for three months, you better go right now, cos it's never gonna get any easier," he says. "At least this is what I tell people and hope that I can convince myself."

This live-for-the-moment philosophy was compounded after Apollo broke both his legs in a motorbike accident a few years ago. Even though it took months of rehabilitation, steel pins in his legs and the ongoing reliance on a cane before he was able to walk again, he maintains it's the best thing to have happened to him in the last decade.

"All you want to do is the simple things you could have done before, which means grand aspirations take second fiddle," he says. "It's more than just seeing how fragile life is – you see what you want and you see what you have and maybe the things you want are the things that you have. The reason I make music has entirely changed because of that. Now, I write songs, I go out and play shows, and I'm a much happier person, I'm a lot easier to get along with. You can make the most beautiful song in the world and then go out and play to 15 people. And that would bum me out before the accident. Now if I'm playing for 15 people, I'm happy they showed up."

Apollo remembers his last trip to Scotland with particular affection. Following their gig in Glasgow, the band were rudely awoken through the night when a brawl broke out in the corridor of their hostel. These veterans of rattlesnakes and roughing it were highly amused by the wild west punch-up, but used a bunkbed to barricade the door of their room, just in case. Sounds like an average night in Glasgow, really. "That's what everybody says! Oh man, who knows what's going to happen this time." - The Scotsman


superb in its lugubrious sadness - Maverick Magazine

"master of melancholy"

James Apollo is a master of melancholy, his smoky voice haunting each front-porch tale.
- Relix

"High plains drifter"

A high plains drifter on the dark side of tumbleweed roots rock
- El Paso Scene Weekly


Little War, Little Less. Marterry Music 2012
Til Your Feet Bleed. Orchard Music. 2010



"I'm not angry" screams a raging Elvis Costello on the 1977 classic My Aim is True. It is in fact the simplest way to put the sentiment behind "Angelorum" the third record from James Apollo. This is not the Apollo that MOJO heralded with "charming fragility" and Uncut called "instrinsicaly beautiful." This man does not want to make you sit down and cry. This man wants you on your feet. He wants you watching your back. He wants you moving.

"I got tired of pretty," says Apollo, "Pretty is a lonely man on a stool. Pretty is sad and stark. I wasn't sad. I was angry."

And not without reason. The initial sessions for the record "Angelorum" were lost in the fire that took Minneapolis's Underwood Studios, and the home of producer Mark Stockert. It was a harsh blow with even harsher timing. The band could not have been more excited about the material, or more devastated by its loss. But old friends and bandmates Noah Strom, Matt Palin and Ben Nordeen had been making music together since they were nine. and were hard to put down.

The troupe licked their wounds and moved west to Tucker Martine's Flora Recorders in Portland, Oregon (Decembersts, My Morning Jacket, Neko Case.) Apollo added a few members of his road band and hunkered down with producer Stockert, now homeless.

The mood necessitated escape.


"I surrounded the band with Martin Denny and Les Baxter records" recalls Apollo,"and a lot of that weird indian style Rolling Stones stuff," It was all so far out that i knew we'd get something interesting just by picking it apart.



And they did. "Angelorum" is an exotic rock and roll record. Vibraphones and flutes dance intermittently with Apollo's raspy cry on the big-beated track "White Lines." And what could easily be a soft bossanova rallies to anthemic levels on the single "Spinnin." Its a big, bold, new sound for the artist, but Apollo is not all shout and swagger. The record's title track, "Angelorum" was just a sign he saw painted on the side of a building in Mexico.


"I liked the sound of it. Later our piano player told me what it meant and i couldn't have been more elated."


Of course Apollo does not mention what it means, he just liked the sound of it.



Its a lot of strange sentiment, and it fits. "Angelorum" is indicative of Apollo's distinctive talent, and with it's catharsis of fiery anthems and cool, cool delivery, James Apollo is not angry, anymore.



Apollo will be touring with his band The James Apollo Five worldwide throughout 2014.


Band Members