17: You’re Responsible for Sharing Your Dark Art with Arthur James

Arthur James
Singer-Songwriter
Website | Spotify | iTunes | Facebook | Instagram

Arthur James is known in Seattle for the value he places on community and collaboration with other artists in the music industry. His solo music explores the feelings and philosophy of the darkness that surrounds our existence and he’s a cofounder of he band Lyle where collaboration between many instruments and their players reigns supreme. Despite the fact he despises recording, performing, and even himself at times, he finds joy in songwriting and strongly believes in his responsibility to share his creations with people, communicating with them or for them through art. Excited and humbled by our surrounding environment, Arthur and I recorded this episode in the famous rooms of London Bridge Studio in Shoreline, WA. Thank you Arthur for sharing your experiences so openly with such a beautiful balance of light and dark. x Cha

BEST QUOTES

“If it matters, if it’s important, if it’s exciting, people will find it.” -- Arthur James

“If you want to elevate yourself you have to do something that is unique and anybody can do that by themselves but I feel like collaboration is incredibly important in that. If you want to develop something that is good, new and strong it needs more than one brain.” -- Arthur James

“As a songwriter, my responsibility is to communicate things for other people. The stuff I chose to write about is stuff that people don’t necessarily even know how to talk about, want to talk about or are afraid to. I feel that way because that’s how music has always helped me.” -- Arthur James

“Why are you doing it if it’s not exciting? It doesn’t have to be fun. I would definitely say that a lot of the work that’s involved in being a musician is not fun. Most of it is not fun. There are very few singular moments that I actually find joy in and luckily there’s enough joy to overrule the exhausting nature of everything. I don’t like recording. I actually despise the act of recording. I also don’t like playing in front of people. I’m not built for it. Emotionally, I don’t have the capacity because I’m just a nervous person. But writing a song in the comfort of your own home and being excited about what you just did and having the ability to at least be able to do that everyday is very precious. I feel like that’s a pretty big deal to say that you have that in your life.” -- Arthur James 

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QUESTIONS FROM OTHER MUSICIANS

“Why do you make music?” [49:30]
Questions from Drea Marilyn

“I make music for two reasons. One, it gives me joy and a sense of fulfillment I don’t get from anything else and two, I feel it’s a responsibility. If you can create anything, I feel like you should be sharing that in whatever capacity; whether it’s trying to make a life out of it or giving it to a friend. We’re born with that shit. That is probably the most base intrinsic thing that we are given when we are born, is how to make stuff and how to think creatively. If you’re not doing it, you should start.” -- Arthur James

What is your pre-show ritual? [50:30]
Question from Leah T  

“I don’t have a ritual. I probably should have one because I am just a nervous wreck. I am very fidgety. I can’t sit down in one place for too long. I’ve tried. If there’s a ritual about it at all I guess I’m thinking. Anything to keep my mind off of my mind. If I get too far into it, it’s over...I loath myself. I severely lack anything that would be considered a healthy amount of self esteem and I really don’t think anyone is going to like anything I’m about to do. It takes me about 3 or 4 songs before I’m like yah, This is why I’m here. I doesn’t matter (where I’m performing, my mindset is) I don’t deserve to be there…. There’s a level of confidence that has changed but I always just feel like what the fuck are you doing here? And it’s gotten worse because I share stages with people like Heather Thomas, Katie Kuffel and Leah T is in my band. What the fuck am I doing in a band with Leah T?” -- Arthur James

“What do you want out of a performance? Why are you on stage? What are you getting?”
Question from Katie Kuffel [56:15]

“I want to communicate via the artform and I want to feel like I’ve done that whether that’s by actually communicating with someone after the show, good or bad, I want that interaction. When you set out to communicate via music, if you don’t know that anybody received any of that it really does feel like a massive waste of time… If you really do want to communicate with people, you gotta show up and be good at what you do. You don’t have to be James Browne or fucking Patty Smith. You just have to be good. Be good at what you do and people will pay attention...I’m putting all this time and energy into a performance and I want to be good...I’m on stage 100% because I have to be. I’m not on stage because I want to be most of the time...I believe the stuff I’m doing is important enough that it might fucking help somebody and it might touch somebody and make then think about their life or a choice they made or a choice that they’re trying to make or an avenue of communication that they’re trying to have with someone that they really don’t have the words for or they haven’t been able to figure out. Maybe I’m helping. Sometimes, I’m not getting anything except for sheer exhaustion but as a human we all want to feel some sense of accomplishment and that takes form for people in a lot of ways and I think I’m getting being able to say that I did it because with every performance now in the last few years, every show has been the next step, the next proving ground and what I’m getting is another notch on my belt. What’s the next big thing?” -- Arthur James

“Is music about overcoming struggle or the journey through it?”
Questions from DB Stewart

“It’s both. There’s not exclusive. Anyone that’s making art, music, poetry, painting, whatever, you’re doing that because it’s a thing that you found helps you. It helps you through personal struggle, mental illness, strife, stress, whatever, it’s a vehicle for you, a place that’s yours, that nobody else gets to touch, and it allows you to process your own struggle. It is about that for everyone that does this. Anyone who has the intention of making a career out of music or art is broken because it is ridiculous. It is an asinine thought that you could be able to make a life, even a little bit of a life, out of selling your creations… because it’s a massive undertaking...Everyone that’s doing this is a hustler and that hustle is because you are riding against this way of society. The way through is very, very, very, very thin, very narrow...Is it about the struggle? Yes. It is about the journey? Absolutely. In working through your struggle, to make art or just express feelings and difficulties in your life, that is the journey. They are one in the same to me. The question is illuminating because it’s these two things together. It’s a mess but if you can make it through the mess, every step of the way through the mess is an accomplishment and an astounding one at that.” -- Arthur James



QUESTION FOR OTHER MUSICIANS

“If you are a career musician, how are you dealing with self-care? How are you traversing through absolute mania that is involved in pursuing this? How are you sharing your art and giving what you’re making to other people?”
-- Question from Arthur James

“I have a lot of struggle myself. I don’t have a very good idea of myself. I’ve started to deal with that in replacing the thought of who I am supposed to be embracing what I am and that’s been important to me, because...the anxiety (before a show), has a lot to do with me trying to be the idea of me, and being entirely afraid that I’m not going to. Which is entirely ridiculous because who is the person who has developed that idea? Me. There is nobody in the crowd or in my band that’s going to be like Yo, if you don’t do that thing… No! They just want me to get up there and do what I do. … I’m an INFJ Type 4 and it’s just a massive introvert. I’ve dodged that part of myself a lot. Ask anybody who knows me, I’m at a lot of fucking shows each week. That’s not healthy for someone who is an introvert. I blew right passed what is healthy for many years of my life, and that is recharging. If I’m out an two or three shows in a week, I need a day or two to be at home in a corner staring at a wall….Turning towards these things and not avoiding them anymore. It is what it is. I can still go too shows, I just have to shut up the day after.”

-- Answer from Arthur James

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WHAT YOU WANT PEOPLE TO DO

“Live your bloody life. Do what you want to do, how you want to do it, with the people you love and pay a little bit of mind to the people around you cuz the minute you start fucking with their lives doing whatever it is that you want to do, you’re doing it wrong. Just take a little step back. Keep doing what you want to do, just don’t mess with anybody else in the process. Have fun.” -- Arthur James

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HOW TO BE A GOOD FAN

“If you have money, buy the stuff they’re making and do it every time you find somebody whose art you appreciate; whether that’s buying a tee-shirt, a record, giving to a crowdfund endeavor, etc… Most of all, more importantly than that, talk about it. Don’t go to a show and come up to me or anybody else that has done the thing that they’ve spent so much of their lives developing, and tell them that they did a great job and that it was impressive, because if it was, you should be out immediately, going to tell somebody else about it because that’s going to in turn give them the opportunity to do the first thing and maybe find the artist that you were excited about and buy that stuff or go to the next show. If you love music and art, go out and do that stuff. Go to galleries, go to readings, go to shows, and then find that persons stuff, be excited about it, talk about it, bring it up, tell other people to spend their money on it because it is important for us to keep doing what we do and people like me, it’s important I can keep beating the crap out of myself.” -- Arthur James

FOLLOW ARTHUR JAMES
Website | Spotify | iTunes | Facebook | Instagram

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FULL TRANSCRIPT

0-20 MINUTES

“Show people that the community is strong. Show people that the artists who are doing stuff care about what people are doing. Get people up on stage. Put bills together with your favorite artist. It doesn’t have to be bills with through lines. Have a metal opener and folk headliner. Who cares? If you guys are down with each other and you care about what you’re doing, that’s what matters. If the music is good, people will understand that and people will come. Community means being involved with each other. Talk about what other people are doing. Be supportive.” -- Arthur James

“If it matters, if it’s important, if it’s exciting, people will find it.” -- Arthur James

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to make money from the thing you love doing the most.” -- Arthur James

“If you want to elevate yourself you have to do something that is unique and anybody can do that by themselves but I feel like collaboration is incredibly important in that. If you want to develop something that is good, new and strong it needs more than one brain.” -- Arthur James

“If I had it my way, these songs would sound different. Collaboration isn’t just get a bunch of people and have them do what you want. Collaboration is get a bunch of people, take into account what someone wants to hear, listen to how someone wants to create and what their vision is and let that in. You have to give yourself to that; the inside of that circle. I get what I want sometimes and the rest of the band gets what they want sometimes too. There is no one person in that band that is allowed to have everything.” -- Arthur James    

20 MINUTES

“Music is a means of communication. It’s where I’m better at what I’m trying to say.” -- Arthur James

“(Happy songs) are not interesting to me. I’m not drawn to when the sun’s out and the birds are chirping. I don’t give a shit. Everybody knows that. You can go outside and you can see that. Who needs to talk about it. The stuff I choose to write about is stuff I have to work through. Sometimes that’s deep inner-personal relationship stuff or really philosophically charged ideas about our existence and sometimes it’s about absolutely nothing.” -- Arthur James  

“As a songwriter, my responsibility is to communicate things for other people. The stuff I chose to write about is stuff that people don’t necessarily even know how to talk about, want to talk about or are afraid to. I feel that way because that’s how music has always helped me.” -- Arthur James

“I believe in music. I believe in art.” -- Arthur James

“I have to be up until I am delirious. I will appreciate a song more when I’ve been on that edge of unconsciousness. I don’t know what. It’s just what I’ve always done. When it’s 3, 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning and the blue light starts happening outside then something happens and I’m thinking more clearly and I’m able to write from the place that I want to write from.” -- Arthur James

“If it’s right then it’s exciting. If it’s exciting then it’s done… If it sounds like something else then it’s done. If I sit down at 5am and I vomit a song and it’s exciting then, I’ll let it sit and I’ll listen to it the next day and if it’s exciting then, then it’s probably something I’m going to keep and at least try one time in front of some people.”” -- Arthur James

“Why are you doing it if it’s not exciting? It doesn’t have to be fun. I would definitely say that a lot of the work that’s involved in being a musician is not fun. Most of it is not fun. There are very few singular moments that I actually find joy in and luckily there’s enough joy to overrule the exhausting nature of everything. I don’t like recording. I actually despise the act of recording. I also don’t like playing in front of people. I’m not built for it. Emotionally, I don’t have the capacity because I’m just a nervous person. But writing a song in the comfort of your own home and being excited about what you just did and having the ability to at least be able to do that everyday is very precious. I feel like that’s a pretty big deal to say that you have that in your life.” -- Arthur James 

45 MINUTES 

“It’s a very sacred thing. There are strings of days where I won’t even think about music or pick up my guitar. There was a while for a very long time in my life where that would bug the shit out of me. It would give me anxiety. But now, I’ve given to that way of thinking (it’s enough to simply be capable of making music, knowing) that I can. The one thing that gives you the most joy you can do whenever you want.” -- Arthur James

“I’m not just writing music for me. It’s not just a hobby...I take a lot of care in delivering that stuff. Songs that I feel are important, that can help other people, I want that stuff to be out there...I’m trying to give… If you feel it’s important, you better be out there on the corner with your sign. It’s what I’m trying to do.” -- Arthur James


RECORDED: May 6, 2019 in London Bridge Studio, Shoreline WA

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