Pop-pianist and global troubadour Brendan James speaks to ever-changing tides of romantic love and family life in a moment of stillness. Coming home from a remarkable journey worldwide, the singer-songwriter examines risks taken and measures of a life well-lived on Leap Taken, released October 20.
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The new collection follows 2015’s The Howl EP and 2013’s Playing Favorites LP. Most of the material was written overseas while traveling with his wife and preschool-aged children after selling their home in Charleston, South Carolina, and embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime voyage. Beginning in Holland, they traveled to England, France, Italy, Croatia, Spain, Iceland, Rwanda, Thailand, and New Zealand, staying in each country for a minimum of fifteen days.
His family immersed themselves in the local cultures. They avoided tourist attractions, sought local playgrounds, and shopped at grocery stores to cook family meals together.
“More than any of the new sights, sounds, smells, and tastes on this trip, I found myself continually inspired by the simplicity of being with my family,” says James. “It was like living in a beautiful and ever-changing vacuum, with my just wife and children – no careers, no routine, no schedule, no norm, just each other, moving through time and space.”
“That trip around the world was fuel for my soul,” he continues. “I did nothing but hang with my family and write new songs. It was incredible.”
The inspired product from the journey is James’ latest album, Leap Taken. The record is a natural sonic evolution for the songwriter while staying true to his intimate and expressive piano-driven ballads. Each song plays an essential role in the narrative that James takes immense pride in.
“Through Our Hands” is a snapshot of Brendan’s trip with his children, and “Penny” and Barcelona” explore the wonder of watching them grow up. “Alone Together” and “Day by Day” were recorded post-trip and mid-quarantine. The emotive tracks touch on this shared moment in a communal spirit.
As an emerging artist, James is most proud to share track seven, “Wake Up.” The collection is deeply personal to the artist and his family life.
“It’s big, bold, honest, and heavy, and it lets me push myself vocally, lyrically and production-wise,” he says. “I hope it means different things to different people.
The album was co-produced with Craig Meyer (Rachel Platten, Marc Scabilia) and Jonas Jalhay (Jason Mraz, Meghan Trainor, Amine, Post Malone, Big Sean, DJ Khaled) mixed it and provided additional post-production needs.
Pandemic life is a sharp contrast and challenge for the adventurous bunch, but they’ve found their trip prepared them for some aspects of this present alternative lifestyle .
“More than anything on that trip, we learned how to chill and just be with each other,” he explains. “So we’re applying that now, and most days, it’s helping.”
Beyond the day-to-day, James has found the construct-less environment liberating. As far as content, structure, and principle, James has taken on a “who cares” attitude and feels he is yielding some of his best work yet.
The stillness has inspired a new perspective for the excursionist. James has garnered an elevated appreciation for things he misses the most. Among those are traveling, mingling with fans, visiting friends in spanning global cities, and walking down unfamiliar streets among crowds of talking, laughing, and dancing strangers. He’s sure many folks share this sentiment and is optimistic about what the newfound gratitude will look like.
“If we can get to the other side of this, and acknowledge and work to repair the many things dividing us, our world could have a social renaissance coming,” he offers eagerly.
Listen to Brendan James’ new album, Leap Taken, here.