Q&A with James Rawson

1.     What is the most memorable show you’ve played?

Playing Jive in Your Ear Festival last month was fantastic! I've been transitioning and reshaping my music and live shows. At the festival, I was able try out a lot of new musical ideas. Thankfully, they all worked. :)

2.     What has inspired you lately?

Spirituality. I've been on a book spree. I've been reading five books at once ranging from Joseph Campbell Mythological Studies to "Religion for Atheists" to "V for Vendetta." I'm definitely in a metaphysics headspace right now. I'm reaffirming my ideas with faith. It's a lot of pondering, and it's a lot of inspiration. I've already started writing new songs from all this reading.

3.     What is it like being on tour?

It's a mad dash. I have to coordinate all of my tour dates with my job at Starbucks. For some shows, I'm doing the "superman": punching out, changing in the bathroom, and leaving straight from work to the show. It makes for super long days: 14-16 hour days. Being on tour is also this great adventure. I meet so many different people and so many different places. I feel like I'm in a Walt Whitman poem. I'm surveying our nation and all of its great and weird people.

4. When did you become involved in women’s charities and who motivated you to do so?

I’ve supported women’s rights and women’s charities my entire career. Since my very first release, I’ve given back to charities and organizations who stand up for women’s rights. Who motivated me is a really personal question. I show my motivation all throughout my music, and at concerts, I talk directly with my fans about my motivation. So, if you really want to know why I care so deeply about women’s rights, you need to come out to a show. Face to face communication is really the only way to share something that personal.

5.     What instruments are you classically trained in?

In college, I studied both cello and jazz guitar, and I played in the orchestra as well as the jazz band. Classical training is both studying an instrument and Western music theory and history. So, I studied two instruments and learned how to write music. I studied conducting, orchestration, music history, and ear training. Classical training is about learning a specific instrument, but it really is about developing your entire self into a musician. The cello part was easy. The ear training, sight singing, and theory tests were the hard part.

6.     What is your favorite part about Rockford, IL?

My home. There’s wonderful things to visit in this city like Anderson Gardens or the Rockford Art Museum. But, what I really love is coming back to my family, to my home: going to the park with my wife and kids, doing yoga in the backyard, curling up with my wife and a marathon of Parks and Recreation. In the large sense, this city is my home. It’s where both my parents are from and where both of their families are from. My roots go deep in these streets. So, my favorite part about Rockford, IL is that it has given me a home, both in the large sense and the small. My wife and I met at Rock Valley College. My kids were both born at Swedish American Hospital. I have an amazing family, and in so many ways, it’s thanks to this city.

7.     What message do you want your fans to understand about your music?

That I make love music. Music about sex, loneliness, romance, passion, rejection, hope. Everyone of my songs deals with love. Love has been the driving force of my life, and my music is a journal of my life. I sing in poetry and mythology, but my songs are the story of my life. And my story is all about going from isolation to love, from the forest black to the sprawling city.

8.     How has being involved in music changed you?

It hasn't. Music, art is not an external force in my life. It is an internal force. My music is the purest form of myself. It pours out. The external force of scheduling, schooling, and setting up my music as a sole proprietary business has pushed me to make certain decisions like what type of day job to pursue and where I need to live. But music itself has not changed me. It's only brought out more of my inner world to the whole world.

9.     Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?

Art is a pyramid career. Only a few make it to the top while there's gobs at the bottom. That’s because, as an artist, you have to master so many separate skill sets. For example with music, you have to first off master actually playing music. You have to learn at least one instrument. Then you have master not just how to play music but how to write it. Those seem like the same skill but trust me they're not. Then you have to master performing which has nothing to do with the muscle memory of playing your instrument or the ear training and theory knowledge it takes to write music. These are all separate skill sets just within music. But then to really make it, you have to master business skills, interpersonal skills, communication skills, graphic design skills, etc.

So take a breath, and brace for the long haul. If you manage your expectations and pace yourself, you won't burn out. You won't make crappy art. And you will at least earn the chance to make it.

10. What is your favorite song lyric that you’ve written?

Oh man, that's an open door for my narcissism, haha.

I beat and bend my lyrics until I can say I'm proud of each song. There's lots of lines I’m proud of. But an artist is always too close to their art to really enjoy and savory it. That's why artists love other artists. One thing my poetry professor would always says is that poets can only enjoy other poets’ lines.


"Are you ready for love?" That's one of my favorite lyrics.

Posted on October 5, 2015 .