Downtown Kids – David James Interview Feature

David James has checked off some important boxes on his early career to-do list, but there are more to go, and he’s looking forward to them.

We caught up with the Winnipeg country singer-songwriter in the back corner booth of a Toronto bar last week to talk about the success of his 2017 EP, Downtown Kids, putting his first single in the Top 15 on the charts, and more. Over about an hour we sat and went over everything that came to mind, adding to previous conversations from our first meeting at Boots & Hearts 2016 and his EP release last fall, and bringing up brand new questions as well.

Our conversation took us all the way back to the very start of David’s career. He told us that one night he was playing a cover set in a bar when a stranger approached him to ask if he’d thought about doing any recording. It sounds random, and it was, but when the stranger turned out to be Darren Savard (most commonly known for playing lead guitar in Dallas Smith’s band) things took off. Savard invited him to catch Dallas at the MTS Centre, and then to come backstage. When David told the story, we could see the memories coming to him. He told us about being in the green room, not speaking until spoken to. But more importantly, he told us that Dallas Smith stepped up, and when he didn’t have to, offered advice to David that he continues to hold with him now.

That theme of mentorship and influence is an important one. We talked about the influence of Paul Brandt, the Canadian Country Music Hall of Famer who David recently opened for. He told us that it was Brandt that he first connected with in country music as a fan and that he’s still an example for how he wants to do things. His reverence for the career that Brandt has had with quality songs spread over more than two decades is clear. And his admiration for the man that Paul Brandt has shown himself to be is even stronger.

And if Paul Brandt is the Hall of Famer in David’s circle of influence, the well-established veterans include Smith as well as guys like Chad Brownlee and Tim Hicks.

David mentioned both Brownlee and Hicks in our conversation with different examples of how they’ve helped show him how to build a career in country music, and how they’ve supported and lifted him up on his journey. As former label-mates, David James and Chad Brownlee have spent time together on tour and in the same circle, and David credits him as a significant influence in his career so far. Tim Hicks is a more recent addition to David’s career as a co-writer on his latest single, Downtown Kids. He told us that Hicks was a great collaborator on the project, and Hicks told us that when he found out that David and producer Dan Swinimer wanted to cut the song, he was happy to hear it. And now that the track that was once earmarked for Hicks’ 2016 album, Shake These Walls, is on the charts and ready to climb, he’s even happier for David’s success and to see the song find the life it deserves.

One of the most interesting things to us about David James’ musical influences is that he didn’t find country until later.

He told us that his dad had a lot of influence in his early life as a music fan. On early morning drives to hockey practices and long road trips to tournaments, he would sit and listen to Dark Side Of The Moon or old R&B and soul albums. He soaked it all in. And then, thanks to his teenaged teammates, he discovered more contemporary rock and roll on the stereo in the dressing room. The story might be one of the most Canadian things ever. It’s all hockey, all of the music is tied to the game.

Throughout our conversation, David was relaxed and comfortable in talking about his music and career. As an artist that is still working to solidify himself on the Canadian country music landscape, he knows there’s work to do. And he’s not scared of it. He did admit though that he came into the process with the naïvety that can trap young artists. David was sure that his record deal with MDM and his first single release (What We Weren’t Looking For, 2015) was the start of a rocket ship ride to the top, even though he’d been told to be patient. The time since has taught him that hard work and patience are key to the point that he’s known to hold onto the motto, “nothing worth having comes easy and opportunity looks a lot like hard work”.

David James in Toronto at Betty's

He also told us that he’s a goal-oriented, setting goals for himself every step of the way. And when something gets checked off the list (an EP release, a Top 15 single, great live shows, etc.), he replaces it with something new.

We asked about the live shows and went back to 2016 and his first appearance at Ontario’s Boots & Hearts festival. We interviewed David just after his set that day, and it was easy to feel the energy that he was still giving off after he had finished on stage. And now, nearly two years later, he still remembers that day and that set. He told us that it was a special one for him and a building block for his career. David explained that there are shows, sometimes spread apart, that feel like they’ve unlocked something. There’s a feeling, he told us, that comes when he steps off stage, that he and the band have found something that works, and that it’s their job to remember that and do it again. He felt that at Boots that day, and it feels like it’s something he’s going to remember for a long time.

With shows coming up this summer at Dauphin Countryfest, Country Crossroads at Blue Mountain, and as part of the Toronto Blue Jays’ Fan Friday Festival on July 20 with his MDM fam, David James is going to have some chances to find that feeling again.

He also has a chance to push himself in the creation of new music, with writing planned in Nashville before the end of the summer season, and recording scheduled with Downtown Kids producer, Dan Swinimer this August. It feels fast, but with four singles already released from the six-song EP, it’s time to get something new ready for radio and fans.

In all honesty, that’s a lot of work scheduled for the summer and a lot of balls up in the air… but David James is ready for it.

In the last few years, David James has shown that he’s got the talent to hang in the Canadian country music community. He’s got a team that is ready to push him as far as he can go. And he’s learned that putting in the work is the only way to make it all happen.

David James has released two EPs, he’s cracked the Top 15 on the singles charts with Sun Set On It, and he’s getting ready to fill the headline spot at a festival for the first time this summer. Those are all goals he can check off his list.

And we can’t wait to see what goals he checks off next!

David James in Toronto at Betty's

thereviewsarein.com on Spotify
creator of content, daddy blogger, writer, coffee drinker, fan of the Batman. proud mo bro. prouder dad.

Downtown Kids – David James Interview Feature

David James has checked off some important boxes on his early career to-do list, but there are more to go, and he’s looking forward to them.

We caught up with the Winnipeg country singer-songwriter in the back corner booth of a Toronto bar last week to talk about the success of his 2017 EP, Downtown Kids, putting his first single in the Top 15 on the charts, and more. Over about an hour we sat and went over everything that came to mind, adding to previous conversations from our first meeting at Boots & Hearts 2016 and his EP release last fall, and bringing up brand new questions as well.

Our conversation took us all the way back to the very start of David’s career. He told us that one night he was playing a cover set in a bar when a stranger approached him to ask if he’d thought about doing any recording. It sounds random, and it was, but when the stranger turned out to be Darren Savard (most commonly known for playing lead guitar in Dallas Smith’s band) things took off. Savard invited him to catch Dallas at the MTS Centre, and then to come backstage. When David told the story, we could see the memories coming to him. He told us about being in the green room, not speaking until spoken to. But more importantly, he told us that Dallas Smith stepped up, and when he didn’t have to, offered advice to David that he continues to hold with him now.

That theme of mentorship and influence is an important one. We talked about the influence of Paul Brandt, the Canadian Country Music Hall of Famer who David recently opened for. He told us that it was Brandt that he first connected with in country music as a fan and that he’s still an example for how he wants to do things. His reverence for the career that Brandt has had with quality songs spread over more than two decades is clear. And his admiration for the man that Paul Brandt has shown himself to be is even stronger.

And if Paul Brandt is the Hall of Famer in David’s circle of influence, the well-established veterans include Smith as well as guys like Chad Brownlee and Tim Hicks.

David mentioned both Brownlee and Hicks in our conversation with different examples of how they’ve helped show him how to build a career in country music, and how they’ve supported and lifted him up on his journey. As former label-mates, David James and Chad Brownlee have spent time together on tour and in the same circle, and David credits him as a significant influence in his career so far. Tim Hicks is a more recent addition to David’s career as a co-writer on his latest single, Downtown Kids. He told us that Hicks was a great collaborator on the project, and Hicks told us that when he found out that David and producer Dan Swinimer wanted to cut the song, he was happy to hear it. And now that the track that was once earmarked for Hicks’ 2016 album, Shake These Walls, is on the charts and ready to climb, he’s even happier for David’s success and to see the song find the life it deserves.

One of the most interesting things to us about David James’ musical influences is that he didn’t find country until later.

He told us that his dad had a lot of influence in his early life as a music fan. On early morning drives to hockey practices and long road trips to tournaments, he would sit and listen to Dark Side Of The Moon or old R&B and soul albums. He soaked it all in. And then, thanks to his teenaged teammates, he discovered more contemporary rock and roll on the stereo in the dressing room. The story might be one of the most Canadian things ever. It’s all hockey, all of the music is tied to the game.

Throughout our conversation, David was relaxed and comfortable in talking about his music and career. As an artist that is still working to solidify himself on the Canadian country music landscape, he knows there’s work to do. And he’s not scared of it. He did admit though that he came into the process with the naïvety that can trap young artists. David was sure that his record deal with MDM and his first single release (What We Weren’t Looking For, 2015) was the start of a rocket ship ride to the top, even though he’d been told to be patient. The time since has taught him that hard work and patience are key to the point that he’s known to hold onto the motto, “nothing worth having comes easy and opportunity looks a lot like hard work”.

David James in Toronto at Betty's

He also told us that he’s a goal-oriented, setting goals for himself every step of the way. And when something gets checked off the list (an EP release, a Top 15 single, great live shows, etc.), he replaces it with something new.

We asked about the live shows and went back to 2016 and his first appearance at Ontario’s Boots & Hearts festival. We interviewed David just after his set that day, and it was easy to feel the energy that he was still giving off after he had finished on stage. And now, nearly two years later, he still remembers that day and that set. He told us that it was a special one for him and a building block for his career. David explained that there are shows, sometimes spread apart, that feel like they’ve unlocked something. There’s a feeling, he told us, that comes when he steps off stage, that he and the band have found something that works, and that it’s their job to remember that and do it again. He felt that at Boots that day, and it feels like it’s something he’s going to remember for a long time.

With shows coming up this summer at Dauphin Countryfest, Country Crossroads at Blue Mountain, and as part of the Toronto Blue Jays’ Fan Friday Festival on July 20 with his MDM fam, David James is going to have some chances to find that feeling again.

He also has a chance to push himself in the creation of new music, with writing planned in Nashville before the end of the summer season, and recording scheduled with Downtown Kids producer, Dan Swinimer this August. It feels fast, but with four singles already released from the six-song EP, it’s time to get something new ready for radio and fans.

In all honesty, that’s a lot of work scheduled for the summer and a lot of balls up in the air… but David James is ready for it.

In the last few years, David James has shown that he’s got the talent to hang in the Canadian country music community. He’s got a team that is ready to push him as far as he can go. And he’s learned that putting in the work is the only way to make it all happen.

David James has released two EPs, he’s cracked the Top 15 on the singles charts with Sun Set On It, and he’s getting ready to fill the headline spot at a festival for the first time this summer. Those are all goals he can check off his list.

And we can’t wait to see what goals he checks off next!

David James in Toronto at Betty's

Scroll to top