We had the honor of chatting with Kelley James about his current tour, his interests, and what was next for the musician. Here’s what he had to say:
How did you get started in music?
Kelley James: I started playing guitar at 12 and writing songs at 14. I was in a band in high school… you know one of those “4 high school kids in a garage after school” type bands that thinks they’re just one show away from touring with U2. We were called Limestrike, and in my mind … well … we were only one show away from making enough money to buy tickets to a U2 concert. Anyway, I always played sports growing up, football and basketball in high school, so music to me was this little side passion. When I was 16 years old I saw a concert at The Fillmore in San Francisco, and I told myself that I would do whatever it took to be the guy standing on stage there … still working on that one. I went to college, got a major in business with an emphasis in The Music Industry, released an album in college that had a little success and decided that with the knowledge and connections I had made I could pursue a path as an independent artist when I graduated … I’m still rolling down that path, and it has been amazing.
For those people that haven’t heard your music, how would you describe it?
Kelley James: Well — I got into music through Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots etc … moved over into Sublime/GreenDay in the mid 90s and always listened to Rap music. When I started playing guitar I gravitated towards guitar players like Ben Harper, Dave Matthews which lead me to Jack Johnson, Mayer, Mraz. My goal is to be the hip hop influenced, rock version of those guys. We’ll see. [Grins]
Which one of your songs is the most personal or the most meaningful to you? Why?
Kelley James: “In Between” is a song I wrote pretty quickly and from a very true place. It encapsulated one specific moment in my life and every time I play it I get thrown back into that moment.
How does the songwriting process work for you?
Kelley James: It’s all over the place … I can write to anything, anywhere, anytime. I can write on guitar, piano, playing an instrument, listening to a beat … starting with lyrics or starting with the music. Whatever the situation may be, once I get the inspiration I HAVE to roll with the idea and finish the song then or it never comes out the way I want it to later down the road. I end up writing about the thought of an idea rather than the direct idea/emotion itself.
You’re doing the The Sorority Tour now, which is a pretty massive tour. What can fans look forward to with this tour?
Kelley James: I’m on The Sorority Tour right now, a tour I created and had sponsored by Oakley and Muscle Milk. It’s mainly private shows at Sororities though we tend to throw a fraternity party in there when we can to turn up the energy, and so Bren (my brother and tour manager) can have a few adult beverages.
You can expect a lot of spontaneity through freestyles and covers. I’ll play whatever I feel the crowds needs at that moment. People who have been to my shows know that I have no problem playing 4 covers back to back if that’s what is needed at that moment, nor do I have a problem playing six mellow acoustic songs in a row. Whatever is right at that specific moment is what gets played.
What are you looking forward to most with this tour?
Kelley James: I love meeting people on the road. I can’t tell you how many incredible experiences I’ve had playing the Greek scene. It’s a pretty guerrilla tour. We book it all on our own, set the entire show up, and are the only act that plays. This allows us to meet every single person there which is something that a lot of artists don’t get to do.
What has been your most interesting fan experience?
Kelley James: Oakley took us to Australia and New Zealand twice last year … that was crazy! Meeting people from an entirely different continent that were into the music. I’m a big fan of people who make signs and T-Shirts for the shows, that’s true dedication and it makes me feel like Robert Plant for six seconds.
You’ve played in the past with some pretty awesome artists, do have a favorite experience from other artists that you’ve played with?
Kelley James: I mean the only thing I can say about the people that I’ve played with is that every person has always been so incredibly nice … maybe I’m just lucky or maybe it’s the fact that when a few musicians are in a room you have this “we’re all in this together” mentality. The one thing I will say is I’ve done some stuff with TPain and Lil Jon and those guys couldn’t be cooler … and though they may not choose to show it through their music/brands, at the end of the day those dudes are smarter than most other musicians out there.. like genius smart.
What’s something that your fans don’t know about you?
Kelley James: They might not know that I’m a vegetarian (since May). A rookie vegetarian I should say. Not for any ethical reason just because it helps me maintain the energy that I need to be out on the road for 5 months at a time.
I’ll answer your/their next question — Well Kelley James, what about your protein … all I say is Muscle Milk b****! [Grins] just kidding mom I never say that… Bren does.
When you’re not working on music, what are your favorite things to do? Any must see television series?
Kelley James: TV = The Office/Summer Heights High/Entourage. Film = Slumdog Millionaire. Internet = HypeBeast.com and Kanye’s blog.
I love warm weather and the beach. If I could get in the ocean everyday and surf, kayak, swim or standup padelboard I’d be the happiest kid ever …
Days in a year = 365 …
Days I get to any of that stuff = 14 …
I’ve got a long way to go.
But truthfully if I could do one thing all day long it would be music. It’s absolutely absurd that I get to think about music all day and get paid for it… I’m waiting for the dream to end and then I’ll turn in that San Francisco 49ers Mascot Application I’ve been holding on to.
What’s next for you after this tour?
Kelley James: Another tour? [Grins] We’ll be on the road until May 30th. I’m headlining The Roxy in Los Angeles with your friend and mine Mr. John West — he’ll be opening the show and playing a solid set with a 3 piece band.
The real answer is that we’ll be back in LA this summer recording. I’m working on a new album right now. This one will be the big one … watch out.
Interview By Emma Loggins