With his warm, rich tenor and emotionally powerful songs, Brendan James announces himself as an artist-to-watch on his dazzling debut album The Day is Brave. Rooted in the classic singer/songwriter tradition, the album is 11 tracks of stunning songcraft: elegant, earthy, and displaying a total lack of artifice that is rare in the pop world these days.
The musical narrative that runs throughout The Day is Brave has been years in the making for James, who grew up in Derry, NH. Though James was always told he had a powerful voice, he didn't begin writing songs until his sophomore year at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. James taught himself to play piano and took a year off from school to spend time in L.A. writing songs. "I was so passionate about songwriting, I wanted to get involved in the music scene and start performing," he says. In 2002, he returned to Chapel Hill, graduated, and moved to New York City, where he toiled at Urban Outfitters by day and performed at open mics around Manhattan's East Village at night. To gain access to a piano to practice, James would sneak into hotel ballrooms around the city. "I'd dress to look like a guest at the Plaza Hotel, so I could walk in there unnoticed," he says. Hence, where the name of his 4 song EP - "The Ballroom Break-In."
Encouraged by his new mentor, James continued to write and perform and eventually enlisted producer Mikal Blue for his first full-length record. Blue, who would go on to score a platinum record with Colbie Caillat, wanted to help James capture the intimacy of his live performance. "I said to Mikal, 'I've done a lot of shows over the last few years and I want to give the audience as real and genuine a performance as possible when it comes to the vocals and piano playing.'"
The Day Is Brave is thankfully that honest musical manifesto that acknowledges James's growth as a person and a performer. Dominated by James's expressive piano playing, the songs are mainly autobiographical, like "Green," about a former girlfriend he met while working at Urban Outfitters, and "Manchester," about the town in New Hampshire where James spent most of his time after his parents divorced. James's youth is also the focus of "The Other Side," a playful tune James says he wrote about not fitting in as a kid and "that moment when you wake up on the other side of life and are like, 'Man, I don't have to deal with that anymore.'" Other standout tracks include "Early April Morning," a deeply felt love song, and "Hero's Song," a soldier's-eye view of the Iraq war that is also featured on Eddie Vedder's Body of War Soundtrack due out in stores March 18th. James's ballad "The Sun Will Rise" has also already received national attention since the music supervisor of the hit ABC show Private Practice used it in the season's final episode of 2007.
Watch for Brendan James on tour and the release of his debut album The Day Is Brave in Spring 2008.