Branden & James at Feast!

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.

IMG_3541We then had the opportunity to catch up with what they had been doing since 2014.

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.

IMG_3544You’ve done other shows in SA. Are there more people can look forward to here?

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. 

IMG_3539Branden: 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. 

IMG_3552You were on safari, how has your experiences been?

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.

IMG_3537It’s so nice that you guys are working together now. You weren’t when I met you last time.

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:

Instagram

Twitter

Facebook

Branden James Crossover Review

 

When I had the chance to interview Branden James in 2014 for The Colab Network, I listened to a few of his songs and went armed with a few questions. I liked his style but didn’t know all that much about him. I left as a fan for life. That’s the impression he as a person and a musician had on me. It didn’t matter that he was one of the Twelve Tenors or had been a finalist on America’s Got Talent. All that was testament to his talent (and in my opinion he should have won America’s Got Talent) but even if he’d been singing on the street and I’d heard him there, I’d have known he was one of the best.

So I was thrilled when the opportunity came along to review his EP!  It’s an absolute honour to be asked to write about someone as talented as this. 

Branden says “I really thought about the word crossover and what that means to me. I wanted to take the musical styles I’ve been influenced by and fuse them together without neglecting the fact that I’m a classically trained singer. What came out of my pen were elements of pop, folk, Americana and even a hint of country.”

With that in mind, I think Branden achieved that and more with this collection of beautiful, sensitively written and sung tracks. The EP as a whole is a lovely mix of contemporary and classical songs written or co-written by Branden James (except “The Night” which was written by Katy Stephan and “Why You Had to Change My World” which was written by, and a big hit of, Branden’s grandfather – country star Jimmy Smith.)

“You Belong” is a very comforting song especially to those who sometimes wonder where their place in the world is – and indeed, what they are doing here. Loneliness is a sad place to be and the song makes the listener feel that he or she is not misplaced in the world.

“The Night” has a folksy, upbeat feel to it and is a nice fit after the slower “You Belong”

“Where Are You Now” is a no brainer for me. We’ve had a couple of losses in our family this year. Very recently we had to put our beloved dog down which has been completely shattering. I found myself listening to this and smiling and thinking of her. Anybody who has experienced any form of loss or is missing anybody in any way will find this very relatable, soothing and healing.

“Another Chance” describes a situation to which we can all relate, probably particularly in our teenage and young adult years – how many chances do we give someone or something? The song sums up that range of emotion in a moving, meaningful way which will stick with people.

“It’s Beautiful Tonight” contains some artistic imagery that takes the mind to another place. I loved the line “I’m staring at a frozen sky” which really made me think ‘yes. It IS beautiful tonight.’


Branden James and Me!“Why You Had to Change My World”
is a beautiful cover of the Jimmy Smith original with a traditional moving country feel. This is a lovely tribute to a grandfather who had a large impact on Branden’s life and clearly passed on talent!!

As with every song of Branden’s, it’s far better for you to listen to the music and experience it for yourself than to rely on the written word. The EP is already available for preorder on iTunes (I just put my order in!). Sales will begin August 18th.

There is something for everyone in this peaceful, moving EP by a highly talented musician.

Reviews are supposed to have some sort of criticism included to make them balanced, but the only thing I could find wrong is that the EP doesn’t go on longer. I am ‘just a fan’ without any musical knowledge but I do know that Branden James as a musician is a cut above the rest. So I enlisted the help of a professional musician, Jean Collen, to do this piece justice.

Here is what she has to say.

Branden James has a beautiful voice with clear diction and he sings each of the six songs in Crossover with sincere emotion. It is obvious that his classical vocal training has stood him in good stead performing songs in widely differing styles with equal flair. Not only does he perform the songs but he has co-written most of them. The last song in the collection, Why You Had to Change My World  was written by his grandfather, Country and Western singer, Jimmy Smith is performed with a very apt accompaniment. For me, the revival of Branden’s grandfather’s hit song was the cherry on the top of a wonderful collection.

The accompaniments are innovative. Branden has gathered a group of fine musicians and backing singers to support him in this unique collection. I particularly liked the use of the ‘cello in various songs. The guitar accompaniment in Another Chance is particularly pleasing. Branden is a gifted and musical performer and I feel sure that Crossover will have wide appeal.

Jean Collen is a musician and retired teacher of classical singing and piano. She has written several books about her friends and singing teachers, the great British duettists, Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler, and a series of novels and short stories – all with a musical theme. The latter books are written under the pen name of Fiona Compton.

www.jeancollen.wordpress.com

http://websterbooth.blogspot.com

Branden James’ EP Crossover will be available for pre-order starting August 6th on iTunes. Sales will begin August 18th.   It will also be available  at the following outlets:  YouTube Music Key, Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Play, Rdio, Deezer, Xbox Music, Rhapsody, eMusic, Simfy Africa, iHeartRadio, MixRadio, MediaNet,  VerveLife, Tidal, Gracenote, Shazam, 7Digital, Juke, JB Hi-Fi, Slacker, Guvera, KKBox, Akazoo, Anghami,  Spinlet, Neurotic Media, Yandex, Target Music, ClaroMusica, Play.me, Zvooq, Saavn, 8tracks, NMusic, Amazon On Demand

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