James Brown

James Brown

James says it’s difficult to pin down exactly what inspired him to pursue a career in music. He suspects it was a combination of many things – the right temperament, a music-loving dad, some kind and generous teachers and perhaps a bit of good fortune but the biggest driving force was music itself.

“I actively listened to a wide variety of music from a relatively young age and I think that was probably the primary motivation. I would hear Coltrane, Miles Davis, Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Led Zeppelin, Radiohead – I could list lots of bands but you get the idea – and was compelled to listen and try and chase what it was they were getting at musically."

"I didn't understand all of it but I must have intuitively grasped that it was meaningful and important and worth pursuing,” James said.

Studying at the Elder Conservatorium provided the opportunity for James to continue to work and evolve in his pursuit of creative music making. He also enjoyed hanging out with the other students either playing or talking about music and says the Uni Bar was always great for this. During this time lots of life-long friendships were forged, some of which have had a significant impact on his career. His colleagues at Wizard Tone, Adam Page (B Mus (Hons)) and Jarred Payne (B Mus (Perf) (Hons)) are both Elder Conservatorium graduates.

After completing his Masters, James says he needed a break and didn't play any art music for a while, choosing instead to take on some original band projects and some work playing covers over in the UK. He also continued to teach guitar and only gave this up recently.

Over the years he’s played in various jazz and “jazz-adjacent” projects, mostly fringe and experimental. Since 2015, his focus has shifted more to music production – specifically recording, mixing and producing at Wizard Tone Studios the co-op studio he runs with his friends Adam and Jarred.

This role enables James to pursue his passion for helping people make their art. As he says, “I work mostly with local independent artists, and facilitating their vision for their music is deeply satisfying. When a band and an engineer/producer are working on a song or album together there is a wonderful shared purpose that transcends individual ego.”

Adam Page, James Brown and Jarrad Payne

(L-R) Adam Page, James Brown and Jarrad Payne

Credit Photo/Man/Dan

So where to next for James Brown? “Who knows! I don't think I'm particularly good at predicting things. With any luck I'll still be recording local musicians and doing an increasingly more creative and artful job of it.”

Like many other artists, James has had a diverse career that has shifted and evolved over time, fuelled by ideas, collaborators and fortune.

Given all he knows now what advice would he give his 20-year-old self? “Be yourself, unashamedly. Get to know yourself, your place in the broader context, your aesthetic preferences. There are many possible paths through life –  find one that works for you but be prepared to change direction as and when you need to.”

To find out more about the projects James has been working on over the past few years, check out the discography on the Wizard Tone Studios website https://www.wizardtonestudios.com/discography.

Written by Belinda Macqueen

Tagged in alumni profiles, alumni in focus, Elder Conservatorium of Music