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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 23 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 34
Arts & Entertainment
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Transitioning to greatness
A conversation with Gay-friendly musician Brendan James

by Albert Rodriguez
SGN A&E Writer

BRENDAN JAMES
THE PIRANHA SHOP
August 24


Keep this name in mind: Brendan James. The young singer-songwriter has been steadily growing his fan base with a trio of albums dating back to 2008's debut The Day Is Brave. Based in Charleston, West Virginia, the pop-folk artist released his newest effort, Hope in Transition, a year ago and continues to support it with live performances around the country. James is scheduled to headline a four-act bill on August 24 here in Seattle at the Piranha Shop (1022 1st Ave. S.), an artist space in the SoDo district. The show is part of The Living Room series, which allows fans to enjoy live music in intimate, unconventional concert venues. Via phone, I reached the musician in New York earlier this week as he was preparing his transcontinental journey to the Northwest for his tour. Go to www.brendanjames.com for an artist bio, news, and online store. Here's what Brendan James had to say inside The Music Lounge.

Albert Rodriguez: Have you played in Seattle before?

Brendan James: Yeah, I've been coming through Seattle for years now. It's a bit of a far reach, so I haven't been through as many times as I have other cities.

Rodriguez: Do you have any Seattle memories?

James: I love coming to Seattle. We always go down to the market and we always get into the woods somehow. I love combining my trips to Seattle with hiking or nature stuff. I just love the Seattle fans - they seem to really love me.

Rodriguez: So when you come into Seattle this week, will you be looking for an opportunity to go out into the woods?

James: Actually, we're gonna try to do a little of that and we also want to get some tattoos. We've been asking people on Twitter and Facebook where the best tattoo parlors are. That's gonna be on our list this time in Seattle.

Rodriguez: For those who are not familiar with your style of music, can you describe what genre it best fits into?

James: I like to call myself pop-folk music. I still love writing a pop song - the lyrics are the most important thing. I don't like to compromise on my lyrics.

Rodriguez: You've toured with John Mayer, correct?

James: I've been on his 'Mayercraft' cruise with about eight other artists. It was a wild time!

Rodriguez: So, you actually played on a boat cruise with John Mayer.

James: Yeah, I'll never forget it. I was the first act to go on. So as the cruise was leaving, and there was like 2,500 people on the main deck in like 90 degrees pulling out of Long Beach, John got on stage and introduced me.

Rodriguez: I hope you were wearing cool clothes.

James: If you Google 'Mayercraft,' you'll see John in a sailor outfit that he opened the whole cruise with. That's what he came out and announced me in - in five-inch-long, tight sailor shorts. That's what he was wearing, so I couldn't compete with that.

Rodriguez: What do you make sure goes into your suitcase when going on the road?

James: I'll tell ya, less and less these days. You can get really wrapped up being in front of people every single night and you start to think, 'Well, I have to look different and I have to dress up every single night.' You tour enough years and you realize that you just gotta look yourself, be yourself, you don't need to bring a bunch of clothes. So my suitcase is getting a little smaller these days. I bring probably two pairs of jeans, three T-shirts, and a couple of button-down shirts. Oh, and a vest. I like to wear vests.

Rodriguez: No socks or underwear?

James: Oh, and those, too. Maybe four [pairs of] socks and four under[shorts], and every four or five days we just try to find a laundromat or someone's house to do our laundry in.

Rodriguez: You're touted as being a Gay-friendly artist and person. How so?

James: I like being a straight person not scared to speak out for the civil rights of my friends and people who don't have the same marriage rights as I do. I love talking about it, I talk about it every night when I play a song called 'Nothin' But Love,' from this last album.

Rodriguez: When were you in Seattle prior to this upcoming show?

James: Probably in September.

Rodriguez: OK, so Gay marriage is legal here now, and so is pot.

James: They are both awesome. The first being more awesome than the second.

Rodriguez: You can dabble in one or the other.

James: [laughs] All I'll say is that it's a no-brainer to me. Same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue, and I think the religious people and people in the Bible Belt of this country have it wrong. A marriage isn't just about procreating, it's about a bond and companionship and a commitment. I look forward to the day when we look back and see that 80% of the country had it wrong and it got turned around.

Rodriguez: When you're just kicking it at home, what do you like to listen to musically?

James: I don't listen to a lot of music because I often have a lot of my own crazy ideas going through my head, my own songs. But the last couple of years I've been getting into Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, and Neil Young. Those guys just mellow me out, they help me keep my lyric writing bar as high as possible.

Rodriguez: Well, you're coming into Macklemore country. He's big here in Seattle.

James: Oh, actually that's so funny. I'm not saying it because you said that, but honestly he ranks up there with those guys for me right now. I'm listening to him a lot. I don't think in any genre anyone has come out as prophetic or as profound as Macklemore did with The Heist. That's gotta be one of the best albums of the last 20 years.

Rodriguez: How many songs from the new album will you pluck out for the Seattle set?

James: I am loving playing this new album, and I'm so proud of the songs. I've been playing at least half the album at every show. I'm trying to mix up the songs. I like playing the new stuff and some of my old stuff, but we're really gravitating towards the new.

Rodriguez: Do you play any covers, or is it strictly your material?

James: I've been covering some Bob Dylan and some James Taylor. If the night is right, I've been throwing in a little Macklemore, too.

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