XS ROCK: So James, let’s start with you. Tell me a little about yourself.
James: First of all….I’m James and I sing for Blacktop Mojo.
XS ROCK: Can you tell me a little about this current tour you’re on?
James: This is the second leg of our North America tour. We’ve been out on the road since April. We went home for about two weeks and then went back out. We just got off the road with Shaman’s Harvest and then we’re going to meet up with our boys in Black Stone Cherry.
XS ROCK: Correct me if I’m wrong, but you guys are working on material for a new album, right?
James: We are! We’ve got some demos of several songs done back home and we’re going to play a couple of new songs tonight at our show here in Sarasota Florida.
XS ROCK: So how long have you guys been together as a band?
James: We’ve been together as a band since 2012. Almost six years now.
XS ROCK: Did you guys know each other before starting the band?
James: I worked in a coffee shop in Palestine Texas and me and our drummer Nathan Gillis had some mutual friends. We kind of ran into each other at parties and people would be like this guy can sing, or this guy can play guitar, you guys should get together or whatever. We always shrugged each other off, but we ended up running into each other super hammered drunk in a bar, somehow Nathan remembered to call me and invite me to come over to his house and jam and we did. He blew me the hell away. He’s a solid drummer. And then the band started from there.
XS ROCK: What was your main motivation for starting or being in a band?
James. I taught myself how to play guitar when I was a senior in high school. I was always kind of shy in college, so I would play at parties and it kind of helped me have something to talk about I guess.
XS ROCK: You guys are receiving a lot of buzz in the music industry right now. Does that help your belief in what you’re doing?
James: It’s a nice kind of affirmation, but I think we’d be doing it anyway, you know.
XS ROCK: What image do you think your music conveys to people?
James:I don’t know. We’re just some Southern boys who like to play heavy music, man.
XS ROCK: Which do you prefer? Writing and recording new songs or playing for a live audience?
James: They both have their pros. I really like playing for a live audience. You get that adrenaline rush. But creating stuff is cool too. It’s a different kind of high. It’s kind of like putting a puzzle together.
XS ROCK: What kind of lyrical themes do you have when writing new songs?
James: The themes kind of vary depending on what we have going on at the time. “Burn the ships” is about everybody in the band. We all quit our day jobs and decided this is what we’re going to do. I think our lyrics are really reactive to what everybody’s going through.
XS ROCK: What’s the single most important thing to you as a musician and performer?
James: Just having fun, man! Make sure everybody has fun!
XS ROCK: Do you have any outrageous tour stories that you can tell?
James: We did a VIP after party show on our bus one night.We had a guy….a really nice guy who’s come back since then, but he passed out drunk on our bus, we were all drinking whiskey, and his wife had to take him to the ER. And now we have a framed copy of his Emergency Room’s doctor’s note that says “Make better decisions with alcohol and reconsider pursuing a rock star career”. The doctor had a sense of humor.
XS ROCK: What’s the strangest fan request that you’ve ever received?
James: That’s a tough question. Usually they just wanna grab the beard, maybe.
XS ROCK: I’m assuming it’s females that want to grab your beard.
James: Ha Ha Ha, yeah. It’s always been girls.
XS ROCK: Are your friends and family members supportive of your choice to play in a rock band?
James: Oh absolutely! They’re some of our biggest supporters. We definitely couldn’t do it without them. We wouldn’t be where we’re at with them.
XS ROCK: Which bands or artists inspired out to perform?
James: One artist that had a big impact on us because their from our home town, is Whiskey Myers. I remember seeing them in concert when I was a teenager and seeing what they’ve accomplished. It made us think if they can do it, we can do it too. We grew up in the South so we liked a lot of Southern Rock and of course Lynyrd Skynyrd. Ronnie Van Zant is awesome! We started out playing in bars and we did a lot of country covers. I think some that country twang is still in our music. And then we all kind of find common ground as far as influences go with Alice In Chains, Soundgarden and the whole grunge movement of the 90’s.
XS ROCK: What are your favorite tracks to play live?
James: Here lately, it kind of been our new songs. They’re really fresh and we’re still kind of hashing them out. It’s fun to do that in front of a live auduence and see what their reactions is. We’ve been playing two new songs the first is called “All Mine Now” and the second is “It Won’t Last”. One’s a hard and heavy jam and the other’s kind of a bluesy number.
XS ROCK: If you could design a dream tour to go out on the road with, who would be on the bill?
James: Us, Shaman’s Harvest and Black Stone Cherry. It’d be a hell of a time.
XS ROCK: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far?
James: Being able to play music full time. We’re really blessed to do what we do all of the time. man.
XS ROCK: If you weren’t performing in a band, what kind of career do you think you would have had?
James: Well, I have a degree in Biology. So probably a doctor or a lab technician. Something along those lines.
XS ROCK: Tell me about equipment. Do you guys have endorsements?
James: Yeah. We’ve been working with Gibson guitars, Warwick basses, we’re talking with Dean drums now. Di’Addario strings and I just got endorsed by 1964 Ears.
XS ROCK: Is there anything that you’d like to promote or say to your fans out there?
James: Just come and check us out at a show. We’ll be out on the road through the end of August. We’ve also got some festivals coming up like “Louder Than Life” and Rock Allegiance” and “ThrottleFest”. We’re hoping to have a new single out in January of 2019 and then a new album out by next Spring.
XS ROCK: Thanks for taking time out to talk with us at XS ROCK.
James: Absolutely brother! Thank you for having me.