Beyond the Music: Alexander James

Alexander James

I have been trying to write about the players I haven’t covered before. There are so many who are worthy, and I can’t get to all of them in a season.

Having done this “solo act” musical thing for 20 years, I know how tough it is to get onstage, just you and your guitar. It’s difficult and emotionally frightening. Song by song. Note by note. When you succeed, “I did that…”. When you fail, “I did that…”.

So, I cannot express how grateful I am to those who take the time to give of themselves.

Alexander James gives. Not only in this interview, but onstage, as well. I haven’t heard a full night of Alex. Really, not more than a few tunes, but I can tell you that what I’ve heard has left me wanting to hear more.

Q: If you’re not a native, what brought you to the Outer Banks?

A: My family. My crazy parents adopted seven kids and decided this sandbar was fit to hold us.

Q: How would you describe your music?

A: I play covers out mostly. I try to keep it eclectic and fresh, with some new stuff. The music I write is also eclectic. I’d describe it as angular, mathy, soulful, I suppose. Not anything like I play at my gigs at the moment, unfortunately, but I’m working on changing that.

Q: Who is your greatest musical influence?

A: I have a lot. Too many. I’m influenced every day, or at least I hope to be. Dave Knudson, the guitarist of Minus the Bear, is probably the most black and white way for me to answer that question though.

Q: What is it about music that touched you?

A: It’s versatility. How it can or can’t make you feel. How it can capture a moment or kill one. Then creating is even more mind-blowing. Mainly that, no matter how bad, I can usually get some positive from any type of music. It’s audible goodness.

Q: Are you self-taught?

A: For the most part, yes. We always had instruments around the house, and my father is very artistic and a guitar player. He showed me some things growing up, and people have shown me things here and there along the way. YouTube is great.

Q: Besides guitar, what other instruments do you play?

A: I like to play piano when I can. Obviously, I sing, and that’s a big part of what I do. People aren’t lining up to hear me just on guitar. Bass is really fun and a great confidence builder when I run into walls with my guitar.

Q: How many different musical projects (duos, trios, bands) are you involved in?

A: Right this second, it’s just me. I’m working on a recording I won in a music contest in Virginia Beach. It will be nationally released and distributed and available on all streaming services. There are a lot of things that aren’t 100% ironed out, so I don’t want to say anything for sure. I will be announcing more in the fall.

Q: Musicians usually play for those “moments” when everything clicks. Do you have a favorite moment?

A: I’ve had a million “bedroom breakthroughs” and things here and there. When I was in college, my two-piece band opened for my then heroes “The Fall of Troy” at the Peppermint Beach Club in Virginia Beach was probably the “biggest” moment.

Q: What do you do in the off-season?

A: I clean pools and work property services for a local company. I try to travel as much as possible because I’m not a huge fan of winter here. I plan to migrate south for the winter this year.

Q: Was there a person in your life that motivated you to pursue music?

A: Again, lots. There have been a lot of people who have encouraged me to continue and take it more seriously. I have a few musician friends from Virginia who play music professionally, Trevor Daniel and Marty C Moore.They really encouraged me, got me gigs, and basically made me sit in with them. Honestly, they both pretty much gave me the shirts off their backs, and I’m forever in their debt. Also, my family. My girlfriend is a huge support, and life, heartbreak, and timing.

Q: If you could perform with anyone, living or dead, who would it be, and why?

A: My friends. My close friends. None of them are great musicians, nor try to be, which is fine. I just don’t surround myself with other musicians like I should, which is not hard growing up on this small beach.

Q: Is there a song that you wish you'd written?

A: I don’t know how to answer that. If I wrote them, I wouldn’t feel the same way about them.

Q: If you could choose a time period in which to perform music, what would it be, and why?

A: Now. There’s no time like the present.

Q: Do you listen to new music and if so, what are you listening to?

A: Chon. They’re a pretty crazy, jazzy, surfy, rock-type band, super technical yet very relaxing. I’m in awe of their mastery of their craft, super fun music to listen to. And Bon Jovi just released two new songs, and I’m pretty much a fan of everything Justin Vernon does.

Q: Did you ever consider quitting music and doing something else?

A: Well I have in the past. Now my approach is different. I have a day job, and one with enough time that I can concentrate on music as a hobby. Playing gigs is a way to finance my hobby, home in my chops and have fun.

Q: McCartney or Lennon?

A: They both did their best work in the Beatles, together. Changde my mind. Paul’s cuter.

Q: Do you have any hobbies that aren’t music-related?

A: I love to spend time with my dog and my friends. I try to be outdoors as much as possible. I hurt my knee two years ago, but before that I surfed a lot.

Q: Your favorite album?

A: There is never just one. Right now, I guess there's a mix between 20 records or more. Albums by Weezer, Nirvana, Jane Doe, Death Cab for Cutie, Radiohead, and definitely “Disintegration” by the Cure.

Q: Your favorite song?

A: Really? Off cuff there could never be just one. But most on my list have this kind of cinematic “everything’s going to be ok” end of the movie roll credits kinda feel, I like that.

Transplanted to the Outer Banks from the wilds of the L.A. area, singer-songwriter Scott Sechman has shared stages with Bill Medley, Tom Rush, Al Wilson, and the Grass Roots during his ongoing music career. His column, Beyond the Music, appears Fridays in COAST.

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