Originally from Chicago but now based in LA, James Bowers is an up-and-coming artist you’ll want to keep your eye on. With such a unique tone to his voice, his recently released cover of “Creep” by the Stone Temple Pilots is hauntingly beautiful. I got the chance to talk with him about how he got started in music, what went into his decision to cover “Creep”, his upcoming EP and so much more! Keep reading to get to know James better
Tell me a little bit about how you first got into making and performing music.
I was the youngest of 4 boys growing up [and] I always wanted to be like my older brothers. One year for Christmas, two of them got guitars and I was supremely jealous. I asked for one the next year and got a black electric Ibanez. I would have my older brother JT teach me chords and grunge-era songs. My step-dad at the time was a really good guitarist and he had actually found an old acoustic guitar in the dumpster, cleaned it up, re-strung it, and gave it to me about a year later. When I started playing acoustic guitar, it really spoke to me. I had begun listening to Eric Clapton’s Unplugged album, Simon and Garfunkel, The Beatles, and Nick Drake, etc., [and] those artists really spoke to me in their musicianship but also in their lyrics and style. I had always written poetry, now I was applying that to music and it all came very naturally for me.
Was there a specific moment or person who made you realize music is what you wanted to pursue professionally?
It was more a string of moments. I had always been a performer, specifically acting, and I thought that was what I was going to do. All along the way, the people who listened to my music would say, “You should give music a shot,” and I often brushed it aside, as I always felt that I wasn’t writing music for anyone but myself. I suppose because it was something very personal to me it was a lot harder to accept letting it out into the world for anyone to hear, love or hate. In the end, my love of art took over and I decided that music was the way to go.
Talk a little bit about your latest single, a cover of “Creep” by Stone Temple Pilots. What went into your decision to cover that particular song?
When Jon [Sadoff], Paul [Broucek], and I were thinking about doing a cover, we wanted to make sure it was something that not only spoke to me but would fit the theme of The Eleanor Sessions [Bowers’ upcoming EP]. I had always been a fan of grunge music, from Pearl Jam to Smashing Pumpkins and, of course, Stone Temple Pilots. I always loved the haunting simplicity of it [and] it’s a song I grew up on. We began recording it prior to Scott Weiland passing so it was important to me that we got it right. I hope I did it justice.
Walk me through your process of coming up with your arrangement for this song. Did it take a long time to arrange or did it unfold pretty quickly?
Actually, this song took a good amount of time. We walked away from it and worked on a couple other songs while trying to figure it out. We were just in a rut until finally one day, Jon and I just clicked on the idea and wrote the entire arrangement quickly afterward.
What was the recording process like once you actually got into the studio? Was this song recorded in one single session or over the course of a couple different sessions?
Jon and I worked in his studio on the initial arrangement and the vocals. Once we had the arrangement mapped out and the vocal recorded, string players were brought into the studio to lay down their tracks. In the case of the string players, they all played together in one room to really create a cohesion with the music.
You’ve also got a music video for “Creep” coming out very soon! What was the filming process like? Was that your first time shooting a music video?
This is my 4th music video. Working with Federico [Torrado Tobón] and his crew was a fantastic experience. He has such focus and intent with every movement. I loved the entirety of the process. I think the video really encapsulates the song perfectly.
I know you are also currently working on some original music for an EP. What type/genre of music are you working on? When can fans expect to hear it?
The EP is nearing finalization; the songs are recorded, mixing and mastering can take a good amount of time when you have someone with an ear like Paul’s, but you know it’s going to sound perfect. The music itself is very much in a similar genre as “Creep”. In fact, The Eleanor Sessions, as a whole, is an EP that is inspired by The Beatles song, “Eleanor Rigby”. We used the instrumentation and overall feel of it to guide us on the path to recording each song. The EP will be out in early 2019, so look for it soon.
You got the chance to work on your EP with powerhouse producer Paul Broucek and arranger Jonathan Sadoff. What was that experience like? What did they bring to the project?
This is mine and Paul’s second project together. However, the entirety of the process was wholly different. Previously, I worked with Fredrik Eriksson (Grizfolk) who came from a Swedish Pop background, which by the way was awesome. This time I worked with fellow Chicagoan Jon Sadoff, whose work spans music, television, and film. Jon’s style of music, coupled with my songs, really worked well together. He and I have developed a good friendship as a result. Paul, as I said previously, brings this wealth of music knowledge, as well as an impeccable ear. He really makes sure that our project is done right, and I appreciate that about him.
You’re still relatively new to the music game. What are some music industry-related goals or benchmarks that you’re aiming to reach in the next couple of years?
Yeah, I’m a relative newcomer, which, to be honest, is not something I worry about. I write music because that’s a way I express myself. I don’t do it to appeal to anyone. There’s a freedom in that. If someone likes my music, I’m truly grateful; if not, so be it. I suppose as far as industry related goals, I’d like to work with some more great people. There are so many wonderful artists out there that I admire, and I’d be really grateful to have a chance to work alongside them.
Last question — we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner-nerd. What is something you nerd out about?
I nerd out about alcohol. (I promise I’m not an alcoholic!) I’m very much an avid collector of vintage spirits – scotch, bourbon, and amari mostly. I’ve spent many years working in the spirits industry as an ambassador so I have an appreciation of its history and its value. Bottles of Macallan just recently sold at auction for 1.1 million dollars. I figure it’s a good habit to get into, so long as you don’t drink it all.
For more information on James, you can visit his Facebook page.
Photo Credit: Nathalie Gordon