On his latest album, entitled Broken Glass Twisted Steel, Nashville-based artist James House presents a collection of soulful country tunes, each exploring different dimensions of human relationships, as told through a hearty and sincere vocal delivery.
Nashville songwriter James House has had a string of UK Dance Chart hits after his 1994 album, Days Gone By, was rediscovered by a line dance instructor. Working alongside co-producer Michael Bradford, House recorded the basis for the new album in Nashville’s legendary RCA Studio A (now dubbed Grand Victor Sound), along with an elite set of studio musicians before cutting the vocals himself at his home studio. Besides his success as one of Nashville’s most sought-after songwriters, House has become something of a sensation in the U.K. and mainland Europe following the recent “re-discovery”—and chart topping success—of one of his earlier songs: “This Is Me Missing You.” Pro Sound News caught up with House during his English tour, which has included several sold-out performances.
ON THE PROJECT LAUNCH:
Michael Bradford and I were going over what would comprise the album. More than anything else, I would throw in stuff like “Ain’t That Lonely Yet,” which I co-wrote and which is a Dwight [Yoakam] cut. I knew how I’d played the original version, and I’d experimented a little bit just to see if this enhanced anything— Michael has great ears for things like that. As far as the musicians are concerned, you don’t really need to do a lot of work in advance with them. They are so good that you are going to get their attention very quickly. When you hire musicians like Lou Toomey and Brent Rogers, they are all in the moment. I don’t know how they do it since they are cutting so many sessions.
ON STAYING IN THE MOMENT:
When I try to intellectualize the songs, it just doesn’t work. I’ll let ideas collect in my head for a while and then write them down. A good example is the new one I just wrote with Danny O’Keefe, who I’ve been a fan of for all my life. He wrote a big hit back in 1971 called “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues.” It’s a classic, and I think I told Danny that I used to play it as a kid. I had part of a song with this title and this strand of a piece of music and I thought, ‘I could write this by myself, but wouldn’t it be really cool to write it with Danny?’ So I sent him the track on Facebook and asked him if he would be interested and he said ‘Yes.’ A week-to-10 days went by and we had finished this great track “Songwriter’s Serenade.” You go through these different stages as a songwriter. First, there is a stage you go through as a young kid who’s a little wild, then you go through the middle-aged thing and you feel like you’ve got to say something deeper. Now I am at a stage where I’m just coming back to writing more about love and relationships more than anything else.
ON BEING A WRITER
Music has had a profound effect on me ever since I can remember being alive. And being a writer is one of the greatest things in the world since there is this sense of discovery happening all the time. For me, it is all about putting yourself in a good place to write from. I am touring in the UK right now, doing the album Days Gone By—because that’s what took off over here in the first place. Now people are singing along, and I ask myself, ‘My God, how did this happen?’ When everybody is singing along like that, it puts you very much in touch with what you’re doing, and you end up writing in kind of the same vibe.
ON RCA STUDIO A:
We recorded the album at Nashville’s historic RCA Studio A that Chet Atkins built in 1964. There is so much love in that room. I have been in studios all around the world and there is something extremely special about this place. It is where Davy Jones from The Monkees sang “Daydream Believer,” and where Dolly Parton recorded “Jolene.” At one point, there were several of the RCA studios around the world, big rooms that hold 100-piece orchestras. They are all gone now except for this room.
ON RECORDING GUITAR AND VOCALS:
I have a Neumann U67 and the [UA] LA2A, all going into API 512c preamp. Then I am going into [Apple] Logic on an iMac with the [UA] Apollo interface, recording at 96k. This is my recording chain, and you don’t even have to EQ it after that if you get the mic placement right. I recorded all the vocals myself since this is one thing I can do while I am alone and I can be much tougher on myself than anyone else. On any given song, I bet I will do about 50 vocal takes. For the acoustic guitar, I have this [Blue Microphones] Blueberry microphone that I really love. I often use this in combination with a Shure SM 57, which captures the grungy snarl of the acoustic. I’ll blend them both together and then run them through the LA2A and the 512c.
ON LINE DANCING IN EUROPE:
“This is Me Missing You” was a song I did from 1994 that got rediscovered by a line dance instructor in the UK, Yvonne Anderson. After it was rediscovered in a line-dancing club, people started buying my records and it took off and went to number one. Then the rest of the album got rediscovered. So I’ve had the number-one song and four songs in the top 10 on the UK Dance Chart just because this one woman. It is incredible.
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