Singer/songwriter Cee Cee James talks about Jim Gaines, Janis Joplin, Blues, Demons, Angels & her Cherokee roots

"Happiness is an honest loving understanding smile from a stranger as we pass one another by in our lives."

Cee Cee James: Pure Blues Blood

Born as Christina James in the great fertile Northwest of Portland Oregon among the tall fir trees, full rivers and beautiful moist green landscape, Cee Cee's Mother was forced to move the family to California when Cee Cee was five years old.  At 12 years old she had put together her first band and performed at the local church with a blond wig and bright green eye shadow.  Throughout the coming years she was in and out of rock/blues, cover/original bands and formed her first original blues band, Stone Blue in San Diego in the mid-90's.  By the late 90's she had honed her song writing skills even more and began recording song demo's in San Diego and Los Angeles. In late 1999 her first CD, "Spiritually Wet," was released.

Low Down Where the Snakes Crawl Feeling the continual push from her fans for a new CD, Cee Cee had planned to immediately begin writing and recording when she got settled.  By April of 2005 she had put together a strong band of stellar Portland musicians who very quickly began to get into some of the best blues clubs Portland had to offer. Cee Cees production, arranging skills, and talents were honed and sharpened in the writing and recording of her highly touted late 1999 pop/funk release SPIRITUALLY WET. On May 8th, 2010, Cee Cee released "SERIOUSLY RAW - Cee Cee James - LIVE AT SUNBANKS". In February 2011 she came off her first wildly ground breaking tour into France, The Netherlands, Holland and Germany and will be back in May 2012 by POPULAR DEMAND! In February 2012 Cee Cee and her band will step into the studio with MULTI-GRAMMY AWARD WINNING PRODUCER JIM GAINES, to record her third CD of all originals entitled BLOOD RED BLUES which is slated to hit the streets in May 2012!
Expect NOTHING BUT RAW REAL HUMANITY out of this woman. Expect fearless humble bravado in her writing and her performances. Expect CEE CEE JAMES to be around for a LONG TIME

Interview by Michael Limnios              Photos by Reed Radcliffe

Cee Cee, when was your first desire to become involved in the blues & from whom have you have learned the most secrets about blues music?
In 2001 after living a very unhappy unsettled life for 20 some years, the blues called me to move away from the pop/funk music I was writing and singing, and sing the blues I was living.
I don't think I have 'learned' any secrets about blues music from anyone.. the key to blues music is to 'SING' who you are.  'BE' who you are.  "WRITE' the truth of your life, your soul, your heart and 'GIVE' all of that to the people.  That's what I feel to do and that's what my fans respond to the most!  :)

What was the first gig you ever went to & what were the first songs you learned?
The first gig I ever performed was in church at about 12 years old.  :)  And I can't remember the first songs I ever learned!! It was way too long ago!  I was singing since I was a child.

Which memory from Stone Blue makes you smile?
How hard I was working at it all!  Writing the songs, booking the gigs, rehearsing the musicians.. setting up the business part of my music company.. willing to do whatever it took to make the dream come true.  It makes me smile to know I had such a big fire in my heart to make it happen that has never died in me.

What does the BLUES mean to you & what does music offered you?
The blues means to me - honesty, ache, truth, and the poignant mystery and struggle we all must live each moment.  
And Music offers me a place to express that honesty, ache, truth, poignant mystery and struggle in my lyrics, voice and performance.

What do you learn about yourself from music? How has the blues music changed your life?
I have learned that music is the place where God has given me the gift of expression.  It is my place of ecstasy, power, glory, humbleness, it is my place to reach out and touch people with.. it is my place of communication with the humanity in myself and others.
Writing, singing, giving, and performing blues music - the music of my soul, has made me a true woman.  It has helped me find myself - who I am really am.

How do you describe your philosophy about the music and life?
Love all, serve all.

What experiences in your life make you a GOOD musician and people?
All of the bad things I got myself into growing up.. because I didn't know better, all taught me to be a better person.. to work to keep my life honest and clean.. no lieing, no stealing, no manipulation, no backstabbing, no dishonesty.  Life is too short for all of that.  We all will die someday and I want to die knowing that I became a good person with lots of love, kindness and understanding for everyone.

How/where do you get inspiration for your songs & what do you think is the main characteristic of you personality that made you a songwriter?
The inspiration for my songs comes from my life.  What I have lived, experienced.. what I have learned; and the main characteristic of my personality that made me a songwriter is my deep deep desire for justice in our world on a very personal level.  Maybe we all want world peace, yes?  But before we can work for world peace, we have to have peace in our hearts and souls.. so we have to share our stories of our lives.. share our journies, so we can all relate, learn from one another and not be afraid to know it's ok to be human and be imperfect.  Only when we share and feel free to know it's ok and we are doing the best we can to get this 'living stuff' right, will we grow into peace in our hearts.  We all have to learn from the hardships and lessons of our own personal lives.  So I want to share mine in every song I write.. hoping my songs will help and inspire others to grow, learn, become who they truly are inside and find peace.

How does your Cherokee root come out of the music and your songs?
In the rhythm of the tunes, the beat.  It also comes out in certain phrases when I write lyrics.  You will find words in many of my tunes having to do with the Earth and the healing aspect of nature.  

Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?
One of the best moments of my career was when I had a packed house of people at the Hard Rock Cafe in Memphis at the 2010 International Blues Competition.. with a standing ovation and cheering that would deafen the normal ear!!! :)  I was on cloud 11!  
The worst was later that same night when I found out I did not make the final round.  I was cut very very low in my heart.. down to the ground.  I suffered immensely.  It hurt my heart so bad.  I felt I had tried and worked for so many many years spending so much money to try and do it all right with many personal and financial sacrifices, and not to get the 'big' recognition for all that, (at the time), was just devastating.
But I must say that my tour into Europe the very next month - February 2010 - made up for every tear that I shed that night.    The fans in Europe are the most loving and appreciating people in the World.  

Would you like to tell something about making this new album? Are there any memories from studio with Jim Gaines, which you'd like to share with us?
Well at this moment in time, we are still recording BLOOD RED BLUES, and we are very excited.  Jim is helping shape the vision of each song into just what we want it to be.  Jim Gaines is a wonderful kind person who takes his craft and gift of production very seriously.  He will not work with anyone he does not feel can cut it as he says that his name is on the line and he won't put out anything that he feels is not good.. so we feel we already have his stamp of approval on this new cd and we are very grateful!!  

What is the "thing" you miss most from Christina Fasano? What kind of guys is Christina Fasano?
I do miss the funk.  I love funk music because it is so full of rhythm and groove.. I love it!!  That is what I miss most.  Christina was an extreme hard worker who believed in herself and just wanted to have the chance to go out and give everything she had to give in her entire soul and heart.  She worked so hard to achieve that goal but due to the time in the world then, it just didn't happen.. BUT now I get to continue on with that!   I have not lost any of the fire of my former self and in fact, I have more because Christina was a girl who didn't quite know who she was but now I do know who I am and that is a very good thing!!!

Which of historical blues personalities would you like to meet? Of all the BLUES people you've meeting, who do you admire the most?
Well rather than just meet them I would like to have performed with the following GREATS that I deeply admire and feel:  Luther Allison,  Stevie Ray Vaughan, Tina Turner, Mavis Staples, Bill Withers, James Brown and a few more I can't think of at the moment!!  

Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us.  Why do think that is? Give one wish for the BLUES
Because it continues to make us FEEL.  It's honest with ache, truth, happiness, love and pain.  Blues is a deeply human art form of music.  
One wish for the blues:  That is continues to touch and change peoples lives for the better.

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians thinking of pursuing a career in the craft?
If a life as a blues musician/writer/performer is calling you - don't ever stop.  Just keep putting one foot in front of the other - taking one step at a time to keep goin'.   You don't ever want to be on your dieing bed not having pursued your dream as hard as you could.  BECAUSE in your path of music will be all your life challenges, heart aches, heart breaks, joys, happiness, and struggle.  WE all come to earth with a 'path' to pursue.. you must follow and walk the path that calls you or you will die inside.  

From the musical point of view is there any difference and similarities between: bluesman & blueswoman?
This is way too big of a question for this interview!!! LOL  In general.. I feel there are many many differences and similarities between people period..not even taking into account the male, female aspects of bluesmen and blueswomen!!  AND that my friend is what makes each artist special, unique and NEEDED in our world of vast differences!  The beautiful puzzle is that we are all different and yet all the same...

What is your "secret" music DREAM? What turns you on? Happiness is......
To be touring heavily around the world to huge crowds and small intimate crowds with our music.. bringing joy and healing to the world.  
What turns me on the most is the healing power of human touch.. and the soft tender respectful love of my husband.  
Happiness is an honest loving understanding smile from a stranger as we pass one another by in our lives.  

Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?
Right now.  Because I'm on the edge of the cliff putting the last of all of the money I currently have into this next CD - BLOOD RED BLUES... trusting that the Universe is going to respond by providing what I need to keep going - giving our music, performances, love, and songs to the people who need them.

What are you thinking when you guys are on stage, how would you describe your contact to people when you are on stage?
When I am on stage, I am disappearing into each songs story.. searching and feeling for the right way to sing it to bring the message of the song to the people in front of me.  to touch them with the lyrics, the feel, the performance as big and as hard as I can.. to bring them the fire of life through my singing...
My contact with the people is different each time.. depending on the crowd.. when the crowd is responsive. friendly, open... they get the best of me interacting with them on a very personal level.. relaxed and easy.  When the crowd is distant only caring about the drink and the possibility of picking up someone to take home, I still give them the fire of my soul.. but sadly I don't get to relax into their souls and become one with them thorough the emotions of the music being performed.

When did you last laughing (and cry) and why?
I was laughing a few days at the Jim Gaines studio when we were all joking about something quite silly.  
And I was crying just this morning as my Mother is getting close to dieing and I don't want to loose her.  

How you would spend a day with Janis Joplin?
I think I would like to just take a walk with her on the beach arm in arm, on a warm breezy day in the sunshine,  far away from all the drugs, confusion and lonliness she carried.  

What would you say to your demons? What would you like to ask your angels?
To the demons I say.. Thank you for throwing me down and dragging me through the bullshit of my selfishness, lies, cheating, hatred, jealousy, insecurities and mistrust of God and teaching me through my sins.
To the Angels I say - thank you for protecting me while the demons were dragging me through the bullshit of myself .. thank you for sparing my life and allowing me to clean up my game to become a good decent loving person.  

Any final comments?
I hope everyone reading this will help out with a pledge for our new CD project - BLOOD RED BLUES.  We are working to raise money to continue to record and release this CD by May 8th!   You can find the project - Cee Cee James - Blood Red Blues on
Big Love!, Cee Cee James

Cee Cee James Website

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