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:: Spotlight :: Interview with Eran James

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

One of the pleasing things about following the Australian music is watching the development of a young singer to the point where he or she starts to gain due recognition. It is mostly satisfying through seeing their own endeavours - a do-it-yourself approach - being fulfilled. It is particularly great to see an 18-year-old male singer do the hard work (from starting to sing before he was a teenager) where he looks like a seasoned performer. Melbourne's Eran James is such a person who I first saw sing at age 14. He has now realised his second album “Ten Songs About Love”, through Universal Music.

Eran has done much already to be noticed locally and internationally, and he is spoken about in great regard. He has fantastic vocal power and depth, full of soul and romanticism. He has so much ahead of him and, as this goes to print, he has just been announced as the special guest for the upcoming Elton John tour of Australia.

I sat down to have a chat with Eran and to go through some of the things he has experienced in his musicla life to date.

Tell us about your background and the fact you started singing at a very young age?

I started singing at age 6 and, from the support of my family, they realised that I had some sort of voice. I just continued to sing by listening to songs on the radio and singing along with them. I was a fan of John Farnham and I started going in talent quests. After a little while, probably when I was about 10, I was singing at this talent quest and singing one of my own songs when one of the judges approached me later and said I was amazing. He said that I reminded him of Stevie Wonder. That person was Shane Monopoli. He has been my manager ever since.

What did that to you at that stage?

That was a big thing for me, and to record at Shane’s Queensland studio was great. I recorded a few songs and did a bit of songwriting. Everything clicked and he signed me to his own label and management. I was then signed to Universal Music when I was 12 years old and went overseas to meet various label bosses – Island Def Jam, Interscope, etc. I did the boardroom showcases and meetings. It all resulted in my first album in 2004.

You've been a teenager in the music scene without the usual fanfare and teen hysteria. You've done the hard work on your terms. How do you view this development?

It’s all a series of stepping stones. I learnt so much from the first album, going to America, doing promotional work, and meeting so many good people along the way. Taking enough time with it has also been important. Things have flowed and it’s slowly building well.

Not many performers can say that they have released two albums by age 18 and scored notable support gigs like you've achieved. Do you feel further advanced than expected?

I’ve had a great opportunity. You know, what record company would sign up a 12-year-old kid? I’ve been with the record company for about six years and we’re just taking time with it. I did the Brooke Fraser support – the crowd was was great and really supportive of two young performers. I've also worked on the recent Randy Crawford tour and done other solo shows in Melbourne and Sydney. I’m building the fanbase, done all the main breakfast and morning TV shows, and geared myself towards the album release. Myspace is going nuts, with heaps of messages and comments – a great marketing tool.

I believe the Americans record company executives said that you had a black man's voice…

Yes they did. Soul music is my forte. It’s what I enjoy doing most. The album has a certain black sound – a soul record with a twist, a bit of commercialism, a bit of pop too. The feedback from radio has been very good, particularly regional radio who love it – they jump all over it. Melbourne's FOX FM radio station will be adding it. MIX FM have added it. NOVA also.

Was Australian Idol ever an option for you, especially if Universal hadn't signed you at age 12?

To be honest, I’m the type of person who wouldn’t have entered Australian Idol. I’ve got nothing against the show. It’s not my style. Not my comfort zone. It’s all too forced. You jump on the show and within six months you’re exposed to the big picture without any real experience behind you. Sometimes you can get washed up. You release two albums and your life becomes a wreck. I love the way I’ve been doing it. If it’s meant to happen, it will.

What have you learned as a person with the release of these two albums?

I’ve grown as a singer and as a person. I’m a bit wiser. I’m learning things about my voice; about instruments, and creating my own sound. It’s an experimental course.

You've dedicated the album to your mother, who passed away last year…

“Halo” is a special dedication to Mum. The album as a whole is too.

You worked with some good names on this new album, and it's definitely an international-sounding album…

I had great people work with me on the album, including the legendary Daryl Hall. Those associations are wonderful. Having Norah Jones’ producer was fantastic too. I had amazing musicians work with me on the album. I definitely want to take this record overseas. It is an international record. Overseas labels are waiting to go with it.

Tell us about the make up of your full band on stage?

I have an eight-piece band comprising – drums, bass, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, pianist, three brass players (who also act as backing singers). We all gel beautifully but I will occasionally do acoustic shows with just me and a guitarist.

What have you grown up liking, musically?

I love blues, soul and jazz – people like Donny Hathaway, Roberta Flack, Al Green, Bill Withers, James Brown, Stevie Wonder and Lenny Kravitz. I’ve explored lots of different music in my teenage years.

What do you like doing away from music?

I’m a regular teenage guy away from music. I love to hang out with mates and know lots of car enthusiasts. My older brother is a car fanatic. I love cars, going to the movies. I hope to go on a good holiday one day soon.

Eran James' new album is titled Ten Songs About Love and it's out through Universal Music Australia. Eran will be performing more solo shows up to the end of 2007 and will be special guest for Elton John's tour in December.

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