Steven James & the Jaded certainly have a unique sound. Their combination of alternative rock and coastal country, sound unlike anything else currently in the Texas scene. James’ rock background, and edgy vocals, mixed with his southern-style songwriting, and care-free musical ambience provide a sound that is smooth, energetic, and fun!
The Houston native, and now Corpus Christi resident, is looking to follow-up his successful debut album, “Baby L.A”, with another one and ride the momentum the band has garnered over the last year. “On the Run” drops tomorrow, and is composed of 7 tracks, including current single, “Texas Girls”! We had the chance to chat with the Texas rocker about his new album, background, and prank war with Rich O’Toole. Here’s what he had to say:
Texas Music Pickers: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Steven James: I grew up in Houston and played around clubs there in high school before moving to Austin for college. In Austin, I’d like to think I really got my degree in live music because I played with a bunch of bands over nearly 10 years there and learned a lot from some of the scene’s greatest musicians and club owners. Later, I took a few jobs as a newspaper reporter around the state before settling in Corpus Christi after meeting my wife. Once there, I decided to go solo as a musician and was welcomed with open arms in South Texas and the Texas Country scene. My wife and I also just welcomed a son this summer which is hands down the best thing I’ve ever accomplished.
TMP: Who would you describe as musical influences?
SJ: I grew up in a musical family. My Dad and all my uncles were in bands when I was growing up, and my Mom sang in the choir, so it was second nature to pick up an instrument at the holidays and join in with the family. I got my first guitar at 12 and didn’t really leave my room after that.
My earliest influences were from my parents who played a lot of Rolling Stones, Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel and Elton John. I was a teen in the 1990s, so of course we all listened to Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, etc., but as I got older I started gravitating toward more of a “classic country sound,” like Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, or Buddy Holly. That led me to newer artists like Ryan Adams, Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell. I also have a large vinyl collection at home and about half of that is Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Dean Martin. I’ve always loved the old crooners.
TMP: Your sound is definitely unique, how would you describe it?
SJ: I think it’s a mix of everything I’ve come through in the past 20 years playing in bands and in nightclubs around Texas. I’ve played in a lot of rock bands and blues bands, but I’ve also done a lot of time on my own as an acoustic singer-songwriter. So I think my new sound is pretty representative of all of those experiences. Our band, The Jaded, are all handpicked by me. These are guys who have been in a bunch of bands already and know how to get to work.
As for the sound, I think a good song is a good song whether you can play it with a huge band and distorted guitars, or with an acoustic guitar and a harmonica. That’s what I set out to do with my first record “Baby L.A.” I told my Producer, Lars Goransson of Sound Outrageous Studios in Austin, that I wanted the songs to reach people regardless of how we played them. So he helped us strip down the songs and really get to the heart of them.
TMP: What was it like seeing your debut single; “Weak in the Knees” reach the Top 40?
SJ: That was a trip! I remember when it broke the Texas Top 100, I was like “That’s it! We made it!” I didn’t really care how high it climbed after that because in my mind we had already won. But it kept going up and up. It spent 17 weeks on the charts! We couldn’t have done that without our amazing fans, and of course the support from Dave Smith and his team at the TRRR who has been on our side from day one; and was instrumental in getting us airplay around the state.
TMP: Tell us about the new album, “On the Run”.
SJ: This album, and its title, really embodies the past year of our lives. When people would ask me what I’d been up to, I would say I’d been “On the Run.” It’s the term I’ve always used for being out on the road, on tour, sleeping in cheap motels and eating gas station food. It’s just part of the business, and something you have to do, especially when you are starting out. So these songs really came together during that period when we were out on the road, promoting our first album, on tour with Rich O’ Toole, opening for Josh Abbott or Bri Bagwell. This album will forever be a snapshot of that period in our lives.
TMP: If you had to pick just one song from the album, which song are you the most proud of?
SJ: I think “Wildflower Lane” is probably one of the best and most mature songs I’ve ever written. I’m really proud of it. It’s kind of a turning point for myself as a songwriter, when I realized I was writing about real adult themes and not just getting drunk down at the bar with the boys. For me, that song encapsulates the feeling, more than any other song on this album, about having to go out and be away from the things you love in order to make a better life for those same people. It’s about being away from home and missing the things you love. The chorus says “Take me back, take me back, from where I came.” That’s me laying in a hotel room at 3 a.m. after partying all night after a show in some small town and wishing I was at home drinking wine on my couch with my wife instead.
TMP: One of our favorite songs from the record is “Dance with me Tonight”. Can you provide us with some background on it?
SJ: Thank you! I think that song is really a hint of where our future is headed. That is the last song to be written for the album. It was written last minute and recorded at the very end. And it’s definitely a two-stepper. I wanted something upbeat, and I knew I wanted some fiddle on it, so we got our buddy Owen Fitzsimmons from the Jake Ward Band to lay down fiddle. It’s about having a hard week at work in a small town and going out on a Friday and looking for that girl that across the room who is going to transport you somewhere else once you get out on the dance floor.
TMP: Did you approach this album differently than the last? What do you think the biggest difference is between this album and Baby L.A.?
SJ: This album I recorded in the garage of my good buddy Brian Christopher from Brian Christopher and the Wild Oats. We started last summer after he built a fantastic home studio and we took our time. That allowed me to think about things for nearly a year; add stuff here, take away stuff there. Once all the basic tracks were laid down, we brought in Grammy-Nominated Producer Dylan Ely to add the icing on the cake at The Loop Studios, a top-notch studio right down the street from my house in Corpus Christi.
I’ve worked with Dylan on some rock albums before with previous bands, so we have a great relationship. And he has worked with the best, from Bob Seger, to Linkin Park, to Jennifer Lopez. He has the best equipment, and brings world class ideas to the table. So he took what Brian and I had done in that sweaty garage, and made it sound like it could compete with the big boys.
TMP: What is your favorite thing to eat while out on the road?
SJ: Usually, we’re on the run, so I’ll take what I can get. Tacos are always at the top of the list. When I have time before a show where I can actually sit down to a real dinner, I always look for the local steak house and get a big ribeye and a bottle of wine. That’s my perfect meal.
TMP: Can you share a funny story with us about something that has happened while out on the road or perfoming?
SJ: Haha well out on the road there is a lot of down time after you’re set up and you’re checked into the hotel and you’re in a small town where you don’t know anybody. I grew up with Rich O’ Toole, so when we are on tour together we are like brothers, and we try to out-prank each other – whether it’s leaving old food in someone’s suitcase, or farting in their face when they’re passed out , or trying to really embarrass them from the stage … we just try to outdo the other person! It’s definitely things we wouldn’t want the ladies to see! You’ve got to keep up a slick image around the girls!!
TMP: What is on the horizon for Steven James and the Jaded? What do you have lined-up for the album release?
SJ: For our debut album, we did a CD release in every major city that we played. That was insane. This one, we’re throwing a huge party in Corpus Christi where we all live, at our favorite big venue, the Executive Surf Club. All our friends will be there, and they’ll get their hands on the record first before the rest of the world, which I think is how it should be.
These are all the people that have supported us this past year. It’s been a wild ride, but I think we’ve made a lot of headway and it seems like every few months, more people are interested in what we are doing. Fine publications like Texas Music Pickers return our emails and want to know what we have to say! We’re just very grateful to the Texas Country community. All the bands, the clubs, the fans – they TRULY are a family. We all look out for each other and it’s an amazing thing to be part of. That’s why none of us leave. Texas already has more than we could ever want..
Check out one of our favorite cuts from the album “Dance With me Tonight” below!
Sat. Oct. 1
Surftoberfest, Executive Surf Club,
Corpus Christi TX
Sat. Oct. 8
Sat. Oct. 15
Cassidy’s Irish Pub
Corpus Christi, TX
Music addict, a sucker for heartbreak songs, and avid Houston sports fan! I’am also the Editor-in-Chief of Texas Music Pickers.