BY MICHELLE PEREZ-VEGA
It’s six o’clock in the evening and Eden James has only been awake for a little while. He hasn’t even had his tea yet, let alone breakfast.
“My sleep schedule is completely flipped,” the musician said. “I tend to work through the night because it’s just easier for me. My body just wants to do that.”
Hey, whatever is needed to get the creative juices flowing, right? And it’s working: James recently released his latest, All the Good Blank Are Taken to rave reviews, winning many awards, fans, and other various accolades in the process. But one has to ask right off the bat…what the blank is the “blank” all about?
“It’s anything the listener wants to make of it,” James mused. “It just means many things. For me, it really means that all the good concepts or ideas have been taken; everything that we think is original is actually referenced from something that we’ve learned or put in our brain. It’s not supposed to be so deep but it can be if you want to make it that deep!”
Title quandaries aside, All the Good Blank Are Taken, the rocker’s fourth via Dandy Ram Records, is an amalgam of music from James that is characteristically intimate in nature.
“It’s because I write music personally,” he said. “It’s just a means of expression. I write primarily for myself because I think it needs to be sort of a self-therapy session. It’s a way of just expressing what’s on your mind. Then you need to be brave enough to put it out there to the world. It makes you extremely vulnerable. It’s like, okay, now the world knows what I’m thinking and it’s supposed to be genuine and sincere. It’s not a work of fiction.”
Putting himself out there has paid off, and James couldn’t be happier.
“I accomplished what I wanted to personally, and that is making the best record that I knew how,” James stated. “I have been really pleased with my work, not cutting any corners, going through it with a fine-tooth comb and making sure it was close to my vision as I wanted professionally. I just wanted to wow people with it, just to let people enjoy it.”
And the praise keeps coming, not only from listeners but from the music industry as well. James has won numerous awards as a result of All the Good Blank Are Taken: Counting 25 total at press time, the most recent has come regarding his video, “Something Called Love,” that won “Best Director – Music Video” (along with co-director Sheheryar Kazi) at the International Short Film Awards in New York City.
“It’s always a great sign and a great validation personally as an artist to get that feedback from the industry,” Eden enthused. “It’s been really fantastic, that they like and love what you do. I think that it helps spread the word and helps people to get motivated and enthusiastic about the album and say, ‘Hey, I’ve heard this great new album! You should listen to it.’ Hopefully my name is getting out there to an audience that may not have heard about me before.”
FROM THE LAND DOWN UNDER TO THE BIG APPLE
James began his musical career in his native Australia. After signing with an independent label in his home country, James released his debut album, Never Setting Sun, to much acclaim. But after time went on, James said he knew he had to make some serious career decisions and eventually found himself moving to the United Kingdom.
“It’s very common for Australians to do time in the UK, especially London,” he noted. “You know, Australians consider England their mother country and there are still close ties. Because we are a commonwealth country, it was kind of a normal thing to do. If you are under 30 in Australia, you can easily do a working holiday visa to the UK, so I decided to do it. I was always a big fan of the British music scene,” James continued. “The music industry is just larger and there seemed to be more of a larger listening population music-wise.”
James released his second album, Electric Charge, and appeared on the Rockwave festival bill with The Killers, Placebo, and Moby, and was the second top billing on the Vibe stage for the largest musical festival in Greece. After releasing his third album, These Streets, James decided another move was in order, this time to the United States.
“Again, I thought, what’s bigger than the UK in terms of the music market? Obviously the US market is the biggest,” he said. “I always want to move away from anything that is just safe. I wanted more grit to my sound, so I knew I was going to move to New York, even though I had never been there before.”
New York has produced a wide variety of artists too numerous to mention, but these various musicians and their sounds all factored into that grit that James was seeking. And James definitely became a product of his new environment as evidenced with All the Good Blank Are Taken. James co-produced the album with Tim Leitner and recorded at Sticky Audio Labs in New York City. In addition to James, All the Good Blank Are Taken includes Paul Simon’s guitarist Larry Saltzman, David Bowie’s drummer Sterling Campbell and Bruce Springsteen’s keyboard/accordion player Charles Giordano. How’s that for an East Coast vibe? And yes, James has drawn comparisons ranging from Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen – even Lou Reed – but he is fine with that.
“It’s definitely a compliment,” James said. “Some who have reviewed my music have said that my sound can only come from living in New York. Well, I have been living in New York for the last 10 years. It’s like, how do we describe something without firstly giving someone a framework to go on? So, if I have to choose a framework, it’s an honor to be starting with the people at the top. After studying your heroes for so long, you understand what they do to make their magic, but I definitely make my music my own. So yes, people say I wear my inspirations on my sleeve, which is true, but again it’s my own sound.”
PERSPECTIVE IS EVERYTHING
Since the release of his first album in 2003, James can say he has definitely grown as a songwriter.
“I would hope so!” he laughed. “I think with Never Setting Sun, I was really just discovering what I was good at, what I liked. I was testing the waters and I was trying things out that I would not do again. But I think just as you mature as a songwriter, hopefully your writing and your perspective matures,” James continued. “And so does your signature sound – your signature writing style also matures and becomes more of your own because you just do you; you keep doing yourself; your own version of whatever it is you’re doing. And the more you do it, the more you become yourself as a signature sound or writer.”
What makes a song successful in James’ opinion? After all, he composed eight great ones on All the Good Blank Are Taken.
“First is personal success, which is my gauge for everything,” James stated. “It all comes down to, did I achieve what I set out to achieve? If so, then it’s successful. A successful song is when I’m completely happy with it. I want a memorable melody that people will want to remember and keep on hearing. And it has to be poetic, not have words thrown at it. Every word counts. It’s the feeling, the meter, the cadence, all of it that matters. Leonard Cohen was a master at it, so is Dylan.”
What does James believe is the reason the public has embraced him as a musician and All the Good Blank Are Taken?
“I believe my sound is great because it’s a little bit edgy,” James simply stated. “It’s got some attitude to it. Attitude and depth; sophistication and angry at the same time. And by doing that, you may create something more unique because you don’t expect those two qualities to exist on the same spectrum.”
James is well-spoken and articulate. He likes to write about comprehensive topics in a precise manner, making the conventional come across in a clever and unconventional manner. Take his song, “Stranger” for example.
“I like to consider myself a philosopher,” James shared. “I like to provoke people with thoughts that maybe they haven’t thought about, but maybe it’s time they did. Or maybe it’s just an interesting thought to think about. Maybe it will help them make sense of the world, which is really what philosophy is. Communication is just us as an animal, trying to make sense about our world. That’s what I really enjoy doing, making sense of the world,” he said, “like our own trajectory, our own life, our own connection with others.”
And, perspective is everything, according to James.
“When I was younger, I didn’t pay attention to, or wasn’t aware of, how other people’s perspectives can be and often are different to your own,” he revealed. “The truth is not finite; the truth is not one perspective.”
And that’s a hard thing to grapple with, as James can attest.
“I think when you’re younger, you want answers. When you think you’ve been given those answers, you believe you can go out into the world, knowing this truth that you can fall back on,” he opined. “And then you realize it’s not solid, it’s not real. Your perspective is only one of the reality of everyone’s reality. There are other perspectives and you need to be aware that it’s not just your world. You need to make accommodations for others who think differently than you. I know people struggle with that and why it’s not easy. It wasn’t easy for me, for sure!”
Aside from further philosophical ponderings, James continues to work on his music. Since All the Good Blank Are Taken has just been released, it’s a bit premature to say when his next album will be out.
“My days have been very productive,” James ended. “I keep composing my ideas into song and verse. It’s hard to say what will turn up on my next album, whenever that will be, but the wheels keep turning. Let the creative juices continue to flow!”