James Shepard. A local musician, born and raised in Cache Valley, was gifted at a young age with a natural talent for sound and harmony. James is the depiction of a hardworking and devoted musician. He wasted no time learning technique and theory, along with dedicating his time to practice. He has grown from small syndicate to solo star, and continues to create!
NTDIL: How did you get started playing music? How have you and your sound evolved over the years?Insta@james_shepard_3
JS: For as long as I can remember, I’ve always enjoyed singing. I got my first guitar at age 14 and I picked up the instrument pretty quickly. I immediately tried figuring out how to play songs by ear, but often had to resort to online tabs. I mostly tried learning how to play songs from the Guitar Hero video game (in order to demonstrate my skills). After I got an electric guitar, I formed a band with some of my really good friends –we thought we were pretty good– and we wrote songs together that were mostly straightforward pop-punk songs. After that band fizzled out, I was in an acoustic duo with one of my best friends for a few years. We played jazz and folk inspired music. After she left for an LDS mission, I began focusing more on performing solo shows, writing music that was just for myself with more confessional lyrics. There was a lot going on in my life at the time and I needed to get it out of my system, so I wrote about it. I had a few songs that didn’t quite work in a band setting, so it was the perfect opportunity to test the waters as a solo artist!
NTDIL: Did you have any professional training, or are you mostly self taught?
JS: I taught myself for the first year after I got my guitar and then I took lessons for a summer that mostly just turned into jam sessions.Even though I didn’t learn as much theory as I wanted in those lessons, they were crucial in teaching improvisational skills and cooperative playing. I performed in various choirs throughout high school and, as a result, learned better vocal technique. I took my very first music theory class my second year at Utah State University. So, I’m mostly self taught, but what little professional instruction I have has been invaluable.
NTDIL: Who inspires you? Do you have any outside or similar influences that you’ve incorporated into your own sound?
JS: Musically, I’m influence by a lot. I consider myself a voracious consumer of music and I like to think that my consumption contributes to my production. Growing up, my parents were always listening to a wide variety of music and that’s definitely influenced my sound. Some of my greatest musical influences are Paul Simon, David Ramirez, Jimmy Eat World and TTNG.
I’m also inspired by relationships of all kinds. The obvious relational influence in the songwriter’s basket is his or her relationship with potential romantic partners and their failings; however, I try to explore relationships people have with each other and with religion-that’s a fairly prevalent theme in my songs. I’m also influenced by the overwhelming inevitability of adulthood.
NTDIL: What’s the next step for your musical career?
JS: Hopefully what’s next for my musical career is a multi-million dollar record deal and flying around in private jets, obviously! But in all seriousness, I don’t really know what next and exciting to me. I’m in the process of recording an album and I’m proud of the work I’ve done so far, so that’s next on that practical agenda. I’ll be moving across the country with my wife next summer, and then I’ll have to explore the music scene wherever we end up. In the meantime, I’ll keep producing music and putting out in the world for people to listen to. I’ve also been working on a dream pop project with my wife, so we’ll hopefully have songs from that out soon!
NTDIL: Last but not least, what do you consider is your spirit animal?
JS: My spirit animal? I’m not sure. Lions are my favorite animal, but if I had to pick one I feel coincides with my “spirit” I would pick a fox, becuase it’s cute like me! Just kidding. It’s probably because there is a certain kinship in the hair color and the craftiness of a fox and myself.
GO ahead and get to know James! Click the links below to discover more!