Across all industries and professions, mentorship often becomes an essential steppingstone for success, elevating someone’s visibility to place them in front of a larger audience.
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Jeffrey James – a pop singer-songwriter from Nashville – experienced this when appearing on NBC’s Songland in 2020. While James definitely wasn’t a newcomer – he’s already released two EPs – being on the show allowed him to pitch song “We Can Be Heroes” to Martina McBride.
While McBride passed on it, James ended up working with Ryan Tedder – best known for OneRepublic, as well as a prolific songwriter and producer for other artists. Guidance from Tedder helped refine “We Can Be Heroes,” and now, the track has officially been released.
James has been finding his footing as an artist. Aiming to present an introspective perspective of the human experience, the singer-songwriter released his first EP, titled Walls, in 2016 and followed that in 2020 with East London, aptly named for the collaborators he worked with on its selection of tracks.
Along the way, his music appeared in advertisements for Xbox Game Pass and Ford and in a few television shows, including All-American, Jack Ryan, iZombie, Criminal Minds, Good Trouble, and Shameless. As a songwriter, he’s penned tracks for Megan Davies, Tungeaag & Raaban, and Matstubs.
As James’s career looks like it’s starting a new chapter, we interviewed him about his latest release and experience on Songland:
How did you get started with singing and songwriting?
I’ve been singing since as far back as I remember. Most everyone in my family could hold a tune, so we were always singing to the radio or in the car. In school, I was in every choir possible.
Junior year of high school, I found myself singing lead in a literal garage band (we rehearsed out of the garage of the drummer’s parents’ house). They had instrumentals written, but no lyrics or melodies.
And, I found songwriting came pretty naturally and quickly to me! Like, I literally had half a song written after listening to the band play the very first instrumental track. I kept writing after the band broke up (three months later).
How did you get selected for NBC’s Songland?
I was asked to submit a couple of songs for the show, and luckily, “We Can Be Heroes” was picked for me to perform and pitch!
What was it like working on “We Can Be Heroes” with Ryan Tedder?
Ryan gave me a true masterclass in creativity. He made a few, seemingly small changes to the song. But, those changes took the song to another level!
He worked really fast, and you could tell how much he loved what he did. It also gave me some extra confidence, because I got to see “the man behind the curtain.”
And, much of his process is just like every other songwriter I’ve worked with, including my own. He just has that extra special thing in him where he can make a good song a great song.
How did this song come together?
The song originally came out of a pretty normal writing session I had with Jennifer Hanson and Nick Brophy. They make up a producing duo named LÒNIS. I wanted to write something uplifting and emotional, and they knew my voice and style really well. The combo led to this song!
How do you feel now that it’s officially being released?
It feels so great to have this song out in the world! I hated having to wait so long to release it, but that’s just the way these things go sometimes.
You already have two EPs in your discography. What’s your approach to putting together an EP? Do you think you’ll do anything different for the future?
The approach to my EPs has been different each time. But, I always start with thinking about what I want to say, and how I want to say it. Trying to find something new in my music and lyrics that I haven’t expressed before.
Do you have anything planned as a follow-up to “We Can Be Heroes” yet?
Yes! There is a new EP coming in October! WCBH will be on it, along with a handful of new songs that I’m extremely pumped about!
How has it felt when your music has been selected for TV and commercials for Xbox Game Pass and Ford?
That world can be so hit or miss, that it’s a really great feeling when one of your songs gets used. Though, I’m not sure whether it’s me or my mom who enjoys it more…She texts me every time she hears me on TV!
What are your plans for the rest of 2021?
More music is on the way!!