"The blues as it resides within our (US) history and culture has deeply influenced how I appreciate music and everyone in my life. Blues music is and always was the root of rock and roll. From there, we have learned to push the boundaries in music, art and fashion. The rebellious nature of rock and roll was born in the US Deep South where blues music wasn’t well received in the communities and churches."
James Pace: Rock n' Blues In The Sky
James Pace Band is a guitar-driven rock n' roll act with shots of blues, funk, and soul that was born in the burgeoning Asbury Park music scene in the early 1990s where they were the Sunday-House-Band at the famed Stone Pony, having performed with blues legends such as Jeff Healey and many others on the circuit. Relocating to the Philadelphia area led to working with two-time Grammy-winning L.A. producer and engineer, Ted Greenberg, who played drums, engineered, funded and produced the James Pace Band debut EP, Kings of Groove. The James Pace Band has a sound that has been described as a "Hendrix-inspired groove from the 1970's Band of Gypsies era". The James Pace Band has toured or shared a stage with Jeff Healey, Los Lonely Boys, Chris Duarte, Savoy Brown, JD Simo, Philip Sayce, Anna Popovic, King's X, Toots & the Maytals.
JAMES PACE / PHOTO BY RON ADELBERG
Later this year the band drops a new LP, "The Sierra Madre Sessions" with the album's lead single "Touch the Sky" having been released this past May, featuring James Pace on guitar and vocals, Slash's Snakepit bassist Johnny Griparic, Walter Trout Band/Edgar Winter drummer Michael Leasure, and Peggy Blu (Bob Dylan) on backup vocals.
How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?
James: The blues as it resides within our (US) history and culture has deeply influenced how I appreciate music and everyone in my life. Blues music is and always was the root of rock and roll. From there, we have learned to push the boundaries in music, art and fashion. The rebellious nature of rock and roll was born in the US Deep South where blues music wasn’t well received in the communities and churches. It was this attitude and passion that gave rise to what grew into the British Invasion through that sound and true authenticity. This was profound for me because it’s literally US and World history, not just music. There is a lot to learn.
How do you describe your sound and songbook? What characterize your music philosophy? Where does your creative drive come from?
James: I always felt my sound was derived from a combination of areas. First and foremost my sound is very organic and utilizes tube amplifiers and traditional vintage fender guitars. The approach I have always taken is to focus on the roots and the organic values and properties within those tools. So, for me, I start with a basic palette of colors and add texture in the context to the music. When I write, I tend to try to keep it simple, familiar, and true to the tones and influences I’ve had since I started playing guitar. The songs come from years of listening to various styles and some form of free mindset where you have an openness to new ideas and old ideas converging. Under stress, I do not write well. When I’m happy and when I am open, the songs flood in. Right now, I have been fortunate enough to minimize the stress - So I have been able to write a lot of songs, recently. My creative drive tends to come from people I meet (lyrically) and from the sounds I get through my rig (musically). I invest an awful lot of time in tweaking the sound of my amps, my guitars and my pedals to the degree that it often takes more time to dial-in tonal perfection than it does to write the actual song itself. Inspired tones bring me instant songs. My songs over the years, have changed from a traditional blues feel to a rock ‘n’ roll feel into what I call today a soul feel. What I mean by that is that I am adding several back up vocalists from the soul genre to complement what I’m doing with my version of rock ‘n’ roll. I hope this is something that is new but pays respect to many of the years many people build out the soul, blues, rock ‘n’ roll genre. A perfect song for me would consist of mixing Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Pink Floyd, Aretha Franklin into one song.
Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you? (JAMES PACE / PHOTO BY RON ADELBERG)
James: There are two answers to your question regarding best experiences for me. One, from a business perspective, I have had several meetings with corporations that allowed me to think big. Building a band and building a start up company are no different. The product itself must be of the highest quality, while the marketing and brand must be equally strong. Two, from a creative perspective; the best meetings I’ve ever had are always extremely informal amongst other musicians. I spent a lot of time in Los Angeles with my friend and business partner Johnny Griparic and he has been very generous with introductions in to the Los Angeles music community. There are no shortage of stories there. The best advice anyone ever gave me? Pay close attention to the little voice in your head 80% of the time. 20% is your ego making bad choices and the majority (the 80%) is your soul making the right decision.
Are there any memories from Jeff Healey, Savoy Brown, Toots & the Maytals, and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
James: some of the best memories I’ve had in this business are the shows that were opening slots for nationally touring artists. I brand myself and pride myself on supporting up-and-coming artists that move through my region. Sometimes, I am giving the opportunity to open for nationally and even globally recognized artists. For example, I was provided the gift of opening for Jeff Healey in 1999 when Jeff was played the Jersey shore (New Jersey, USA). Having the opportunity to meet him talk to him and his band was earth shattering and inspiring. It was also a confirmation that we had the right sound and the right qualifications to play with the big guys. Recently, we have been honored to open for several legends at a local Theater where we played with Savoy Brown. This was surreal considering Kim opened for Zeppelin, Jeff Beck and so many of my heroes. My studio sessions have been primarily in Los Angeles over the last year. Recording our album has been a joy and also has brought many new relationships I owe to Michael Leasure who helped bring so many talented individuals to me. I’m very grateful for him and what he helped me achieve so far. The stories are probably not for print, but they are wildly life-changing and impactful. One example I can share is having reunited with an old friend from the Philadelphia region who lived in LA as an Emmy winning Engineer. This serendipitously all happened when I was in Los Angeles recording. Reconnecting with my contact/friend from 20 years ago 3000 miles away was something out of a storybook.
What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
James: I try to listen to some modern music, but I always find myself going back to records of the 60s and 70s. I wish I could tell you how hip I am on the greatest talent of today, but I see most new talent in the clubs I play. That’s not to say there isn’t great music out there, it is simply a matter of researching and finding new music and curating it to a list or playlist. The music industry has lost its grip on how to handle the new entry of artists - The bar for entry has come down. Similar to how the Internet has lowered the bar for start up companies to enter the markets, it has lowered the bar for entry for artists such as myself. This is a good thing and a bad thing because the curation process is limitless. Most people have less time today than they ever did and finding new music takes patience. It’s searching through stacks and stacks of hay hoping to find a needle. This is a tremendous opportunity for the music industry to improve, we shall see.
"My songs over the years, have changed from a traditional blues feel to a rock n’ roll feel into what I call today a soul feel. What I mean by that is that I am adding several back up vocalists from the soul genre to complement what I’m doing with my version of rock n’ roll. I hope this is something that is new but pays respect to many of the years many people build out the soul, blues, rock ‘n’ roll genre. A perfect song for me would consist of mixing Hendrix, James Brown, Pink Floyd, Aretha Franklin into one song."
Make an account of the case of the blues in Philadelphia, PA. Which is the most interesting period in local blues scene?
James: Philadelphia has had a history of blues going back to the Chitlin circuit 50 years ago or more. The circuit itself her music here has been under represented and deserves greater appreciation. Today, there is a Philly Blues Society run by Toni Washington that has a tremendous member community that shares well. Toni is the glue for the Philly Blues Society. Just like anything, you get out of it what you put into it and the community thrives on contribution and open mindedness. The venues have been very supportive of blues and blues oriented artists. Even venues such as 118 N. and Sellersville Theater are open and welcoming blues artists such as myself w/JD Simo, Philip Sayce and Chris Duarte etc. If you are reading this and you are a touring blues musician, reach out to me because the city itself has many opportunities for you to play in a great venue and be paid fairly.
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?
James: Music (and the music business) has been the greatest teacher that anyone could ask for. The lows are extremely low and the highs are extremely high - Learning to manage into the middle is absolutely critical for your sanity and your survival. In business, you can fall into an average job that is safe and secure for many years and live a very, very simple life. In the music business it’s very difficult to find that middle ground and you operate in the high and in the low environment more often than the middle. Having done both sides of the coin, I can say it’s easy to pick out ways to benefit and learn from both parts of this. The greatest lesson to learn is to never become too high or too low and to be happy being present in the moment you’re in appreciating it and learning from it, good or bad.
What is the impact of Blues n' Rock music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people? (JAMES PACE / PHOTO BY RON ADELBERG)
James: In my first question I talked about the history of blues music and how it impacted the socioeconomic portion of the south. If I were to expand upon today, I would say it is very global due to the vast opportunity that resides within the phone that sits in your hand. So many young guitar players are popping up all over the world learning from very talented players who are off the radar. So many players are learning from other online players that the class of traditional rockstars has gained prestige and most are brand building online. If you are talented, people respond. I hope people get to a level of listening to blues and/or rock music that simply makes them feel “better”. That’s not hard to find. We have all experienced that at some point, haven’t we? often, I find the interpretation of music is different across many people. Someone wants me to comment on my music sounded like Steve Miller band. I never listen to Steve Miller band in my life, nor have I ever heard this sound. Once I looked it up online, I was thoroughly confused (laugh). I’m aiming for Hendrix and getting Miller (laugh again). So, it goes to show you how different people interpret music both lyrically and sonically. And for that reason, all we can simply do is to use the power of music to make us feel “better”.
Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?
James: good question, I think about this often. My answer is fairly straightforward. I would like to go back in time to the deep south in 1950 and sit at a bar while Muddy Waters puts on one of his electric shows. I’d like to be at that show until the night ends and help Muddy carry his amp to the car and shake his hand. I might not need a whole day for that, but simply just a few hours, a few drinks and some good old fashion musician talk to close out the night.
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