Early James showcases “spooky billy” sound for new Virginian concert series

Co-presented by KHOL, Nashville's Easy Eye Sound record label takes over the Virginian Lodge for two nights of Southern Gothic inspired music.
(Left to right) Easy Eye Sound record label's Allen Parker, singer-songwriter/guitarist Early James and bassist Adrian Marmolejo chatted with us and performed live in the KHOL studios in advance of their weekend residency at The Virginian Saloon. (Jack Catlin/KHOL)

Singer-songwriter Early James combines influences from blues, folk, and country-tinged rock into a concoction he jokingly refers to as “spooky-billy.”

Drawing inspiration from the likes of Captain Beefheart, Howlin’ Wolf, Fiona Apple and Hank Williams, Sr., James’ material tackles darker subjects like depression and anxiety. He says it’s natural to feel crazy sometimes and that the real crazy people are the ones who won’t admit self-doubt.

“The older you get, the more you get better at reading people’s insecurities. Even the people in the mansions on the hill are struggling with their own demons. Some people are just better at keeping it hid. Writing songs has always been kind of a therapeutic thing for me,” James said.

Early James performed the song “Heaven Is A Hotel,” live on KHOL in advance of his weekend residency at the Virginian.

The Nashville-based, Alabama-raised James will play solo on Friday, Feb 16 and with local songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Aaron Davis and his Mystery Machine band on Saturday, Feb. 17.

This weekend kicks off a collaboration between the Virginian Lodge and the record label, Easy Eye Sound, to bring artists to Jackson. 

The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach founded the Nashville-based record label which includes a diverse number of acts including The Arcs, Shannon & The Clams, Hermanos Gutierrez, Robert Finley and Dan Auerbach himself who has personally chosen and produced many of the Easy Eye Sound artists.

Allen Parker, the label’s chief engineer and studio manager said that frustrations producing records for artists on other labels were the inspiration for the endeavor. 

“He [Auerbach] wasn’t happy with the way everything was being carried out, whether it was the album art or the way it was being marketed or whatever. And in that, he wanted to be more invested in artists and see projects through, because making a record is one thing, but then helping them get up and out and go tour and go promote the record is a whole other thing,” Parker said. 

Parker told us that Auerbach first heard Early James the way a lot of other artists get signed to Easy Eye Sound, through word of mouth and trusted friends. 

“Clay Bradley of the Bradley family in Nashville, arguably one of the most important families in the Nashville music business, called us up one day. He was like, ‘Dan, I’m coming to the studio. I got this kid. You got to hear him.’ And James showed up and, we were like, yeah, let’s figure out how to do this,” Parker said.

Here is Early James performing the song “Tumbleweed,” live on KHOL.

Parker said it was the depth of artistry James possesses that grabbed the label’s attention. 

“There’s a lot of subtlety and nuance in him. The more you pay attention, the deeper it gets, it’s like poetry.”

Here is Early James performing the song “Taste Of Sin,” live on KHOL.

Listen above for KHOL’s full conversation with and performances by Early James.

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About Jack Catlin

Jack is KHOL's music director. He says all music is in some way connected no matter the style and his mission is to provide listeners with a unique and memorable experience each time they tune in to KHOL or see him DJ live.

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