You start a pop culture website, you’re asked to interview someone in 2014 and you do a bit of research and go to the interview, and you come away a fan, for life. That’s what happened to me when I met Branden James (tenor, America’s Got Talent finalist) for the first time. That’s all well and good, and you follow his career since then, and cement the fandonship, and then … the opportunity comes along to chat to him AGAIN … you go along and act like a gibbering 13 year old and hope that at the end of the day you can make some sense of the interview.
This time round Branden and his partner, cellist James Clark, were part of an event organised by the Feast organisation and this allowed them to be part of a wonderful giving initiative in the most beautiful setting of The Venue in Melrose Arch.
When we arrived the guys were still busy with the sound check, which added to the experience for us as it gave us an insight into the background of the event. It was a bit like having a private Branden and James concert! It was also my first time seeing James Clark in action and it was a privilege.
Welcome back to South Africa. It’s your first time isn’t it James?
James: It’s my first time yes. It’s been so great. I’m from Adelaide South Australia originally. We’re cricket playing friends. I like to bring that up. I don’t want to mention the rugby though. I’ve loved it here.
How did you get involved in cello playing, James?
James: It’s something I’ve done since I was about 9. But I was already having piano lessons and the school offered violin lessons and a year into that my teacher said I think you should play cello because there will be less competition for jobs and you’re going to have the fingers for it. It’s all about hand span on the cello. You need to be able to reach certain things. It was under her guidance and every kid wants to be unique, I thought I don’t want to be like everyone else. I’m going to play the cello. Now it’s been 20 something years.
Branden: This is our last public show here. We’re doing a private event tomorrow at Steyn City. It’s a big place with great acoustics so it’s always really nice.
James: Then we leave here July 19th, we’re also recording a music video in Joburg on Sunday and Monday so we’re packing in as much as we can.
Branden: It’s called Juego Cruelle, a Spanish cover of Chris Isaac’s Wicked Game and we’ll be shooting the video here in Joburg in a couple of different locations.
James: It will be coming out very soon. Then yes we do head back to America on the 19th and we are in Los Angeles for a couple of weeks before we head back to our residency in Santa Fe, New Mexico. During that time we’re also going to South America for a week of performances and to Hawaii four times.
Branden: We also recorded seven new songs while we were here over four days in the studio.
I saw you had a fainting episode on the plane coming over.
Branden: I did. I had a throat infection before I left and the doctor put me on steroids, but I didn’t tell him that I was flying and I guess you’re not supposed to fly when you’re on those kind of steroids, so I fainted. It was definitely scary.
James: I wasn’t that nervous because I was taking photos. After he got the help and some oxygen I could see the colour come back to his face, I thought it was time for some selfies.
I’m glad that you come back here every couple of years!
Branden: Me too. We hope to come back more often.
How did you get involved with the Feast initiative?
Branden: Feast is an organisation that is headed up by someone I call a friend now Christophe Juet, and his mother owns a catering company called the French Corner and she was at my shows in 2009 for the Twelve Tenors and she’s been a big fan ever since. It was her 65th birthday a few weeks ago and she flew us down to perform at her birthday party and was the initial reason why we’re here.
James: They provide scholarships for underprivileged students who want to get into culinary arts.
Branden: Because Christophe is involved in the events and catering business as well, it’s sort of intermixed with his mother’s business, events are their specialty so I think this is their perfect situation for a fundraiser.
James: It was like a bucket list type thing. Many Australians were delighted to go on safari so I was delighted to have the opportunity to go. I was very excited to see lions, wildebeest, warthogs. And we were at Shambala a fabulous property and the staff were very kind to us. We had a lovely experience.
What’s the Need Your Love campaign about?
Branden: We recorded a song and a video, Unchained Melody, which I think you’ve seen, and we wanted to create a campaign around the song. It was the 50th anniversary of the original song.
James: It was a campaign that we really ran intensely over the holiday period last year, and we really just wanted people to spread some love and to be kind one another.
Branden: We need it now.
James: It’s still happening. People can’t seem to learn the act of love, it was an initiative to get people to do nice things and be loving to everyone. We started another social campaign about music since February, #OurMusic but we’ve still been putting the Need Your Love thing through as a general message and I think it will remain as part of a general social message that we have, with our upcoming single You Belong.
Branden: The new single You Belong really just tells the story about how everyone has a place and that we’re all the same and it kind of ties into Need Your Love and it talks about treating people with human dignity and respect and all those things.
James: You don’t have to be everyone’s friend but you can still be good to them.
Branden: No. I’d just met James, and we became romantic partners and then started playing music together.
James: We met online, we didn’t have any clue about the music thing but it seems like it was meant to be. It kind of happened very organically. I was still studying my masters and Branden was doing freelance work and we just kind of tied up together and did a gig together and people seemed to like it and the more people liked it the more that’s come of it.
When it seems like daily or weekly there is some form of terrorist atrocity, we all need some love and kindness and to do what we can to encourage people to live with love and kindness.
Here’s more about The Branden James duo #ourmusic
You can follow Branden and James on any form of social media where they are very active: