Reared in the wildernesses of Western New York, forged on the mean streets of West Philadelphia, and currently haunting the taverns and woods around Woodstock, James Hearne is one of the more dynamic performers working today. Years in the rock and roll world have created a charismatic presence, as comfortable alone on a stage as in front of a full band; a lifetime of music immersion make him as able with a lyric as with a melody.
"The only rock and roll I heard until I was 10 was The Beatles; otherwise, it was classical, and Golden-Age American songwriters: Gershwin, Berlin, Cole Porter... It gave me a soft spot for love songs and a clever turn of phrase."
James crafts careful tales, befitting of such a pedigree, that are as literate as they are melodic. His lifelong love for literature make him as comfortable referencing Tennyson as Tweedy, and his early access to the greatest songwriters to walk the earth give him an instinctive sense of melody and phrasing. Sometimes heart-wrenching, sometimes blackly funny, James' lyrics are always worth an extra listen.
"I came of age in the shadow of the great 90s rock voices, though my (embarrassingly late) discovery of folks like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder opened up my voice even further: they taught me a lot more about my range and dynamic reach... and how much fun it is to holler!"
James' voice is the truest secret weapon in his arsenal: a powerful tenor equally at home whispering and howling, crooning and growling. A typical show opener finds James whispering, tunefully, before opening up and unleashing a belted chorus that draws all eyes in the room, only to drop back to the whisper at its conclusion, silencing all onlookers before it.
"I'm a self-taught guitarist, but a trained musician; at a time when I was close to quitting guitar (because I was no good at it), I went to my first rock concert (Phish) and walked out saying "I will play like THAT someday." I still can't."
James' musicianship pours out through his fingers. As a rhythm guitarist, he is able to bring variable rhythms and effects to his small-body Martin, alternating open tunings, a wide array of key signatures, and fingerpicking to keep a solo evening from ever seeming monotonous. When he plays with a band, his lead guitar chops shine through: tasteful and melodic, just the tiniest bit flashy, and always in service of the song at large. He's also an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, having gigged and recorded on bass, piano, organ, and banjo.
"I feel better onstage than anywhere else. It's really the only time I feel totally normal and at home with myself. It's safe in a really weird way."
James puts all these skills together with a dry wit and a natural exuberance that shines through in live performance; his spirited exchanges with hecklers, his sometimes earnest, often self-deprecating introductions, and his spirited re-tellings of his experience combine with his powerful songs to make his shows unique and not to be missed.
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