Q&A with LA-based musician Jeau James, oozes coolness with his guitar prowess, smoky vocals, and rocker looks

"Typically, Soul music reflects experiences of love and good times, Blues ...the loss or pain in and of it, ..Rock, a mixed bag of chicks, life, and all things in between. After having my fair share of these, I decided to finish “Fated” and get my take on life into the ears of people."

Jeau James: Grit, Sex, Blues, and Soul

Los Angeles-based guitarist and singer-songwriter Jeau James oozes coolness with his guitar prowess, smoky vocals, and rocker looks. Some say he channels Lenny Kravitz and Jimi Hendrix, and that's fine by him, but let's throw some others in the mix, Storyville vocalist Malford Mulligan, Eric Gales, Gary Clark, Jr., Living Color, and Cream. His debut album titled “Fated” (2023) and released via his own label, LordVinyl Records with distribution by Forty Below Records. Recorded at Mad Dog Studios with two-time Grammy Award nominee producer and Forty Below Records owner Eric Corne and famed studio owner and executive producer Dusty Wakeman in the studio chairs, they bottled up a raw and juicy sound with James and legendary drummer Kenny Aronoff. James pulls triple-duty as the album's frontman, lead guitarist, and bass player, leading his collaborators through a batch of songs rooted in sharp songwriting and raw, rhythmic performances. Composed during a decade-long stretch that found him battling — and overcoming — a life-threatening heart condition, Fated delivers rallying cries and reflection in equal measure, with James writing songs about compassion, catharsis, and the confidence needed to blaze one's own trail.

(Jeau James / Photo by Mark Maryanovich)

Jeau can't recall when or where he and producer Eric Corne met, but their connection was instant, and the noted producer has always supported the young artist. “Jeau James is a quadruple threat. He is a wicked guitarist and funky bassist, an extremely soulful singer, a talented songwriter, and possesses the look of a stone-cold rock star. Life has presented some obstacles in his path, but Jeau has risen above them and is poised to build a promising career,” states Eric Corne. The two entered the studio with the goal of "let's record something raw and killer" and went from there by bringing in Kenny Aronoff on drums and Carl Byron on keys and Hammond B3 organ to help flesh out the songs. Jeau held down the bass and vocals as the music organically evolved into a monstrous vibe full of grit, sex, and soul from the seven originals to the Doors cover.

Interview by Michael Limnios              Special Thanks: Jill Kettles & Jeau James

How has the Blues, Soul and Rock music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Typically, Soul music reflects experiences of love and good times, Blues ...the loss or pain in and of it, ..Rock, a mixed bag of chicks, life, and all things in between. After having my fair share of these, I decided to finish “Fated” and get my take on life into the ears of people.

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

Since I was toddler, I have been drawn to sounds and noises of racing engines. Later, this transferred to the might and power of electric guitar. This, then, distilled down to the elemental components in power trios. My desire is to deliver the most jam from the least amount of instrumentation on stage. Bands like the White Stripes made this work with less than three on stage. At the other end of this consideration, larger groups like The Doors made killer music by knowing how to stay out of each other’s way so you can hear what they have to say, individually. As one of my fave bands, I chose to cover “Hello, I Love You”; obviously, I do it as a trio...

"If you want someone to listen to what you have to say, in a musical sense, be willing to be the one to sit and earnestly listen, first. When it comes time to say something, in return, offer your best response. If they’re not willing to listen take whatever you may have gained from it and give it to someone else. And never hesitate to remove yourself from a scene that adulterates the purity of what you do, or who you are. Your gift is too precious." (Jeau James / Photo by Mark Maryanovich)

What moment changed your music life the most? You’ve a new release with Eric Corne and Dusty Wakeman. How did that relationship come about?

I had a race car which I had to sell due to hard times. My first act, after, was buying a new guitar and Marshall amps. I made a promise to get at least as good on it as I was on bass. That, no doubt, was a major turn ... every time I lament selling that car, I remind myself how I was my own best friend, music and career-wise. There was a time that I wanted to record my band as a unit in an old school, large room studio. Someone recommended Mad Dog Studios in Burbank. Dusty was the sole owner ... after we met and vibed on what I wanted to do, he put Eric and I together. Eric was “the dude” at Mad Dog handling engineering, recording, and production. We, three, were tight like water in your swimming pool. It was this grooviness that allowed us to come back together, after my hiatus, to finish this album. Both Dusty and Eric have been my greatest allies in this.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Once ‘pon a time, I heard at the last-minute bassist Stanley Clarke and keyboardist George Duke were playing the Strand here in LA. I headed out straight from a day at the beach (and dressed like a beach bum) to the SRO show. Stanley invited cats onstage to juke (and a bit of head cutting) ... I was the last player they brought up. Stanley was so tall, haha ... we tore it up for at least 6 minutes on that classic Clarke/Duke funk groove. We got a standing ovation (they would’ve gotten it, with or without me). They invited me to the dressing room, post show .. I’m, just now, putting their advice to use.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

There’s way too much compartmentalization of genres. Woodstock would’ve been 3-4 smaller, shorter, festivals. Those individual acts had a chance to get at a much broader audience ... and everyone benefitted. There should be more cross-genre happenings (and radio formatting...).                            (Jeau James / Photo by Mark Maryanovich)

"Since I was toddler, I have been drawn to sounds and noises of racing engines. Later, this transferred to the might and power of electric guitar. This, then, distilled down to the elemental components in power trios. My desire is to deliver the most jam from the least amount of instrumentation on stage."

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

Oooh, that word: “implications...” ... we seem to have backed ourselves into a “beehive of implications”. We’re a community of many interests, concerns, and agendas … sometimes we enter the realm of micro-management of these. We could be meeting in a place of commonality, on ground leveled by groove ... so we may interact and realize our differences are not so great, sometimes. It would be so cool if we allowed music to connect us, all, like spaghetti and meatballs in a good Bolognese gravy.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

If you want someone to listen to what you have to say, in a musical sense, be willing to be the one to sit and earnestly listen, first. When it comes time to say something, in return, offer your best response. If they’re not willing to listen take whatever you may have gained from it and give it to someone else. And never hesitate to remove yourself from a scene that adulterates the purity of what you do, or who you are. Your gift is too precious.

What's the balance in music between technique and soul/emotions? Why is it important to we preserve and spread the blues?

By, and large, there exists no static balance. For me, a jam or song idea starts in the emotional realm ... how I intend (or end up) presenting it determines technique. On “River”, I kind of give the song its head, because the track is about physical love, primarily. We (Eric and I) dialed some of the “wild” in the track down a bit, in the recording. Some of that sort of thing comes through when I do the song live. In “Human Condition” technique is primary as we’re coming at you rather intimately, at the beginning, with the guitar and vocal having an organic and elemental feel. However, by the time we’re in the chorus, the emotion is coming on pretty strong paving the way for the “soul” and overarching purpose of the track to push through. In response to the second part of this question … the blues are kinda like butter and syrup on pancakes. No matter if U have a half- or full-stack of cakes (life) on your plate, you’re going to need some good semi-salty butter and sweet maple-y syrup to get em down. And, just like everybody having good and bad things happening in life, everybody digs pancakes; ... like, really, do you know anyone who doesn’t dig pancakes.? (Why am I talking about food, so much?).

Jeau James - Home

(Jeau James / Photo by Mark Maryanovich)

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