Review Fix chats with singer/songwriter James VIII, who lets us know all about his sound, life in Brooklyn and creative process behind his single, â€œSet It Freeâ€ and more.
With such a wide range of influences, James VIIIâ€™s sound is not easily categorized into any one genre, but he defines it simply as soul music. In his own words, James VIII defines soul music as â€œmusic made with conviction and passion. You can hear someoneâ€™s heart when they wear it on their sleeve and thatâ€™s what I pursue every time I step on stage. I close my eyes, let my face look as ridiculous as it feels inclined to look, and lose myself in expression. Iâ€™m not trying to sound like anything or anyone in particular really, Iâ€™m just trying to get a feeling across in a way that will resonate.â€
Review Fix: How did you get involved in music?
James VIII: I started playing guitar when I was 10 years old. I would steal my sisterâ€™s guitar and teach myself Beatles songs and old blues songs. I started writing music, and by the time I turned 15Â I sort of knew that music was what I wanted to do with my life. Since then itâ€™s just been playing, writing and learning as much as I can, wherever I can and from whoever I can.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
James VIII: It changes all the time, but itâ€™s pretty free form. Iâ€™ll usually sit with my guitar and play sort of aimlessly until something I play catches my ear, and Iâ€™ll just keep chipping away until it turns into an idea. I also use the voice memo app on my phone a lot when Iâ€™m out and about and have a melody pop into my head, so sometimes Iâ€™ll go through those sitting with a guitar or a piano and write something around them. I try to change up my process as often as I can so my songs wonâ€™t feel static.
Review Fix: Why are Brooklyn musicians “different”?
James VIII: Well I am a recent Brooklyn transplant, Iâ€™m originally from the Bay Area, but whatâ€™s stood out to me the most so far about New York artists is that there is a big community of people who care first and foremost about the music. There are a lot of the â€œactor, singer, modelâ€ type of artists in the world, and not to turn my nose up at them because they are responsible for a lot of great music and art, but itâ€™s nice to be in a community where it feels like what matters most is whether or not you can play. Thereâ€™s also very little forgiveness for mediocrity in a place like New York, so seeing so many people at the top of their game out here inspires me to keep practicing and learning and doing everything I can to make my mark and show that Iâ€™ve got something to say.
Review Fix: What’s your preferred pizza spot?
James VIII: Tonyâ€™s Pizza Spot in Clinton Hill. Itâ€™s a tiny hole in the wall, 1-man operation, cash only place thatâ€™s been there forever and itâ€™s amazing.
Review Fix: Roll-n-Roaster orÂ Brennan and Carr?
James VIII: Roll-n-Roaster 100%.
Review Fix: Preferred late-night neighborhood?
James VIII: Lower east side, lots of great music in that neighborhood.
Review Fix: What inspires you?
James VIII: Life. I donâ€™t understand it and trying to figure it out fuels the creative fire. So far thatâ€™s been a lot of love, and I imagine that will stay the same. Trying to understandÂ why I feel what I feel, and that other people have felt the same, has always inspired me to express myself.
â€¨Review Fix: What makes “Set You Free” a special track?
James VIII: â€œSet You Freeâ€ is special because itâ€™s talking about what I love about music. Itâ€™s a great equalizer. We all fall somewhere unique on the spectrum of human experience, weâ€™ve all got our own stresses to deal with, but our trials and our differences melt away when we hear a song that really speaks to us.
â€¨Review Fix: How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you?
James VIII: I always have a hard time answering this question, not just because itâ€™s a hard question but because my sound tends to change with every song. But I usually say itâ€™s sort of jazzy-soulful-pop.
Review Fix: How are your live shows different from your studio work?
James VIII: I always encourage the guys in the band to play what they feel best fits the song, not necessarily whatâ€™s in the recording. So live songs tend to be unique. Itâ€™s the beautiful thing I love about live music, itâ€™s a special moment and an event every time. You may beÂ playing the same songs night after nightÂ but the way itâ€™s said every night might be a little different, so every show is special.
â€¨Review Fix: What are your goals for 2018?
James VIII: Avoid homelessness via music. Really though, gig as much as I can, and find more musicians to play with who inspire me.
Review Fix: What’s next?
James VIII: Iâ€™ve got a couple things cooking, working with some really great musicians/overall humans so thereâ€™s something coming, Iâ€™m just not sure what it is yet.