Joseph James

Joseph James ‘Wouldn’t Change a Thing’

A sweet mix of Jon Bon Jovi, Sir Elton John, and Jason Mraz, Joseph James sounds like the next big thing in adult contemporary and pop rock music.

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but what if you’re not old and they’re not new tricks? For Joseph James, his debut record and foray into the music industry is just that: a mix of big, youthful dreams and decades of being inside the business. An executive and label head for AP Music Group, James has tapped more than a handful of stars, both established and on the rise, but when the dwindling of opportunity came at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, he turned his attention to himself. He tapped his own inner star – in the same way he did with Lady Gaga in the early 2000s – and found a slew of songs ready to be recorded, heard, and shared. It’s all setting up to break him, as himself, into the mainstream world of pop music as a commercial artist with Times Square billboards (Check!) and thousands of fans (Check!). This week we’re directing your attention to the single, “Valentine,” off of 5.5 coming this May. The Aquarian got to chatting with the talented Joseph James about such for the following interview, highlighting the enjoyable career shift and proving him to be a kindred spirit.

Tell us a bit about the title of your upcoming record, 5.5. What does it mean and when did you know this was going to be the title?  

A very good question with all the mystery [Laughs]. I did not know that 5.5 was going to be the title. One of the promoters for “Valentine” (also my Berklee roommate in college), suggested that I pick a title with deeper meaning, so originally the album was called ‘This is 55.’ As I’m 55 years old. I changed it to ‘5.5 and the intrigue has now worked. Great question!

How did you choose “Valentine” to be your debut single?

It was just perfect timing that I’d release the debut single for Valentine’s Day. While starting to mix the record, “Valentine” was the song that seemed to come together quickly, thus the stars aligned. From a business standpoint, it’s also great to put out a holiday single, statistically.  From my years at the labels, I often heard and saw that.

You’re far from new in the industry, but just now embarking on this solo career. Why is 2023 the right time for you to be releasing your own music and sharing your art with the world?

I love your questions. In this music business, I’ve been blessed with working with many from [Lady] Gaga, Bono, [Andrea] Bocelli, [Ritchie] Blackmore, and many other greats from engineering, producing, arranging, and writing. Many artists would hear my personal work over the years and tell me to do exactly what I have now embarked on for myself. When COVID came so did a ton of session work, which is always a blessing, but so did my awareness of wanting something more. While dealing with loss and a line up of projects, I hit my personal breaking point where I said, “Once I finish this list, I am taking time for myself and come what may.” I did, and while my skills speak for themselves, I went back to personal practicing and writing non-stop and happily letting my OCD do its magic. By the end of 2022 I had written 30 songs that I really liked – which is very unusual – and took my performance to a whole other unforeseen level. 2023 became the release year as I wanted to do it while everything is fresh.

How has your prior industry experiences as a label owner, producer, touring performer, and over-arching singer-songwriter played into your release and rollout of 5.5 and “Valentine,” as well?

100%. Not a day goes by while working on 5.5 that a creative, technical, and business decision is executed based on a past experience in the business. I parallel that feeling to the Jeopardy scenes in Slumdog Millionaire

Joseph James with Lady Gaga, Andrea Boccelli, & Garth Brooks / Courtesy of Joseph James

You are a Berklee College of Music graduate. If you could tell that music-loving college student anything about where you are today, and offer up any advice, what would it be?

Whew…. Definitely to go to the [high school] summer program or take a couple courses in person and not online first just to get a taste of what’s to come. You must love what you do with limitless passion as the road ahead of you will not until it does – if it does. Now with that being said, I am glad I did the Berklee route as I needed to learn from the greats, both as students and faculty. I know myself well enough that any other kind of career wasn’t going to work for me. In addition, going into music for the rest of my life was never an issue, but it wasn’t always easy. Certainly with what I have achieved to date, I wouldn’t change a thing!

Going off of that, is this album of yours something that college-aged Joseph James would’ve been a fan of? Is this the record you thought you’d always make? 

Absolutely. I love 5.5. It’s the greatest I’ve done to date. It might have been a bit ahead of its time for the nineties, but a good song is timeless. It is the record I had always hoped I would make. The universe has the ability of creating the ‘perfect’ out of imperfections.

Similarly, which one song from it do you think sums it all up the best for you and this era of your career?

Every song on the record does equally – it’s the chapters of my life.  If I had to pick one (for today), it could be “For All You Know,” which radio has already dubbed as my summertime release. I had told radio that if we get SiriusXM you can pick the next single! Fingers crossed… everything crossed!