James Junius spent almost all of his 22 years in Utah, but now calls Austin home. He calls his music Heartland Shoegaze, inspired by songwriters like Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, Bill Fay and Ryan Adams. Their philosophical songs about life in flyover states, limited opportunity and isolation gave voice to his experiences. It’s also heavily influenced by expansive and ethereal sounds from bands like Cocteau Twins, Slowdive, and Ride that reflect the dreamlike landscape of Utah and the surrounding mountain states.
In-between living in a rural Utah college town and working summers in Glacier National Park, he became Facebook friends with Terry Lickona, executive producer of Austin City Limits and co-producer of the GRAMMY Awards. Terry encouraged him to move to Austin, helped record his first record and devote his life full-time to his music.
James’ debut seven song EP draws from his experiences growing up in the mountain states. He left the Mormon Church when he was 14 years old and struggled to find a sense of meaning in the world around him. Music became that purpose, and one of the few remedies to keep his existential fears at bay.
“There aren’t many young singer-songwriters whose words transcend generations and geography,” Lickona says. “James writes songs that come from the heartland but resonate with all of us. Songs about love, home, hope and hopelessness – eternal and universal emotions never felt more strongly than today. He has a voice that can soothe, or rattle your bones.”
James recorded with a who’s who list of Austin musicians who have regularly played with the likes of the Dixie Chicks, Leonard Cohen, and Kris Kristofferson. With his first single release coming in February, with the full EP to follow this Spring, he was also invited to play an official showcase at SXSW 2017.
Going from the basement to the stage has been quite a transition for James. Although his world is spinning quite fast, what remains at the heart of it all is a desire to help others through his music.
“When I met James Taylor, his biggest word of advice was to take whatever I was given and try to give it back tenfold to other people, and that’s something that I try to take to heart,” James said. “Music is a public service. I want to give back that empathy and compassion that those records gave me when I was younger, to stand up for those who don’t have a voice and are struggling. All I know is that it’s tremendously exciting, gratifying and humbling. I’m loving every minute of it.” —– James Junius