Russell James’ path to the release of “Ghosts” was one of absolute grit and willpower.
For the better part of 2017, James, who lives his life with an audio integration disorder called hyperacusis, complicated by parallels to the autism spectrum, a personal battle with PTSD and anxiety, felt as though he was standing in the shadows if his depression.
From the darkness, James found glimmers of hope breaking through during the process of recording Wave/Water, which he will self-release on April 20, 2018.
The album concentrations profoundly on hope and the impressions and imprints it can have on a person’s life.
Throughout Wave/Water, James insistently underlines the notion that no one is alone in fighting battles in life…that every person is weathering the pressures of something every day.
Because of that connection, James figures in some ways we’re all in this together and hopes eventually that we can all lean on each other for support.
Your new LP “Wave/Water” will be released on the 20th of April 2018, it is going to be the biggest achievement of your life? What it does represent for you?
It will certainly rank up there re: biggest achievements, and it is definitely the biggest musical achievement thus far. It’s just such a big album with so much into it. It represents a moment in my life where I overcame incredible odds to grind out a beautiful record.
How do you usually write the lyrics and the music of your songs?
It’s a varied process. Sometimes, like with “Only Breathe” it was a drumbeat I came up with and everything fell into place after.
That’s happened with a lot of songs. A lot of times I come up with the music and then write to it, but I’ll also write some lyrics first (although I’m hearing the meter and the tune in my head).
What is the best verse you ever wrote?
Ever tarry green and blue
The algid catatonia, freezing the synovia
Pushing further back the green debut
What was the soundtrack to your childhood?
U2, The Cure, 4AD stuff, a lot of new wave and shoegaze. That was before I thought I was a punk, then it was OPIV, Jawbreaker, Lifetime, etc.
What was the first record you ever bought?
Rattle and Hum, U2
What has your journey in the music industry been like up to now?
It’s not easy. I played casually for several years before throwing out my backup plan and going full throttle with this lifestyle.
So far, the music industry has been a roller coaster.
You get some really good news (“Yay, I signed a publishing contract!”) and then some bad news to counter it (“Boo, no one’s listening to my songs!”).
My friend Drew Kennedy once told me that I could get excited about good news, but not too excited. And I can get bummed out by bad news, but don’t hold on to it. It’s a damn rollercoaster.
Do you remember the first day you played an instrument? Was it a guitar?
I was a child, probably 2-3. My mother had an upright piano, a Steinway I think, and I love playing with it. I love the smell of it, the way the pedals felt beneath my little hands. I didn’t touch a guitar until I was 12 or so, but that was love at first sight.
Are you ever scared of revealing, aspects of your personal experience, to strangers through your music?
I was, then last fall I wrote a #MeToo blog on my experiences with sexual assault, leading to PTSD. 3000 people read it, and the number is still going up.
There was a feeling like a burden was being lifted as I hit “publish”. The amount of support I received following was brilliant. It last about a week then I got depressed again. But it showed me how revealing my feelings can be healing to myself and also others. Authenticity is my core value, showing the imperfect parts of myself seems to be the best way to live it out.
What is the best show you ever played?
Rockwood Music Hall, 12/28/16. I was having Asperger’s meltdowns and it was suicide city in my brain. I could barely function as my wife helped me get my shit out of the car and onto the stage. I played perfectly.
Not one duck fart, not one missed lyric.
There were a ton of people there, I made good money (in NYC no less), and for 45 glorious minutes I wasn’t a guy with PTSD, I wasn’t a guy with hyperacusis, I wasn’t a guy with Asperger’s. I was a guy with a guitar putting every last ounce of who I was into each note.
What are your plans for 2018?
Well, I’m going to tour. Then I’m going to tour. Then we’re going to re-release my old albums under my new name. Then I’ll tour some more. Towards the end of the year I’d like to release an EP of some of the material I’ve written over the past few months.
Who gave you the best advise in life? Are you still following it?
Observe, listen, don’t talk so much. I am following it whereas before I was not.