Interview: Randy James

Jul 27 2021

Randy James recently released his debut single 'still matter.' and Louder Than The Music asked him a few questions to find out how he started out making music. Read on to find out how he battled illness and found inspiration in the darkness to write this single, and his family connection to the Mission Impossible theme tune!

For those who haven't heard of you before, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved in making music?

I’m originally from the Big Island of Hawaii and moved to San Diego at about age 4. As a teenager I joined a local youth group and that is where I fell in love with Jesus and worship music (and bands like Jars of Clay and Switchfoot etc…). My close friend and worship leader in youth group went on to start the band Augustana (he wrote the song “Boston”). My grandfather was Larry “the mole” Taylor, the bassist for a famous Woodstock band called “Canned Heat”. Grandpa played with some of the most iconic names in Blues and Rock and Roll history, like Jerry Lee Lewis, John Mayall (with Eric Clapton) Tom Waits, The Monkees, etc… He also played bass for the entire film soundtrack for the movie “Cadillac Records” with Beyonce. His brother Mel was the Drummer for The Ventures, who did songs like Hawaii 5-0, Batman theme song, Secret Agent Man, Mission impossible, etc... So you could say, there was always a curiosity to play music, but funny enough I didn’t learn anything musical from my family and didn’t start playing until I was almost 20.

Tell us about your new single 'still matter.' and what the inspiration behind it was?

Well, still matter came from a season of a lot of struggle and suffering. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in my early 20’s and the pandemic made things much worse. There was tremendous fear and anxiety about catching the virus initially, and on top of that, I was just suffering a lot of pain, and medical side effects in general. It was also a season that I wanted to give up on my dreams of writing and releasing music.. Until one evening, when I was sitting outside with the guitar, looking to the heavens and just talking to God, thinking about all my struggles and flaws, and frustrations with myself… While outside I heard the melody to the first line of the song and played it over and over. “I guess I don’t always have to be right, because even when I’m wrong, I know, I still matter to you”… It was a conversation with God, during a time I was feeling worthless… Well, God met me in my shame and brokenness.

The next day, I received a text from a producer, who I told I would not be moving forward with any projects as of now, because music was going on the shelf, but that conversation, reminded me of that one line and melody from the evening before, so I decided to at least record it on my phone. The whole song was written during that recording, within about an hour or so! When I realized what had been written I felt God's presence and a warm hug, like one from a Father. I began to cry before God and committed to producing and releasing this song. I heard a still small voice say that the message wasn’t only for me, but it was a message of hope and a reminder of the Father’s love for his children, during a season where more and more people are struggling with depression and hopelessness. The lyric from the chorus “So I dance, I dance in surrender and I lift my flawed hands high” is the result of realizing, while sometimes I feel hopeless there is SO much hope and I can lift my flawed hands and dance like a fool before the Lord, just like King David danced. The lyric from the bridge “I hear the Father Whisper in my ear, you don’t have to fear” comes from the verse II Timothy 1:7, which was the scripture that I would pray out over and over in the middle of panic attacks at the beginning of the pandemic.

Do you have any plans to release further music in the near future?

Yes, from this song a whole new project was birthed with my close friend and fellow artist, Hunter Jackson. Our project (or band I guess you could call it) goes by the name “hopeful.” It’s hopeful with a period at the end, because we have hope in Jesus, end of discussion! We are finishing the first song of that project right now. It should release in about a month. We plan to release new music every 2 months or so, or as often as the Lord provides.

What message would you like people to take from your music?

The messages in my songs, are really intended to share transparent and relatable struggles, and the realization of God's love. I guess the songs are in a sense conversations with God and epiphanies of truth that uplifts out of darkness and depression…

How would you describe your style of music and what are your influences?

Man, this is one of those questions that I have a really hard time answering. Haha I guess my style of music leans on the edge of Christian Alternative Rock, or Indie Folk Rock. I don’t really know to be perfectly honest with you. As far as influences, I have a lot, but the ones that stand out the most to me right now are Jon Foreman from Switchfoot, Dan Layus from Augustana, Jars of Clay, and Bear Rineheart from NEEDTOBREATHE… Oh and I really love Cory Asbury as a worship leader...

If you could work with any songwriter, who would it be and why?

It would be Jon Foreman. Hands down. Jon lives like probably 10-15 minutes away from me. I’ve never met him, but I hope to one day. His music carried me through my youth… Reminded me there is a better way to live, and here comes the super cliche moment…. Are you ready? We were meant to live for so much more… lol… On a more serious note, I just resonate with his style of writing and singing so much, and we grew up in the same part of town.

How would you define success in your career as an artist?

Success is subjective, really. But the way I see it, is if #1, my 6 and 10 year old sons like it, I’m good with that… And... if I can make a positive impact on people and people reach out to me to tell me how my music helped them through dark times and reminded them of God’s love, I would say that’s success. Oh and also, even more important… Keeping God first and my family right after, and prioritizing my beautiful wife and kids (really my biggest inspirations!!) than I would consider that success…

What is your favorite album of all time?

Oh boy… I like a lot of albums, and my favorite songs are all from scattered albums… But dang, if I were to say my favorite all time album… I would have to say the Reckless Love Album by Cory Asbury, and while I love the song “Reckless Love” its actually my least favorite on the album… That album was like the Psalms to my soul, during a very challenging season of my life… and I don’t remember listening to any album more than I listened to that one… Every song is beautiful... Every song made me feel closer to God…

You're stuck on an island, it's hot, you only have enough battery life left to listen to one song on your phone. What track is it?

Well being that I’m from an island… I also love island style music, so it really depends… Is it the last song I will ever hear? If it is the last song I’ll ever hear, Your Love Is Strong by Jon Foreman… If its more like, I’m having a good time on an island… the song Alive by The Green…

What does the next year hold for you?

Well, keeping the topic on music. I hope to finish an EP for the “hopeful.” project and refine my music writing and grow more as a musician.

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