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BIO: Tyler James
Tyler James' debut full-length record It Took the Fire will be released March 2 on Son of Geert Records. For the 27-year-old Nashville songsmith, it's a coming of age album. "I'm part of a restless generation known more for its apathy than for its voice," he says. "My songs are about the struggle to find my own truth." With his heartfelt approach and raspy croon, James sounds like an old soul. Citing influences from Paul Simon to Rainer Maria Rilke, he has a reverence for past masters that does him good. With meticulously crafted arrangements disguised as simple pop tunes, It Took the Fire is one part classic 70s, another part Memphis soul.
Co-produced with acclaimed producer Neilson Hubbard (Glen Phillips, Garrison Starr), It Took the Fire was tracked in four days at Nashville's legendary House of David Studios. "Like a lot of studios on Music Row, you often feel like you're standing on hallowed ground," James says. "I used Elvis' piano on the record and the studio still has a trap door entrance from when he tracked there." Highlights on the record include the title track, which rings out like an old spiritual when he sings: "It took the fire to save my soul/ It took the fire to change me/ Glory shown in the ashes blowin' away." Other songs range from heartbreak on the slow jam "All I Got," to coping with the death of a friend on the Randy Newman-esque "A Sailor's Tune."
Born in the Pacific Northwest, but raised in small-town Iowa, James has often been an outsider. "It was pretty much a few street lights and baseball diamonds surrounded by cornfields," he says. "I'm a Midwest kid at heart, but when you're young you don't see the value in it. Luckily I found a Dylan tape in my sister's pick-up truck one day and it changed everything." Once out of high school, James moved to Nashville and quickly found a home in the music community. "The talent here is overwhelming," he laughs. "I had the green knocked out of me pretty quick." James honed his craft while earning a college degree and eventually debuted in 2005 with the aptly titled An EP. Produced by Jason Lehning (Alison Krause, Guster), the release was met with critical acclaim, with Paste Magazine saying, "His vulnerable lyrics, uncontrived vocals and memorable piano and guitar arrangements make for a sound as accessible as it is meaningful."
James' songs have found their way onto television shows like ABC's "Brothers and Sisters" and MTV's "The Hills." Additionally, his song "Call My Name" (a collaborative effort with DJ Morgan Page) reached number 5 on Billboard's worldwide dance charts last year. James has spent the last four years traveling the country in his old VW, playing with the likes of Ben Lee, Mat Kearney, Diane Birch, Bobby Bare Jr., Denison Witmer and The Autumn Defense. "I can't tell you how many strange couches I slept on," says James. "I don't do much planning ahead in the hope of finding the back alleys." That approach would sometimes backfire on him. "I'd end up freezing my butt off in the back seat at some dark truck stop in the middle of nowhere," he says. More recently James was one of the founding members of Ten Out of Tennessee, an acclaimed Nashville artist collective whose tours aim to prove there's more to Music City than rhinestones and cowboy boots.
With the release of It Took the Fire, James seeks beauty in the mystic and purpose in the disillusion that has defined his generation. "I wanted my record to reflect the community we have in Nashville," he says. "I still have hope that there are people out there who get together with friends, open up a bottle of wine and listen to records."
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