James Wesley Talks About Touring, Tradition and His Upcoming Album ‘Real’
When it comes to recognizing what matters most in life, few people can put things in perspective better than singer James Wesley. The incredibly humble and levelheaded family man, whose smooth, traditional voice is reminiscent of simpler times, has a strong set of personal values that are also reflected in his songs. Three days into the Cold Beers and Reindeers tour, Taste of Country was able to catch up with Wesley, who discussed everything from his upcoming album 'Real' to the days when he was working construction to support his family.
So how did the first two shows go? How have the fans been reacting?
They went really well. I love these small towns -- they all like to have a good time. [The fans] were singing along with my first single 'Jackson Hole' and then when we got to 'Real,' I could hear them singing along too. That's a feeling you never forget right there.
Do you enjoy the whole touring process?
I do. It's fun. I'm just a people guy. I love getting out there and talking to the people. We were leaving the show last night and one of the guys in the band said, "James, I think you said 'hi' and 'goodbye' to everyone in here except for that handbag (laughs)." But that's just the way I am. I come from a town of 200 people, so everybody's important to me.
Does your family go on tour with you?
Right now, we're in the early stages. We're just out in the van -- me, my band, and my manager, Tom. We split the driving up together. We just got a 15 passenger van and we're doing it old school, which is fun! We're closer together and we're hanging out.
Is it hard for you to be away from your wife and children?
Yeah, it's hard. You're always thinking about them and what they're doing back at home. My son just started basketball and I missed his first game, and I got to thinking about that. But it's all good. I'm doing it all for us. [My family] sacrificed a lot. We moved from Eureka, Ark. [so I could try and get a record deal] and we've got two little ones. And it was one of those things where I felt like I needed to move to Nashville and give it a shot. My wife said, "If you feel that strongly about it, let's do it." So we sold the house we built and gave up everything we had and moved to Nashville. I worked construction for four-and-a-half years before I got a deal. It was a long, but it makes you appreciate the small things.
What is the overall feeling of your upcoming album 'Real'?
We've got something for everybody. We've got a couple of songs on there that sound really traditional. And we've got some that are rockin' and up-tempo and fun. I've got a really traditional sounding voice, so it all brings it back towards the more traditional side. But I think we're gonna surprise a lot of people. We're looking to have it out there by February, so I'm really excited about that.
You filmed the video for 'Real' not too long ago. Do you enjoy the whole process of filming music videos?
Yeah, I enjoy doing it. You know, you work so hard to get where you're at and if you don't enjoy what you're doing, you're in it for the wrong reasons. There's some things where you're thinking, "Oh my gosh, I don't know if I can do that." But you just break away from it and open up a little bit and it all comes in and works out. We had a great time doing it. My kids got to be in it, and they were really excited about that. And that's my truck in the video too.
When did you first realize that you wanted to pursue a career in music?
I pretty much knew all of my life. When I was a little kid, I grew up listening to a lot of Elvis. My first three records were Elvis albums that my mom bought me for Christmas one year. My grandma would also play a lot of the older traditional country music when we would go over her house on Sunday afternoons. I just felt like "one of these days, it's gonna happen." I asked my mom and grandma recently, "How old was I when I started singing?" And my grandma said, "You were about two-years-old, and you were standing in the back of my LTD singing 'Country Road' by John Denver. My first gig was at a Best Western. I talked to this guy Ed about letting me sing, and he brought me in and I sang to about four people. They paid me about $5o, and my equipment cost me $45 (laughs).
When did you start playing guitar?
I was older. I was probably about 18 or 19 when I started playing because we didn't have the money growing up. My aunt had an old Stella practice guitar and the strings were probably a half an inch up off of the frets (laughs). But I learned how to play on that little guitar. I wanted to take lessons from a guy in town, but my mom wouldn't let me. There were things I didn't know that she did, and Mama knows best!
What music are you currently listening to?
I like to listen to Miranda Lambert's stuff. But I'm not really listening to what's out there right now. I like to listen to Dean Martin and Marty Robbins. That stuff back then, those guys knew how to entertain and they could sing. It's not like nowadays where you've got your tuners and everything in the studio. I especially enjoy Dean Martin. What a smooth voice that guy had.
What do you enjoy doing when you have free time?
What I love doing is working on old cars and trucks. I've got an old '79 GMC pickup truck that I drive. I had a 2000 Chevy pickup truck and I got to a point where I said, "You know, I like this truck, but I really love my old truck." I bought that truck after I moved to Nashville. I was flipping through the paper one day and I found this old truck in the paper that this guy had, but he wanted too much and I couldn't afford it. He called me up the next day and said, "If you're interested in the truck I can charge you half." So I went right to the bank and bought it.
Watch the James Wesley 'Real' Video