Brendan James’ third album, Hope In Transition, marks a shift from blind ambition to a new optimism. After a transformative summer and some serious soul-searching, the LA-based singer-songwriter had a creative rebirth. July 10th James releases the most hopeful and invigorating collection of pop-rock in his critically-acclaimed 7 year career.
“I named it Hope In Transition because I was going through a big transition. When I made my first two albums, the mindset was ‘keep your head forward and don’t’ stop running, keep going until a song breaks,’ but you can’t keep that up without a break,” he explains. “Because of the constant motion, I was tired and I lost the enjoyment I derived from writing. I had to get centered again before I charged ahead.”
The 9-song Hope In Transition conjures up a wide array of emotions within a focused aesthetic. James writes with uplifting warmth, compassion, and deeply revealing candor, while blurring the genre lines between shimmering soul, confessional folk, and goose-bump inducing pop-rock. He keenly balances a timeless sense of organic instrumentation with a playfully experimental penchant for slinky R&B-flavored beats and tasteful electro ambience.
The heart of the album is the lead off single, the tenderly vulnerable, “Nothin’ But Love.” The track is instant pop surrender. Over sun-peering-through-the-clouds melodies, James sweetly and limberly flows some brave revelations. The backstory of the song’s genesis is that James was set to do a co-write with Rob Giles (who produced and co-wrote the debut album for Tony-Award winner Sara Ramirez) but felt uninspired and emotionally inaccessible the day of their collaboration. “During the session, Rob told me to speak in sentences about my feelings,’” James recalls. “I said ‘My biggest fear is I’m gonna let people down and maybe they’ll think less of me.’ Rob said ‘Wow, that’s awesome, now who saves you from that?’ I said my wife. The song went on like that, and we just kept the casual conversational aspect of it. It’s about someone saving you when you’re down. You just feel their love, and feel you’re not alone.” Thus, the song boldly begins: My biggest fear is I’ll let people down and maybe they’ll think less of me/Especially you, you’re the jewel in my crown and I don’t want to mess this up.
Other Hope In Transition highlights are the soaring electro pop of “Carriers Of The Light” and the unbutton-your-shirt-kick-off-your-shoes euphoria of “Nightlife.” “Carriers Of The Light” is a joyful missive to all those friends and fans that supported James during his dark times. “That’s my party song. I went to that good warm place inside myself for the friends and fans that carried me through the last 7 years,” he says. “They give me something, and I wanted to give them something back.”
James recently did a video perfectly capturing the 6:00 PM-liberation bursting forth from “Nightlife.” James says: “’Nightlife’ is about letting loose at the end of the workday; when it’s all done, and you can relax be who you really are.” On the track, James joyfully commands: Dance If You Got No Money/Dance If You Got Not Luck/Dance If You Got That Feeling/Dance If You’re Someone Special/Dance If You Wish They Knew/Dance If You Got A Good Life/A Life You Never Want to Loose.
The Derry, New Hampshire-native started his professional career in New York City. An early champion of his refreshing folk-based sound was Carly Simon, who personally called and invited him for a duet session at her house in Martha’s Vineyard. "I couldn't believe she called me, her music played in my house all the time as a kid,” James marvels. Simon and James recorded a duet called "Let The River Run" that was streamed during the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, Norway.
In 2005 James signed to Capitol Records, but his tracks went into major label purgatory during the 2007 Capitol/Virgin merger. He emerged a free agent and independently issued the EP, The Ballroom Break-in, and his debut full-length, The Day is Brave, before signing to Decca Records in 2008. Brendan re-released his debut and his second album, Brendan James, on Decca Records. During this formative time he played over 300 shows, building a robust fanbase touring with such diverse artists as John Mayer, Paula Cole, Keb Mo, Parachute, and Matt White. James garnered widespread exposure through his songs being featured on television shows such as Private Practice, American Idol, Bones, So You Think You Can Dance, Army Wives, and One Tree Hill. He also made TV appearances on Rachael Ray and CBS Sunday Morning. Both Brendan James albums climbed the iTunes Top 10 pop charts—James’ sophomore album, Brendan James, climbed to #1 on the iTunes singer-songwriter charts.
In 2011, Decca had to part ways with James due to budget cuts. Already tired of the industry’s constant grind, the break in partnership lead James to rethink his life and, ultimately, rediscover his muse. “I had this summer where I decided to say yes to everything that wasn’t music. I went skydiving, shot shotguns, went to Alaska,” James says. “For the first time in my life, I was free, and I thought, ‘Maybe I wont do music at all,’ but it led to my most creative year.” Prior to his artistic hiatus, he met his album producer Max Coane (Julian Coryell additionally produced tracks) whose deep commitment to James and his music didn’t waiver even when James’ own self-belief did. James says: “Max was a beacon of hope and energy.” In addition to his impeccable ears and choice in vintage gear, Coane helped James find his way back to music with a renewed sense of purpose and a refreshed spirit. Looking back, James says pensively: “I was not happy and I was willing to walk away from everything.” Thankfully, he found strength to carry on in Hope In Transition.