A funny and amazing thing happened when singer-songwriter Rachel James started recording her first album. She entered the studio with every intention of being a solo artist and emerged a...Expand
A funny and amazing thing happened when singer-songwriter Rachel James started recording her first album. She entered the studio with every intention of being a solo artist and emerged a full-fledged bandleader and front woman for an explosive symphonic indie pop/rock ensemble the classically trained Denver based artist quickly dubbed “The Kings” in deference to her cohorts as “kings of their craft.”
Less than two months after, James, her production partner Joey Barba (former lead guitarist of Tickle Me Pink), drummer Stefan Runstrom (also of Tickle Me Pink), violinist Ian Short, guitarist, Steven Beck, and bassist Noah Matthews discovered their innate chemistry and crowned themselves an official working unit, Rachel & The Kings won Ford’s National “Gimme The Gig II” competition. They triumphed over 2,500 bands from across the country, earning huge accolades from legendary producer and head judge Don Was. The ironic part of this was that when James entered the first round of the competition (which was shot for a recently aired TV pilot) in Denver a year earlier, she was working with a whole different set of backing musicians; all along, it was her catchy, emotionally charged songwriting and vocal talents which drove her success. The Kings now take that vibe to the next level.
The January 25th show at the Bluebird will be the first CD release show for the band (Album being released locally in Colorado). Truly reflective of James’ personal and professional credo about focusing her passion and overcoming all obstacles in pursuit of her dreams, the band will be debuting their single, Fall Down. For James, the band’s full length collection, to be released nationally March, 2013, will mark the culmination of a whirlwind three year period in which she began focusing on songwriting. She soon won the Durango Songwriting Expo and had her “Catch Me If You Can” recorded by Canadian country artist Jess Maskaluke; the video for the tune debuted at #2 on the charts in Canada.
James’ journey from aspiring songwriter to full-fledged front person and bandleader began at a show she did at the Meadowlark club in Denver with members of her old band. Her performance, featuring songs that are key parts of Rachel & The Kings debut (“Tonic,” “Not Giving Up” and “I Know What You’re Made Of”), sparked the interest of one of the audience members who loved what he heard and offered her some of his connections to help her make a record. “I honestly thought I would develop my career as a songwriter, and was gearing up to make an album of songs I could play for fun and then pitch to other artists,” James says.
“Joey and I pre-produced the whole album and decided to bring in some players we knew who could add their flair to the tracks,” she adds. “He knew Noah (former bassist for The Alan Baird Project) and Stefan and I knew Ian. These guys loved my songs from the start and added something so incredible to what we were doing. I loved their vibe as well and without them the production would have sounded completely different. While we were recording the album, each of them individually came to me and said that, if this was ever going to be an actual band, they wanted in. It was such a compliment and I saw it as an open door that I needed to walk through.”
Representing opposite ends of the sonic spectrum for Rachel & The Kings are some of the album’s key tracks, “Fall Down” and “Let Yourself Go” as well as “Not Giving Up” which was mixed by Dave Pensado, famed for his work with contemporary pop legends like Beyonce and Christina Aguilera. James likes to whimsically define the dark-tinged “Not Giving Up” as “Adele meets Drake,” with an Adele like verse and a Drakesque chorus. It’s a heartfelt song about not giving up on love in life, overcoming even your own feelings to keep moving forward optimistically. James penned it initially about a romance but as the band took shape, its larger life applications made it a perfect mantra for them.
Driven by a hypnotic, infectious hook, the soaring uptempo “Fall Down” is the album’s lone “happy toned,” inspirational song which, the singer says, “sets it apart from many of the other songs.” Two other songs getting a lot of buzz are the dark and moody, emotionally charged opener “Tonic” (which draws on James’ classical background and love for classic and progressive rock) and the jangly, percussive power-popper “Let Yourself Go”.
“Lyrically, a lot of this album came out of some really hard times I was having in my own life,” James says. “We are still growing and changing as a band but I think it shows our potential as well as our experience as musicians. I am a pop songwriter with a rock band that also wants to be creative. It is a lot of fun and I love the team aspect of having a band. Everybody is in, like it’s a true family. We fight, we laugh, we take care of each other, we create together. I love what they do with the material I bring in to them. The Kings are a drummer and guitar player that were in rock bands, a violinist who was in multiple indie and experimental groups, a bass player that has played in bands all over the map – all surrounding me, the pop writer and pianist. The eclectic nature of the musicians and their high level of skill, combined with pop melodies and a creative approach to sounds and parts, is what makes our upcoming debut album unique.”