In just a few months, James Black’s life and livelihood have drastically changed. And he’s not looking back. Today, Black shares with us some of the context in which his life has changed with the premiere of his EP Dancin Round the Room. Originally from Dallas, Black, the musical alias of James McManus, moved to Austin last year, where things started to change quite rapidly for him. He’s not new to music, but the James Black project is quite a recent development.
For him, this current musical venture is a real deep dive into both indie pop and indie rock. Black has been a lifelong musician with over seven years of experience as a sound engineer. And many of these songs were written over the last couple of years, with some dating back even five years.
Discussing songwriting and revealing more about how the EP came about, he states:
“This EP was all written, produced, and mixed by me. However, I have so many people to thank for their input on this project. My friends and roommates who I play with, the venues where I’ve been demoing this project, and the fans who show up all impacted the final product. Working with legendary producer Gordon Raphael on the lead single ‘I Like This’ gave me such an incredible skillset. That man is so knowledgeable and easy to work with. Even though there was a seven-hour time difference we were able to meet every week to review my edits.
“My writing process starts with an instrument usually, then the words and melody come to me. I will record a bit, build out the established sound, and play around with merging some different styles. You never know what’s going to stick, and throughout the process of playing these songs for crowds and other musicians, the songs breathe life. There may be some key collaborations in the future to look out for. It feels incredible to release my first EP and I’m so excited to share Dancin Round the Room with my friends, family, and fans.”
Telling us more about his musical evolution, Black states:
“I started this project when I moved to Austin. I was on my own at first, but quickly had a great circle of friends and other musicians around me. The EP took shape after I quit my job in November, and I officially announced it in December. What I love about this project is the journey that each song tells. It’s a raw account of experiencing a new city, staying grounded, and becoming a stable and abundant creative. From single life to flirting with love, and through two different jobs. I’ve gotten to hear my piano evolve and shape my sound over the last two years. Next up for me is a series of live performances where I will keep building on my style and groove.”
As he alludes to, Black highly values the input that producer Gordon Raphael had in this project. Raphael is best known for producing The Strokes’ breakthrough record, Is This It. Black learned a lot from Raphael who empowered Black to feel more confident in himself as a songwriter and in his ability to record in the studio. Within his songwriting, Black has become a vocal advocate for mental health awareness. He uses his songs as a vehicle for offering solace and understanding to those who are suffering emotionally.
As an individual, Black is very much focused on living right, which he practices through diet, yoga, fitness, creative expression, and being active within his community. He invites you to join his own little movement, where music, authenticity, and free expression all combine together to promote healing, understanding, and empathy.
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