Focus on Stuart James Band
Who’s this, scaring anyone who dares to cross the bridge?
This is Stuart James, the singer, writer and guitarist in the Stuart James Band, and his brother and bassist Simon.
Just another couple of wannabes from Horsham?
You won’t see these two on The X Factor (we’re not sure if the brothers' straight talking would suit Mr Cowell!). Stuart, in particular, finds the whole fame-chasing process ridiculous. Instead, they are going about things the way it used to be, writing records, playing live and hoping there are enough people who like it to make a bit of money out of it.
So what kind of music do they play?
Stuart is renowned as one of the very best guitarists around, and he adapts his style to suit the songs he writes. Stuart said: “I’ve always been known as a blues player, but I’m a rocker really.”
Rock guitar eh? Maybe Stuart and I can jam a bit - I can sort of play the start of Wild Thing you know...
You might be shown up a bit. Stuart started playing when he was 12 but within a year he shocked his dad by playing excerpts from the Deep Purple album ‘Made in Japan - Live’ note for note. By the time he was 14 he was playing in his dad’s rock band. The singing came later, during his days playing live when living in London.
Is Stuart’s own material of that ilk?
Primarily Old School rock, yes. Stuart and Simon were raised on their dad’s Deep Purple, Nazareth, Rory Gallagher and Led Zeppelin records, but Stuart also writes funk songs and the occasional ballad too.
Not a one trick pony then?
Far from it. As Stuart says: “A lot of the stuff I’ve done and will continue to do, whether it makes any money or not - is so diverse.” There’s a broad spectrum - there’s acoustic, funk, hard rock and there’s even a five minute ballad on there which Stuart says is a bit ‘lovey dovey’ for him.
Maybe it’s a bit too diverse’?
Stuart reckons that a more secular sound could be more beneficial to commercial success. One might be tempted to assume his experiences of the music industry haven’t been too inspiring when Stuart says things like: “We aspire to be successful but it’s an industry full of nonsense and the higher up the food chain you go, the more idiotic they become.”
Yeah, and don’t get him started on Coldplay!
Has the Stuart James Band has been around a while then?
They are on the verge of releasing their third record - Changing Lanes - which heralds a new sound for the band. They started with Introducing in 2006, and followed that up with Porno Kitsch and Morals, which you can download for free off the band’s website.
Could it be the breakthrough?
At AAH, we’ve only heard three of the tracks, and what comes across more than anything is firstly Stuart’s skills as a guitarist, and secondly, the polished studio production. When you hear Simon and Stuart talking about the recording process, you can understand why. “I’ll get a song down in the studio at my house, and it’ll get to a
certain point” Stuart said. “Then I’ll call Junior (a name for Simon) and he always brings something to the table.” Simon added: “We’re pretty in tune with what each other is doing. But you can get studio ear. If you spend six hours doing something, you can go back into the studio the next day and want to scratch it all! It’s never perfect.”
Do Stuart and Simon have big expectations?
They’re not expecting the phone to be ringing through the night with offers from record companies. They admit themselves that they may have the “right sound at the wrong time”.
The charts are hardly flooded with blues rock guitarists at the moment!
What are they hoping for then?
Stuart says that one song on Changing Lanes called Take This Love has “the most commercial legs of anything I’ve done”. He added: “What I would like is to have a decent distribution deal and slogging my guts out touring. That would be perfect.”
What does the band see as their strengths?
Stuart said: “I think our strength is the live performance, the full package of the band: guitar playing, singing, song-writing and the showmanship.”
Can I see them live soon then?
The band helped organise and played at the Horsham Festival of Sound’ on 4th September. Stuart says there is a lot of talent in the Horsham area, but a lack of decent venues. He said: “I would dearly love to open a live music venue in Horsham, but it’s just finding somewhere where no-one is going to complain about noise.”
But I’ve missed that, so how about a local pub gig?
You’ll be lucky. Stuart said: “We’ve made an effort to stop playing pubs. You can’t be seen here in Horsham for free one week when the next we’re asking our followers to pay £15 to see us. For example, (in August we opened for) Hamilton Loomis (a young blues singer and guitarist from Texas). Yes, you’re going to see a great band after us, but if we then play The Boars Head for free, they’re never going to come and see us elsewhere.”
So I have to pay to see this lot eh?
That’s the way they like it, because they feel they then demand attention. Stuart said: “If you’re paying even a nominal fee you feel like you’ve invested in what you’re doing for the evening, so you pay attention. It makes all the difference.” There might not be too many local gigs as Stuart and Simon are now back on the festival circuit, play with bigger acts and improving their own live show.
Why do they want to play with bigger bands?
Stuart said: “I’m quite a task-master really. I want it to be right, I want it to be perfect, and it’s pretty far from perfect at the moment. People would say if they lined us up against X, Y and Z band, ‘that’s pretty spot on’ but I’d be going home and writing up why it wasn’t. They want to see high quality original material with perfect execution really and that’s what we’re striving for. Some other acts are so tight and in control it spurs you on to do better with your song writing and playing.”
Stuart comes across as being a bit of a perfectionist.
He is guilty of getting wholly engrossed in the music, he admits. “If you don’t immerse yourself in it you get something out in the end where you think ‘that could’ve been a lot better’. I’d say the last album was about 60-70% there. With this record, Changing Lanes, I don’t want that to happen.”
Sound like a man who’s never going to be satisfied!
Simon smirks knowingly when Stuart says: “It’s very difficult being a musician who does take it very seriously. It takes over your entire life.”
Let’s hope Stuart finally gets a break then...
He has certainly put a shift in so deserves something, for the effort and his obvious talent with the guitar.
So should I check it out?
If you like the music of Stuart and Simon’s influences - particularly Deep Purple - check it out. Stuart may talk about the wide range of funk, ballads and blues rock, but we’re talking about 80% Zeppelin, 19.5% George Clinton and 0.5% Michael Bolton.
Where can I hear more?
You can find out all you need to know at stuartjamesband.com or visit the Facebook page www.facebook.com/pages/Stuart-James-Band/196954853215 to listen to the new songs.