Bison Creek Records artist, James Robert Webb, just released his new single “Now We’re Gettin’ Somewhere, ” that was produced by Buddy Cannon. True to his blue-collar roots, James Robert Webb walks the line between traditional and modern country music. We talked with the singer/songwriter about growing up on a small farm outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma and where he draws inspiration from for songwriting. Check it out!
Your new song, “Now We’re Gettin’ Somewhere,” is fantastic! When/where do you do your best writing?
I find an idea can come anywhere, anytime. I have a note file on my phone, since I always have that with me. I’ve learned that whenever a great idea comes along or someone just says something that tweaks my ear, I write it down. If a melody comes into my head, I put it down on the voice recorder. Then when I’m sitting down to write, I have things to draw from. Those are usually a starting place where an idea develops.
But, I typically do my best writing in the morning before everyone else gets up and it’s quiet. Also when I’m on the road I have time to work things over in my head without writing it down. It’s two different ways I guess.
What made you want to work with producer by Buddy Cannon?
Buddy has such a great track record of making great country music with so many different artists. I’ve been a fan of Willie Nelson since I was a little kid and his work with Buddy has been some of the best of his career. When I started out I wanted to work with the best, someone at Buddy’s level, but I didn’t see how that was going to happen. And now it has. It’s just amazing.
Where did you get the inspiration for your songs?
Songs come from everywhere. Some come from lines you hear someone say that tweaks your ear a certain way. Songwriters are always looking to put a spin on everyday phrases. A lot of my themes are classic country themes clashing with today’s problems, like too much screen time.
Some songs, like “April May,” just come at once almost like the universe sent me a bicycle in an Amazon box and I just have to assemble it together correctly. I’m really lucky when that happens.The most important thing on those is to drop what you’re doing and finish the song right then while the flash of inspiration is working.
I also love to co-write. “Think About It” on this album started with one of my co-writers saying he wanted to write a song like “Do You Realize” by the Flaming Lips. And eventually it became a song about appreciating the wonder in the world. Even now with all our science and technology, there is so much that we don’t understand.
What musicians did you look up to growing up and what are you listening to right now?
I always looked up to the singers that made music that I loved—that moved me with their music. People like Garth Brooks, George Strait, Miranda Lambert, Tom Petty. I also always respected the great artists who were also great players, like Willie Nelson, The Eagles, Vince Gill, Leon Russell. Right now we’ve been on the road all week so we have a random assortment of music we listen to. On this trip we’ve listened to everything from Kacey Musgrave’s new album to Johnny Cash’s, When The Man Comes Around. A lot of things come up when you’re sharing the playlists. We were introducing Victoria [from Banner Music] to a variety of old alternative bands like Stone Temple Pilots and Nine Inch Nails and the Counting Crows.She’s from Canada and she was introducing us to Mariana’s Trench.
The last thing I’ve downloaded is Loretta Lynn’s new album that just dropped today, so I can listen to it on the flight. I’ve also been going back to old Miranda and Brooks & Dunn. Honestly, the last few months my time has mostly been consumed with writing and playing and listening to outside songs so I've been a little under a rock as far as new releases.
Tell us about how it feels to be an independent music artist.
On one hand, it’s great from the aspect of “you can do whatever you want.” You can kind of be an outlaw in the old sense of not having to follow what the industry expects. You can focus more on the art, rather than chasing a song that sounds like the last #1. You can focus on quality and telling stories. I can cut songs like that. There’s a lot of artists out there that call themselves ‘outlaw’ because they bought a leather jacket and drink too much. I think that’s missing the whole point of the term. Outlaw and red dirt were really terms that meant artists like Willie and Waylon were going their own way and creating something new outside of what the ‘industry’ says you should do. I identify most with those artists, but I think it’s a disservice to the term ‘outlaw country’ to apply that label sometimes. On the other, my goal is to make music that millions of people love. I just want to bring country back, you know? That’s not a diss against the music that’s out there, it’s great. It’s just my fans have a raging desire to hear ‘country’ music. And that’s not 90s country, it’s the next thing. So the struggle for me is to stay true to my roots while crafting a ‘sound’ that’s unique, modern and country at the same time.
You were raised on a small farm outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Can you tell us about farm life growing up?
It was great way to grow up, especially looking back with kids now. Don’t get me wrong, it was a lot of hard work and I hated a lot of that. But my whole family has always been hard workers as far back as I can tell. So when most of my friends were sleeping in on Saturdays, I was carrying 50 pound feed sacks and hauling hay in the summers. Carrying five gallon buckets of hot water and breaking ice in January. It taught me a lot about responsibility and caring for life. And of course some of my friends were on bigger farms, working more than me, so it’s a matter of perspective. But the flip side was also just the setting of a farm during that time of childhood. It was also amazing because I grew up in the woods. It was only ten acres, but to an eight year old boy with a dog, it’s a a whole country, rocks and fields and streams and woods and our pond. I might as well have been Lewis and Clark. We weren’t in watching TV during the day. We were out playing and running and letting our imaginations run wild. Making mud pies and digging for buried treasure by the creek.
Southerns know good cookin’. What's your favorite family recipe?
My kids love my buttermilk pancakes and biscuits. And I’m the ‘griller’ in my family. But my wife holds the title of my favorites. For Thanksgiving, she makes a killer sweet potato casserole, so that’s probably my favorite.
If you could own any eating establishment what would it be?
After today, I think it would be The Camp in Natchez, Mississippi. That was some great food, right on the river under the hill. But, as far as a place I go all the time, Chuy’s or In-N-Out Burger. Both places make it fresh in house and focus on quality. That’s why the fans are so rabid.
What kitchen appliance do you use every day?
My espresso machine. It’s a super-automatic. A Saeco Incantato. My kids refer to it as “Little brother,” because when I bought it I told them it cost more than they did at the hospital. And they all love to use it. Even my eight year old makes her own macchiatos now, lol. Second place would be our electronic tea kettle. That’s a popular item and such an amazing convenience. And of course I love that Traditional Medicinals “Throat Coat” tea is the best for singing or just for allergies.
What's your favorite fast food chain?
In-N-Out Burger if I’m where there is one. I also love Sonic and Braums and they’re both out of Oklahoma. My kids’ favorite right now is Canes.
What’s on your pizza?
Everything. I love a really good pizza. Chicago style, New York, white pizza, you name it. Usually if it’s a night in with Domino’s it would be a meat lover.
Finally, if you could be sponsored by one food/drink brand who would it be and why?
I am already like a virtual brand ambassador for Traditional Medicinals, lol. As an MD, I really appreciate the quality they have in their ingredients and the taste is great. Otherwise it would have to be something with a lot of caffeine, like Rock Star, I love their no-carb flavors.
ABOUT JAMES ROBERT WEBB:
True to his blue-collar roots, James Robert Webb walks the line between traditional and modern country music. Raised on a small farm outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma, he grew undeniably country roots while being influenced by Tulsa sound artists as diverse as Bob Wills, Leon Russell and Ryan Tedder. His sound is driven by his unique, indefinable voice and organic, neo-traditionalist style fused with modern production techniques. James' 2016 debut, Pictures, yielded two top 40 singles on the Music Row Country Breakout Chart - "Makin' Love Tonight" and "How That Feels." Both singles also broke the top 60 at Billboard indicator while the later gave James his first top 40 as a songwriter.
Despite his early success as an independent artist, one thing most fans don't know is that Webb remains a practicing physician in Tulsa. His practice specializes in bone health and helping patients that spinal surgery can't fix. That may seem an unlikely day job for a Billboard country artist and CMA member, but it's a natural fit for Webb. "It's my small-town roots that keep me grounded. My first paying job was as a stock hand." Webb is a hometown hero who never left those blue-collar roots behind. And like many Oklahoma country stars before him, that down to earth appeal is what engages fans during his live shows.