Music man James is living the dream
With his cool swagger, boyband good looks and a voice that would melt butter it is impossible to think that this time last year James Edgar was still performing at the back of a restaurant and contemplating a career in law.
But after a whirlwind year singer-songwriter James has gone from background music to living the American dream after signing up with top music industry mogul R Wayne Martin’s new New York based project Martin Artist Management.
The 25-year-old agreed a deal with the former CBS Records and Sony Music marketer last month and has already made his American debut performing at New York City’s Rockwood Music Hall in August.
That incredible opportunity occurred after the Lytham based singer won Lytham’s Got Talent and bagged a spot at Lytham Proms.
James performed in front of thousands on the same bill as Sir Tom Jones, Michael Ball and Blue and has just finished writing a song with Danny Wilkin from Rixton.
But the humble musician and Lancaster University law degree graduate admitted he would not be on the brink of conquering the charts without taking a break from performing and honing his skills in his bedroom.
He said: “I kind of forgot about music for a couple of years whilst I was at university.
“I did come back and do the odd little gig but for the first two years of uni I barely touched my guitar in terms of playing to people.
“I played it a lot in my room but I didn’t play in public.
“It was a good thing, before that it wasn’t even a possibility of a career, it was just something to do.
“And I guess I just progressed and by playing to myself and not other people.
“When I did play in front of other people it was a big response compared to what I’d done two years before.
“I didn’t enjoy law, I didn’t really work hard at it so the thing I always fell back to was music.
“So by the time I finished and I came to look for a job in law I thought well I know I can get a lot of work singing and the rest is history.
“I’ve been playing for a while now and when I went travelling again I kind of had a pause and came back looking for jobs.
“I had an interview with a law firm and I kind of realised that it just wasn’t ever going to be anything that I wanted to do.
“As a 20 something starting a career you sort of think what am I passionate about? And the only thing I could think of was music and the rest is history.”
James exudes cool and but the laid back writer revealed he was engulfed by nerves before his big NY gig.
He said: “It was quite cool to play in New York, retrospectively it is a lot cooler than I thought at the time.
“I was nervous and I don’t get nervous. I didn’t get nervous at the Proms and I don’t get nervous at any shows. But I was really nervous on that day because it was the first time ever I’d sang my own songs, songs I’d written.
“Looking back they weren’t fantastic songs, they were a good first effort and hopefully I’ve improved.
“I was going to this place I’d never been before in front of a load of people I’d never met before and so it was a bit different.
“I’d bought a guitar the day before in New York and I was playing that for the first time which again is a little but nerve wracking but it all came together really well.
“I was on a four band bill and a lot of them were there, they were quite friendly.
“New York is amazing, the taxi ride there was amazing, seeing a load if different things and the stage sounded a lot better when I was out performing than it did when I was in the hotel room.
“At the time I was a little bit worried but we did some live recording of it which unfortunately we aren’t going to use,
“But the reaction was great, everyone after the show wanted to chat and it was fantastic because New York us where it is at.”
James started writing aged eight but it is only after teaming up with manger R Wayne Martin and ageing that he has really got the bug.
The singer-songwriter had a very middle-class upbringing in Lytham , attending Kirkham Grammar School where both his parents taught.
And he admitted that nice, solid home life prevented him from writing the usual teen angst ridden tracks of today’s youth.
James believes age and experience have helped him shape his song writing skills and he is determined to shake off the image of singing covers.
And after linking up with chart hot shot Danny from Rixton the guitarist hinted that a hook-up with some big American names may feature on his hopefully upcoming EP.
He said: “I wrote a little Christmas song when I was seven or eight.
“I wrote a bit when I was about 14, 15, at that age were everyone writes and every song is depressing and every song is angry.
“But I have quite a nice suburban life so it was quite difficult and it didn’t feel genuine to write about being angry.
“Even though every teenager goes through that spectrum of emotions I didn’t really have anything to moan about.
“It wasn’t even a conscious decision I just stopped.
“I didn’t really try again properly until really a year ago.
“And then I have eased my way in to it and now I’m really stuck in writing everyday.
“It is still something find quite difficult but I’ve gone through a lot more now, I’m older and I actually have things to write about.
“So it does feel genuine and I do feel like I have something to say.
“I’ve done a lot of writing with a lot of different people at the moment and a lot if it is going with an idea and people will have a listen and see what they think.
“It’s the same kind of thing as playing in the bedroom and not knowing what it sounds like to everyone else.
“There are a lot of ideas that I will have that I love and people won’t love, and ideas I will think are rubbish but people will find cool.
“With Danny i got in touch through a friend who said he is back in town and we wrote a really cool song.
“He blew me away in terms of how talented he was and it has shown me a different side of writing.
“It was three days it wasn’t a half an hour thing, it took a lot of effort and it might never get to see the light of day.
“I hope I will get the chance to write with him again, I’m sure I will but they are doing really well.
“He’s really busy and he’s got his own thing going on so there are other people that I hope to work with in the future that are also very busy and at the top of their fields.
“It is different styles and eventually it will be my name on the record, James Edgar wrote this.
“Along the way I will co-write but the main body of work needs to be mine.
“So it is just finding that balance, it was incredible to work with him.
“We went out had a few drinks and celebrated creating the track once we’d finished.
“There is going to be a lot of co-writes hopefully I will go to America and write with some people over there.
“There are people I already have on my wish list to write with but again you just take it as it comes.
“I think music is a shared thing it us not always someone’s complete vision so I have to be open to co-writing.
“I’ve also written with my mates and that was cool but sometimes you just have to step out of your box.
“There is a reason why certain songs have importance in my life and there are things that have happened and they become the soundtrack of your 20’s or when you are 21 and so I guess when I’m writing I’m trying to hit that.
“I think what does it feel like to be 25? Or what does it feel like to be 19?
“That is what inspires me to think that people could make your music part of their life rather than just writing a forgettable four minute track.
“It was cool to play at Lytham Proms but it was playing covers of songs so it wasn’t really much of a step away from what I was doing in the restaurants - other than being on a much bigger scale.
“The whole thing now will be to shed that image of playing covers.”
James is planning to perform with a band at the end of January and in the next six months he is hoping to release his first body of original work.
He has already written 10 songs but he is hoping to record his EP or album in Los Angeles and he admitted the pressure is on.
He said: “There is no huge rush but I am 25 and I don’t want to be 28 and struggling.
“I need to have written a decent amount of tracks, see if the producers like it and hopefully be able to go to LA and record it.
“So the pressure is on. I like a lot of American musicians and that is why I have thought about going to America and why I have already got success there,
“Because playing at a piano or with a guitar is seen a lot more over there.
“I’m used to playing restaurants and it is different, normally I’m background music.
“But once you’ve played in front of a crowd it is more awkward to play one-on-one or to a few people.
“That is awkward, more awkward to play in front of friends or family who ask you to play a song that is really difficult.
“But if you put yourself on stage in front of thousands of people it is exciting it is not as scary.
“An acoustic guitar playing in front of that many people is scary but the idea of that many people hearing you is cool and that is inspiring in itself.
“It is nice to take your song, hoping that it sounds right that you have only ever sang to yourself and then without any kind of buffer go and play in front of people and go this is me.”
The 25-year-old credits his ‘terrible’ waiting-on skills, his dads love of Dire Straits to helping fuel his rise to stardom.
He said: “ Before I went travelling the only way I could fund that was to go back and play in loads of different bars so that us how it kind of became a career even though it was only three or four gigs a week at that time.
“I got the gigs through a link from school.
“When I was at school me and a friend used to play at the restaurant we waited on at in St Anne’s called the Dalmeny hotel.
“We used to play there occasionally about once a week until I went to uni,
“We gave those gigs up, it was just a bit of fun at that time and so when I came back there were a lot of contacts that I had made.
“I used to work as a waiter so I knew a few people who had stayed in that profession, they knew I played the guitar.
“It was in My second year of uni that I got my gigs back. I went in to a restaurant in Lytham called Ego that was hiring for wait staff.
“I’m an awful waiter but when I went in to apply I also had my guitar on my back and I said listen I also do live music as well and I’d like to give it a go.
“And they basically took me on as a waiter and said yeah bring your guitar in a couple of weeks.
“I was awful at waiting on and so two weeks later they said go on let’s here you play the guitar
“I just literally sang for five minutes and they said yeah come and play for us on Friday.
“From then on I had a gig every week for at least two years and from that different people left to go to different restaurants, different bars and so wherever people went I followed.
“So I started playing at Revolution in Blackpool and then I just ended up playing covers for two hours in front of diners.
“It was easy I got fed, got free drink and made some really good money doing it
“I’m a massive fan of just sitting with the guitar, it is very cool and it is very raw.
“But eventually I’d like to step away from the restaurants and do it full time.
“At the moment I can’t complain because I get to do that anyway whilst working as a paid musician.
“I have a lot of time for guitar musicians, I used to listen to a lot of Dire Straits. My dad listened to them a lot.
“And I was learning a lot of Mark Knopfler’s guitar solos when I first started to learn.
“I like Eric Clapton and a lot if his acoustic stuff. I listened to his unplugged album before I listened to some if his electric stuff.
“There are a lot of musicians today that I like Bruno a Mars is a favourite of mine, Ed Sheeran.
“And even Blue, I used to love Blue - who didn’t love Blue?
“At the moment I’m getting into a lot if 70’s/80’s singer-songwriter music”
James signed the record deal in November after being offered it in August and the musician said the deal vindicates his decision not to pursue a career in law.
He said: “That was a huge moment for me personally because if was kind of a vindication that I’d turned down the other jobs.
“When I’d told my mum and dad that news I got home we had some champagne and it was quite a sweet moment.
“Their reaction was great, there has never been a doubt in their mind that I’d choose music.
“I always thought they’d been fully supportive so it was nice for then to be able to say James is doing well.
“I think the main goal with any musician is to be heard by as many people as possible.
“You do music for a specific reason, especially as a singer-songwriter.
“I now have something to say, you want to know that you have relevance and for people to listen.
“The dream is to sell out tours and release my own music.
“To earn money through playing music is any musicians dream. To get a manager and invest dime of my own money in it too is a risk but hopefully it will pay off.
“It’s just another step I’m excited and happy to sign this deal but my mind automatically goes on to the next target.”