When most people think about music in big cities, they tend to think of Los Angeles, Nashville, or New York City. However, one shouldn’t forget one city in the Rocky Mountain region that actually has a lively music scene-- Denver, Colorado. Singer/songwriter Michael James is a Denver artist who has been making some noise locally. He recently released his new album “ To Raise an Army for Love” and the single “ Poetry and Mix Cassettes” is spinning on both 93.3FM KTCL and 99.5FM The Mountain. He is also set as a showcasing artist for the 37th Annual People's Fair.
After listening to the album, it’s apparent that Michael James’ powerful storytelling is one of his top characteristics. With his songwriting a cut above influences such as Damien Rice and Death Cab for Cutie, James’ intimate lyrics create relevant stories of love and loss.
We took the time to pick his brain about the music scene in Denver, his new album and more.
DS: What do you like about the Denver music scene?
MJ: The Denver scene is really cool right now because of the diversity of artists who are getting national exposure and success. Denver has always had a pretty diverse scene…there is a decent jazz scene here. Bluegrass is big in some circles as well. As for popular music, there has always been quite a bit of diversity, but until recently there wasn’t a whole lot of national attention. These days you have bands like the Flobots, The Fray, Rose Hill Drive, Tickle Me Pink and DeVotchka all coming out of the same scene and all having national success. None of those bands are remotely similar…it is definitely NOT Seattle all over again. Hopefully those bands can pave the way for other Denver bands and artists to go down the same path…there is a lot of killer music here just waiting to be discovered.
DS: How has your other project Fiance’s local buzz affected your solo project? Fiancé has been noted as one of Denver’s best up and coming bands.
MJ: I had been doing my solo thing for about a year and a half when I met up with the guys from Fiancé. I remember around that same time I did an interview for a local newspaper and they asked me something like, “What does your future look like and what do you have in the works?” I told them that I was really excited to start playing shows with this new band I was in called Fiancé. Fast forward a couple years to this past June. I played my ‘ To Raise an Army for Love’ EP release show here in Denver and the posters that the venue had printed to promote the show said, “ Michael James of Fiancé.” I guess things have come full circle. It used to be that people said, “ Michael James is in this new band called Fiancé.” Now people say, “Fiancé’s Michael James is playing a show in Denver tonight.”
DS: Well, speaking of your SOLO efforts, what’s on your radar these days? Any upcoming tours?
MJ: Right now, I am planning on doing some touring this fall and into next spring. I will probably play a few shows here in Denver as well…but my focus in the coming months is going to be on touring and playing shows at colleges around the country. I have been working for a couple years now to build my presence in the college market and I think I have begun to make some real progress in that area…so I am going to keep working it and see where it takes me.
DS: How has this album changed you musically? Have you grown?
MJ: For me, releasing an album or EP has always been the end of a very long process. There is so much in the way of writing, recording, and production that takes place before an album is ever released to the public, so to finally release it is a great feeling. But from a musical standpoint, it is a purging of sorts. In other words, while it is just the beginning for my fans, it is really the end of those songs for me. In my mind they are ‘all grown up’ so to speak and it is time for them to go off and live their lives in the world. I know that doesn’t make too much tangible sense…but on a very simple level, the release of an EP is the end of that project and also the beginning of the next one. From my point of view, I leave that one behind to some degree and move on to the next. If nothing else, I begin to prepare myself mentally for the next one.
As to how this EP has changed me musically, I hope that every CD I release shows growth. When the album is finally done and released, I can look back on it and evaluate what I thought was good and what I thought should be better. So along those lines, I already feel like the last EP has begun to shape my songwriting and my approach for the next EP.
DS: Do you have plans for an upcoming album anytime soon or will you be supporting this one for a while?
MJ: Yes. As I mentioned before, I have already begun to think about the next EP. Of course, I will be supporting ‘ To Raise an Army for Love’ for a while. I want to get some mileage out of it, and I am really proud of the way it turned out. With that said, the process of writing and recording new music never really stops and I am really excited to get started on my next project (whenever the time comes).
DS: What’s the best album you’ve ever heard?
MJ: That is nearly an impossible question to answer. I have heard so many brilliant albums over the years…and I am certainly in no position to judge what the “best” one is. I will give you a list of a few of my favorites. As far as older albums go, I have to say ‘ Sgt. Peppers’ by the Beatles is a masterpiece. I think that album could be released today and be a massive indie rock hit. The songwriting and recording itself are both incredible. Period. It is one of the best albums of all time in my opinion. One of my favorite live albums is Peter Gabriel’s ‘ Secret World Live.’ I constantly listen to that album in amazement and wonder, “how is this live?”…it is flawless. One of my favorite current albums is “ Neon Bible” by Arcade Fire. That album has such a mood to it and does such a brilliant job of being one complete collection of music. I think great albums always have that element to them.
DS: Who would you like to collaborate with if you could choose anyone dead or alive?
MJ: Again, it is tough to narrow the field down to just one person in the history of music. In fact, take my answer with a grain of salt because on any given day it could be totally different than it is today. If I had to choose one person, it would probably have to be John Lennon. The opportunity to get a glimpse into the mind of one of the best and most prolific songwriters in popular music’s history would beyond amazing. Hell, just to be in the same room as the man would be remarkable, let alone getting the chance to collaborate with him.
DS: What do you want to tell your fans?
MJ: If you have not picked up a copy of ‘ To Raise an Army for Love’ you should! You can get it on iTunes or CD Baby. My fans have been so supportive over the years and I owe them a great deal. Be sure to check out my website (www.MichaelJamesMusic.com) and my Myspace (www.myspace.com/michaeljamessolo) for all my tour dates….I’d love to see you at the shows!
DS: Fans, look for a string of concert dates in Denver this fall as well as possible live on-air radio performances. Michael James is only going upwards!