"Thirsty Thursday" Featuring Ian James
Thank you for talking with us! For newer fans, how did your passion for music and career come about? I started playing drums when I was 8, and played in middle and high school jazz bands and percussion ensembles. But, I never really took music seriously. Then, when I started my first job out of college in 2015, I could tell right away it wasn’t my path at all. Something inside me just changed dramatically and I knew I wanted to pursue music fully. So I moved to Charleston in the fall of 2016 to start a band and commit 100% to this path. I played drums in the band and we toured and had an amazing 3 years of growth and success. During that experience, I discovered a growing desire within me to pursue a solo journey. I had an inspiration to write my own music and try my own pursuits under my name. So since 2019, I’ve been a solo pop artist and have grown so much musically...and I’ll continue growing and improving every day.
You recently released your new single, “By My Side" that you also co-wrote. Tell us about the writing process and where the idea came from. “By My Side” was written in 2019 when I was in San Diego visiting my Mom. I had recently lost a job and was just in a weird place of feeling lost and without direction. There was a day when I was hanging at a café and I just felt this inner burning to write out a melody I was hearing. And from there the inspiration for the words came. I started thinking about all the trials I had been through in life: being born with a facial deformity and having 20+ surgeries, my Mom being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer only 10 days before I left for freshman year of college, and my own struggle with living a lifestyle that didn’t reflect who I truly was. During all those times, I felt God there right by my side. I never once felt completely abandoned and alone because I felt his presence there. Whether it was through timely conversations with people in my lowest moments, or randomly seeing a word or phrase pop up somewhere that clearly spoke to my situation, it was those moments where you just can’t deny something greater than yourself is at work. It’s just too obvious He’s there. Whether someone attributes this presence to God or something else, we can all point to those times we’ve felt something greater helping us in our lowest moments. So, this song is meant as an honest acknowledgement of God in my life, and an exclamation that I’ve felt him “by my side” through everything. The lyrics and music are written to be inspirational and uplifting, so that whoever is listening will be truly motivated and encouraged no matter what they are currently experiencing.
How was it filming the video for "By My Side?" Filming this music video was amazing. I was actually living in Rochester, NY at the time I decided to do a video for “By My Side.” I just knew it was the song with the best imagery potential and I knew the emotion behind it would lead to an incredible visual experience. Immediately, I reached out to my friend Matt Crum, who had done my former band’s music video. His work is just ridiculous; he literally does the entire thing himself and what he creates is on par with top label-produced videos that have 50+ people working on them. Then, I asked my friend Jordan if she wanted to be in it, as the “angelic presence” throughout the video. I’d seen her dancing on social media and right away knew her style and ability was exactly what I was looking for. Matt and I had several Zoom calls to go over the theme and lay out the video scene-by-scene, plus we texted ideas constantly leading up to filming day. Then we began the day on the beach at Sullivan’s Island here in Charleston, capturing the expansive view of the ocean with me and Jordan on the jetty that you see early in the video. From there, we just went to different spots in Charleston, shooting our vision and doing numerous takes each time to get the exact footage we wanted. That whole day was an unforgettable experience, as it was my first ever solo creative project of that size and scope, where I was “in charge” of it. I’m just so thankful to have worked with Matt and Jordan, because they helped to execute my original vision from beginning to end to perfection. And what was really special about that day was just having the support of good friends and feeling like we were really all in it together. My friend Carissa helped with behind-the-scenes footage, my friend Brian (who also produced and engineered the song) let us film scenes in his studio, and my good friend Chad acted in several scenes. It just felt like I had a family supporting me that day, and I’ll never forget it. Aside from singing, do you play any instruments? I’m a drummer and percussionist first, having started when I was 8. I didn’t even play guitar until 7th grade and even then I barely learned more than a few chords. I honestly only started truly playing acoustic guitar a few years ago and have just worked to improve to the point that I write all my songs from an acoustic guitar and play live on guitar. It’s been quite a journey, but I love the progress I’ve made and it’s really fun being able to play in front of people on guitar.
At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people take away from your songs? This is honestly the question that’s most important to me because it addresses the entire purpose of why I pursue music. My whole life, I’ve had friends from all different backgrounds and beliefs. I’ve never really had one “core group” I’m in. To this day, I have friends from a variety of groups, but I’m never “in” a group. This honestly can sometimes feel incredibly isolating and lonely. But, what I’ve learned is the purpose behind this is that I have established close relationships with a wide variety of people, and am exposed to so many types of people in my life. With my music, I truly aim to be a bridge between every type of person, no matter who they are, what they believe, what they like, or how they look. We’re all created to be relational beings, and through my music I aim to relate to every single person in some way, in the hopes that they would feel spoken to and inspired by the music or lyrics.
What is your favorite wine? My favorite wine is Malbec. I’m incredibly biased because I studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina for a semester in college. I got to do several winery tours in Mendoza, which is a world-famous region for wine, and it is still by far the best wine I’ve ever tasted.
Home cooking or going out for dinner? I would 100 times out of 100 choose going out for dinner and here’s why: Cooking at home is awesome and is very enjoyable. But, going out somewhere is a complete experience - you choose where you want to go and what kind of food you’re in the mood to try. There’s this excitement of deciding where you’ll go and the anticipation building as you drive there. Then you get to the restaurant and get to enjoy the whole ambience and vibe. Most importantly, your food finally comes and your whole purpose for being there comes together. It’s just a complete experience that I personally am always so excited to have.
What is your favorite childhood cereal? This might be different but I was a HUGE Frosted Shredded Wheat kid. Let them soak in the milk a little bit, and then they just taste amazing. I think I ate a bowl of them every single morning growing up. Love that cereal. And it was actually pretty filling! Nothing better.
What's your favorite family recipe? Growing up, my grandma blessed us with her Stuffed Peppers. I literally could eat those every day and never grow tired. There’s just something about the way she made them: not complicated, with just the right amount of flavor to be perfect. Her Stuffed Peppers will always be my favorite recipe...and food in general.
Finally, if you could be sponsored by one food/drink brand who would it be and why? I would LOVE to be sponsored by JuneShine Kombucha out of San Diego.I discovered them in 2019 when I visited San Diego and I literally knew instantly that they would become huge nationally in no time. Their branding and aesthetic is so well done and the taste of their kombucha is just perfect. I’m a huge kombucha fan, as people who know me would tell you, so this would be the most amazing sponsorship ever. My personality and vibe meshes so well with their brand - I’d love to rep their products!
About Ian James:
Ian James is a Christian Pop artist from Charleston, South Carolina, who has been featured in CCM Mag and New Release Today - the two biggest Christian music publications. Born and raised in Rochester, New York, Ian began playing drums and guitar at the age of 8, performing in various school bands and ensembles. Ian decided to pursue a solo career in early 2019, realizing he wanted to share his passion for outreach and his faith through his own personal stories. He released his debut single “I Look Up” in 2019, followed by his most popular song to date, “Will for Me”, in which Ian declares his desire to follow God’s leading for his life, no matter where it takes him.
In his music and heart for others, Ian hopes to bring light to those struggling and in need of kindness and true compassion. His writing is inspired by raw, deeply personal experiences that have fully shaped who he is, and his songs undeniably reflect this message.