Mixing together Tennessee twang and southern storytelling, traditional country artist, James Carothers makes throwback country music for modern times. To any and all George Jones fans this is a MUST have by an artist who did him proud.
His first full-length album, 'Relapse,' released in May 2017, bears similarities to classic releases by George Jones, Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard. James wrote most of the songs between daily gigs at The George Jones in Nashville. Since its opening in 2015, he's performed hundreds of shows at the venue. George Jones' own widow, Nancy, personally hired James for the gig, giving him the opportunity to make a living playing music. He now plays several shows at venues in downtown Nashville each week when he's not on the road. In 2018,
Being an avid fan, friend and follower of James we had the opportunity to send out a few questions re: this album and his career in general. Enjoy and get to know James a bit better and once you do there will for sure be a better appreciation of who he is.
CHR: James you have kept your true country music beliefs on course and not once wavered from your vision. As an Indie artist how challenging has that been?
Surprisingly, it has worked to my advantage as an Indie. It seems like if you're gonna be Indie, it actually helps you tremendously to have a specific sound and a specific audience. So, it has not been challenging at all to stay country. Plus, country is really the only style of music that I'm good at so that makes the choice a lot easier. :)
CHR: You released your first EP, 'HonkyTonk Land' in 2014 which was featured by MusicRow magazine’s Robert K. Oermann as a DISCovery Award Winner. You followed that with your first full length album, 'Relapse' in 2017 and are now getting ready to release, 'Still Country, Still King: A Tribute To George Jones,' on Sept 7th. What has been the thought process in these releases and what have your learned?
I've learned a lot about making records, but I still have a lot to learn. I would say each project was an "in-the-moment" decision that failed to ever have a master plan. The records have taken very little time to record but have required a lot of attention in getting out to the right people. It's easy to record a country song, but getting it to a point where all your fans and friends can listen to it requires a lot of work on the computer that, luckily, my wife is able to do for me. If you're like me and you stink at running the "internets" and the "W-W-Ws" then you'd better have somebody that does all that stuff for you.
CHR: You have been a large part of the music performances at The George Jones Museum. What lead to that part of your career. How advantageous has it been?
That's been huge because it gave us a legit place to play, practice, and meet people. Also, we ended up being best friends with many people in that building. My friend (and bass player), Jerry Lee Combs told me about the George Jones opening up shortly after I moved to town so I went over there and auditioned. At the time I went over there, I was doing a couple shifts at some of the other clubs and, for the most part, they didn't really like me singing so much classic country music. Jerry Lee suggested that the GJ museum would be a great fit. Fortuitously, the first person I met in there was Nancy Jones! She helped us get better by allowing us to work and encouraged us every step of the way. We've met some huge George Jones fans, the biggest of which is Ed Smith from North Carolina. Ed made it possible for us to take the time and get in the studio to do this project- which was a dream come true. It's been a big advantage to have a place to call home! It really has been the best thing we could've done.
CHR: Your touring has escalated over the past couple years. When you are on the road what do you miss about home, and when you are home what do you miss about being on the road?
When I'm on the road I miss seeing my kids and wife. When I'm home, I miss the road gigs because they're more artistic by nature and folks are more excited to hear the originals. Sometimes you're just background noise in the Nashville bars and it takes part of your soul away- and to top it off, you gotta play at least four hours straight! The saving grace of all the gigs is the friends that we have made. We've met some extraordinary people in the bars of Nashville and they make 4 hours seem like the blink of an eye because we have so much fun. Then, what's really fun, is to go see those same people in their hometowns on their turf. It's a beautiful thing!
CHR: There are some great reviews and social media praise for your George Jones tribute album. How hard was it to piece this together and know what songs you wanted to share? Why was "Sinners & Saints" the first release and video from the album?
It was a little bit hard to decide! He was in the business before Elvis and worked all the way up till his death five years ago, so there's a lot of fantastic material to choose from. GJ picked from the top songs in town, and had legendary productions to accompany his iconic voice. So, with all that in mind, we've been given a "master blueprint" to make country music- which makes it easier because you don't have to reinvent the wheel. In the end, we chose five iconic songs and 5 "B" sides. I chose "Sinners and Saints" to lead with because it has all the ingredients of a great GJ song, but it was not a big hit for him. Nobody will ever fill George Jones' shoes!
CHR: You and Jerry Lee Combs make quite a pair. How did the rest of the band come along?
The band on "Still Country Still King" came together through playing at the George Jones Museum. The producer, Mike Rogers, was singing and playing at the GJ museum through the week when he was off the road (he's Craig Morgan's band leader). The first time I saw Mike play guitar and sing I thought to myself, "I quit" because he was so much better than me. Well, it turns out he's also a session quality drummer and engineer. Mike played drums, guitar, and sang all the background vocals on top of producing it. Andy Varner plays the fiddle- he's the best! Andy was Daryl Singletary's band leader for the last three years- and as everyone knows, Daryl paid homage to George Jones every night so Andy is very well versed in GJ. We've done hundreds of gigs with Andy and he continues to impress everyone. Steel guitar is covered in spades by Cowboy Eddie Long. Eddie also played with us live at the listening party and he has been a real treat to get to know a little bit. He's a legend. He got his big start in the Bama Band backing Hank Jr on tour and on all the records through the 80s. My friend, Ed Smith (number one GJ fan), knew him from Jamey Johnson's band and was able to hook us up. Eddie's testimony, stories, personality, and musicianship are a blessing. Cowboy Eddie summed the whole band up after he got done playing "you boys just like playing good ole country music!"
CHR: In 2017 you were invited to perform at the Inaugural Merle Haggard Box Car Festival in Bakersfield, CA and this year you earned the opportunity to play the Grand Ole Opry by winning the 2018 WSM Road Show Live Finale on Saturday, March 24th at AJ's Good Time Bar in downtown Nashville. You will play the Opry on the same night as Opry Member and Country Music Hall of Famer Alan Jackson in 2018. Share your emotions and thoughts on these two honors.
Thankfulness! I'm just really thankful that the good Lord has been watching out for me. It's a lot of work to do all this stuff and there's a lot of ups and downs so when you get something big like this it takes your breath away and makes it extra sweet. I'm forever in debt to my friends showing up to the Road Show Finale wearing their "James Carothers" tees a hoopin and a hollerin! I'll never forget that.
CHR: What is in store for the rest of the year and where can people find you on social media?
Well, I found out that the Opry show with Alan Jackson is gonna be this fall at the Ryman! The date will be on Facebook and my Website as soon as we know exactly when it is. You can find all my tour dates, music, and videos online- just search for James Carothers and my website and socials will pop up. Also, before this year is over I'm gonna have some new songs out. Surprise, they'll be country!
To keep up with James go to https://jamescarothers.com