An Interview With The NJ-Based Singer-Songwriter, SHAYFER JAMES!
Get to know the NJ singer-songwriter Shayfer James!
James has been extremely active this year, supporting his latest EP with a music video for nearly every track on the record. His moving single “New York Doesn’t Remind Me” is paired with an exclusive photo-set. This release takes fans on an audio-visual journey throughout NYC, reflecting on love, heartbreak, and the intertwined connection memories can hold to particular locations. An emotive and intimate ballad, the single comes hot off the heels of James’ latest EP Hope And A Hand Grenade, released earlier this year.
“The places I describe in the song are all actual locations where my own love affair blossomed and withered in New York City, making this song deeply personal to me,” shared James. “I just thought there was something important about admitting that I was in denial. Admitting that my heart was broken and that everything reminded me of this lost love.”
Taking the concept a step further, James collaborated with friend and photographer Samantha Tenbroek Mellina, to build a companion photo-set for the song. Producing a stunning series of twelve photographs shot across the city, it further brings the track to life. “She spent a day with me in NYC revisiting all of the places I describe in the song and photographing me,” reflected James. Shot on 35mm film with an old Canon A-1 camera created an authentic, one-take challenge that makes the images even more impressive, as new details are discovered in every examination.
Connect With SHAYFER JAMES Online Here-
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Learn more about Shayfer James in the following All Access interview-
What does a typical day look like for you? What do you have scheduled the rest of today and this week?
Always start it with a french press coffee at home and some news-reading. This coming week is a week of resting after a busy two Halloween weekends 😉
Now that we are more than half-way through the year, how has 2019 been treating you? What are some goals that you have for yourself this year? How close are you to reaching them?
The year has been wonderful. My goals were to successfully release and support an EP and increase listens on Spotify specifically. The song “Mercy Down” has gotten well over 100,000 plays on Spotify since release in March, which is the fastest to 100k for any one of my tracks by far.
Growing up, how important was music in your life? Can you recall the moment when you decided that you wanted to be a musician? Was it an easy or difficult choice to make?
Music was always a part of my life. My mother, sister and I used to clean the house every Saturday listening to Motown and Theater and The Beatles. Was a huge highlight of my childhood. I also got involved with theater at a very young age. I knew I was a musician when I was 16 and wrote my first song. It was magic and I never really looked back.
Was there ever a time when you thought about doing something else? If you weren’t a musician today, what else could you see yourself doing? Would you be as fulfilled in life?
I think we as musicians are sold this over-romantic idea about doing ONLY this. I find that pretty boring and limiting. Music is in my blood, it’s not so much a choice as it is as a way of life. I’m always interested in doing other things. I dabble in teaching, and tech, and all kinds of things that fulfill me. Having a lot of different goals to focus on helps me grow as an artist.
What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music your career? What has been an unexpected or welcome challenge to it all? What has been the best part about it all?
The journey has been the best part. The beautiful unfolding of a relationship with myself and others through creation.
Let’s talk about your single “New York Doesn’t Remind Me.” What was the inspiration for this track? Can you elaborate on the photo series that you have paired with this song? Why did you choose to do this for it? What was it like working with your photographer on these photos?
The places I describe in the song are all actual locations where my own love affair blossomed and withered in New York City, making this song deeply personal to me. I worked with Samantha Tenbroek Mellina to build a companion photo-set for the song. She spent a day with me in NYC revisiting all of the places I describe in the song and photographing me. Her goal was to capture the spontaneity and permanence I’m describing in the song, so film was the perfect choice. Not knowing what the photos actually looked like until they were developed felt nostalgic and genuine to me. There was no going back and, in this case, no editing in post. Samantha played a lot with window reflections and invited actress/models Ines Storani, and Morgan Doelp to recreate some moments with me. It was a magical experience and also cathartic. It helped me reclaim my relationship with the locations, and make new memories.
How would you say that this newest track compares to the EP you put out earlier this year called Hope And A Hand Grenade?
It’s certainly more romantic and folk infused. Also, it was the first time that Jeremy Gillespie fully produced a track. I just recorded the piano/vocal in a live studio take and he arranged everything else around it. He knows my sensibilities really well, but also pushed the track in a different direction than I had imagined, I think his string arrangement is incredible.
When do you hope to release more new songs? What has been inspiring your music lately?
I’m working on a bunch of new music now and plan to release a few singles and another EP within the next year. I’ve been inspired by the current state of affairs in America and also my own personal growth.
Where can people see you perform next? Do you have any fall tour dates scheduled yet? What has been a favorite performance of yours so far? What do you think makes for a perfect show for you?
I’ll be performing a duo show with drums/piano at The Manderley Bar (Home of “Sleep No More”) on November 20th at 10pm. It’s free! I’m all about a cool vibe and a great sound system. I LOVE performing at Rockwood Music Hall stage 2 because it has both.
Where would you still love to hear a song of yours played?
Would love to have one of my songs as the opening theme for a television series.
At the end of the day, what do you hope people take away from your music?
I hope it moves them. Makes them think. And perhaps inspires them to make art of their own.