What’s Good in the Music Scene? #28 – KJ (Kelley James)

KJ, thanks taking some time to speak with us about your career as a musican.

Q1: When did you first start playing music?

Started playing guitar at 12.  First band at 15.  First solo album at 19.  First tour at 23.


Q2: At what point did you decide it was a path you wanted to take for a career?

I knew I wanted to be a touring musician at 16.  I was at a show at the Fillmore in San Francisco watching my favorite band at the time Stroke9.  I was always one of the younger kids in the crowd who got there early to be front row…elbows on the stage kind of thing.  I was looking up at the lead singer thinking, “Damn I just want to do that.  I wonder what I have to do to be that guy.”


Q3: How would you describe your music?

My music is definitely a little bit of a mashup of stuff that I listened to growing up. Definitely rooted in “acoustic singer songwriter” but there’s elements of hip hop, reggae, and rock in there for sure.  I just like to write songs that I’d like to listen to. Worst comes to worst and everyone hates the music, at least I get to jam out to some songs while I’m driving around LA.


Q4: What bands influence your style?

The first music that I “discovered” on my own was grunge…Nirvana, STP, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, etc.  Early 90s singer-songwriters (Dave Matthews, Ben Harper) were the first ones who got me interested in the idea of playing guitar, singing, writing, touring, etc. (self-contained model)…that led me into (Mayer, Jack, Mraz etc).  But I grew up in California so hip hop was always on the radio and continuously influencing all aspects of culture in daily life.  And when Sublime hit…damn…I don’t think there was a single person, regardless of their preferred genre, that didn’t connect with that music.

Q5: Last summer, you toured with O.A.R. and SOJA.  What did you enjoy about being on that tour and what did you take away from touring with them?

Last summer was awesome, it was such an honor to go out on the road with O.A.R., a band that I had listened to since I was 14.  We got to play incredible venues across the nation (my two favorite being Red Rocks and House of Blues Chicago) and share in some pretty unique experiences.  I truly learned a lot being on the road with those guys.  SOJA is a group that really has a set vision on where their brand and their music is headed, it was really inspiring to see that.  O.A.R. has built a business that is about as pure as it comes.  They’ve been dealt their share of curveballs, but when all is said and done, the continue to put out great music, tour on a large scale, and service a fanbase that loves every move they make.  The lessons that come off of being around that for two months in a row are really unquantifiable and I can only hope to retain half of what I learned out there.


Q6: Are there plans for another album soon?

Working on some ideas for the next release.  I really want to get some high quality stuff out there.  My live show is pretty unique and thus far hasn’t been captured on record. I’d like to explore that and a few other ideas I have.  The next little project (possibly a mixtape) I’m working on will be acoustic songs over straight hip hop beats–but the beats won’t be programmed, they’ll be solely crafted out of live percussion (not really even live drums).  I have a friend who’s studied percussive instruments all over the world and is heavily rooted in Brazilian grooves and sounds.  I’m having him help me tackle this idea. TBD of course…just like everything else <grin>.


Q7: You’ve toured across the United States as well as numerous tours in Australia. Where do you enjoy playing the most?

As cheesy as it may sound, I just like to play…anywhere.  Which is funny because it sounds so innocent but it’s actually a detriment to most musicians and their ability to grow their “music business”…when it comes down to it we just want to play.  Doesn’t matter if it’s ten people or ten thousand, if it’s Madison Square Garden or Madison’s Square Garden.  With that said, there are amazing venues and cities to play in across the nation.  You can start with the classic LA clubs…if you can sell out a room there, you have a shot.  The midwest probably has the bet music fans…Chicago is always amazing. New York is New York.  I’ve played a lot of colleges…love University of Arizona, Indiana University, Mizzou, Miami of Ohio, and Boulder.  Red Rocks will always hold a special place for me and I’ll never forget a show I did with Mike Posner at University of Northern Iowa.


Q8: You’ve had the opportunity to play shows with a number of very large  bands including Slightly Stoopid, State Radio, O.A.R., SOJA, and many others.  What have you enjoyed most about sharing the stage with these bands?

All of the bands I’ve played with have been great hosts, which might seem odd, but I wouldn’t even be allowed on the show unless they approved it in the first place.  So I guess the real answer is “screw you” to all the bands that wouldn’t let me play with them…I kid, I kid…kind of.  Ultimately, when you’re opening for another artist/band, they’re letting you on their stage to play for a crowd that’s comprised of mostly their fans…it’s an honor regardless of the venue, crowd size, or situation.  I think musicians just have a mutual respect for other musicians no matter what stage of the game you’re in…everyone understands what it’s like to be in a certain spot on the journey down the road of music.

Q9: What do you enjoy most about creating music?

Besides the mental outlet and personal connection with others, I like the puzzle aspect of it.  How dod you take a feeling or a story and convey it in the most powerful way possible?  That’s an awesome challenge.  The “something out of nothing” element while solving a puzzle is addicting.


Q10: Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?

I wouldn’t have looked back 🙂



KJ, thanks again for speaking with us today.  We’re excited to see what the future holds for you!


~ by creativesolutionsmusic on September 1, 2012.

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