James TW is no ordinary teenager. The British 19-year-old is a soulful singer-songwriter with a big voice and even bigger aspirations.
“I want people to hear my music and think ‘how did that guy describe the way I feel’,” James says, and he succeeds. Recently signed to iconic label Island Records as one of the youngest artists on their roster, James has managed to develop a wholly unique pop-blues sound and lyrics that capture real, relatable emotion.
James grew up in a small English village two hours outside of London. His father, who plays guitar in a wedding band as a hobby, came home one day to find James banging on the drum kit. Shortly thereafter, the band’s drummer wasn’t able to make it to a show. “It was either let the ten-year-old play or cancel the gig,” James remembers. “So they let me play and I just fell in love with performing.”
Since that day, James’ passion for music has grown exponentially. Naturally gifted, he picked up a guitar when he was 12 years old and, at age 13, taught himself to play piano. As James honed his skills as a multi-instrumentalist, he began to post cover songs on YouTube. His videos showcase an undeniable talent with immense technical aptitude and a voracious will to learn. “I would like to be received as a serious musician,” he says. “That’s really important to me.”
James’ discipline has certainly paid off, resulting in a distinct blues and jazz-infused singer-songwriter sound that recalls John Mayer and Jamie Cullum, two of James’ influences. He is equally capable of delivering ballads reminiscent of Ed Sheeran’s work, another artist who has had an impact on his music. James’ songs demonstrate critical elements of experienced songwriting and resonate with ease.
James has a maturity well beyond his years. He speaks with authority and a sense of worldliness that is rare for someone of his age. James’ old soul is evident in his music. He cites Marvin Gaye and B.B. King as influences and aims to emulate the vocal nuances and guitar riffs of classic blues. Despite his youth, James’ lyrics offer a distinct point of view, convincing any listener of an incomparable wisdom about love, heartbreak and the world around them. He’s also undeniably romantic as highlighted by the subject matter of many of his songs.
It is clear that James is experiencing life to the fullest, with athletic interests including playing basketball and rugby in addition to posting videos online and performing at gigs. He’s looking forward to putting together his debut album, though he’s been unknowingly working on it for many years. “It’s so exciting how fast everything has been happening,” he says. “I was just a kid trying to get noticed by playing songs on YouTube and now I get to make music my career.”
James is a teenager in a business made up mostly of adults, but exceptional talent and unrelenting drive promise him a long and successful career. He was named after his parents’ favorite musician, James Taylor, the folk-pop legend. With hard work and good luck, James hopes to be as accomplished someday as his namesake. His songs are widely appealing but hardly typical; they have weight and a sense of staying power that so rarely accompanies pop music today. For James, the path ahead is clear: “I want to connect with people by making music with meaningful lyrics and memorable melodies.”