When I first stumbled across James the Seventh on TikTok I was instantly mesmerized by her haunting vocals and ethereal melodies. She's simply hypnotic and her music immediately pulls you in. We talked to her about her unusual journey into music, her discipline, and dealing with perfectionism.
How did you get started in music?
James the Seventh: I started doing music in the quarantine of 2020, I used to be a ballet dancer, and I had a knee injury that I got in the class and had to get surgery. It was right before everything was getting shut down. I had a massive identity crisis, my dad bought me a guitar, and I had nothing else to do. I couldn't walk for a while. Music was something I wanted to do in the back of my head, but I had never done it before, and it was really daunting. It was the perfect opportunity to get into it.
I feel like so often, people tell me that music is what they always wanted to do. It feels like a more interesting thing when people have to reevaluate their life.
James the Seventh: I wanted to be a ballerina for so long that I didn't really take the time to discover other things I could be interested in because it's very time-consuming. I'm happy the injury happened, despite having shitty knees now.
How does ballet inform your music process now?
James The Seventh: I'm a big perfectionist. I get very obsessive. It's something I was actually talking about with my therapist, how I need to mediate that. I'll listen to something until I hate it. It's also helped with staying diligent and trying to improve what I'm doing and learn how I can improve my craft. You get that diligence from ballet. The more you do anything, the more you realize you won't be perfect the first time.
I feel like people never understand the discipline it takes to do ballet and how it's taught to you so young, and that discipline really translates to so much later in life. What have been some of the biggest challenges for you in music?
James the Seventh: I started working with a producer, and I started music all on my own. I learned a bit from my sister's friend, but after that, I wanted to know how to do everything by myself. I remember one day, I was writing in the studio, and the producer I was working with, was asking me what I was singing about. I was like, "This is uncomfortable. I don't want to tell people how I'm feeling." He told me I need to get used to not only sharing my creative ideas but also what I'm feeling. That's something I'm still working on, and it's the biggest challenge, saying how you feel to everybody.
I could never release my feeling into the world. Does that ever freak you out?
James the Seventh: Before I ever felt the desire to make music, I thought I could never do it. It's kind of funny how I've been working with Oran, I started to challenge this aspect of songwriting where you just straight up will say things, and I want to use all these metaphors so people can pick it apart, and then they can decide what it means to them.
Does it help you as an artist to know all the aspects of your music when you're making it?
James The Seventh: With production, you hear a bunch of elements from a song that you might not hear otherwise. It trains your ear so you can understand all the ingredients going into the song. Working with a producer for the first time, I'm nowhere near as good as he is, but it's like I can go in and have an idea of what he's doing.
Can you tell me about the inspo for "Up There" and the meaning behind the song?
James the Seventh: I wrote that on the floor of my boyfriend's apartment. I got into the habit of writing things and then starting to produce a demo of them. I wanted to go back to my roots of my guitar and just writing a song. I went through all the things I've been going through mentally over the past while. I noticed I have a lot of insecurities and thoughts about myself. I couldn't tell if something was actually wrong or if I was just anxious about it. It's just my anxiety telling me to be worried about all these things. I was taking my thoughts as fact. I was like, where did this even start? And that's where the song came from
I feel like you're so hyped on TikTok. Does that feel good to have your music meet with such positive feedback?
James the Seventh: When I first started releasing music, I couldn't imagine people listening to my music. I have to think of the version of myself that first started music and would get excited because I saw that one person was listening to my song on Spotify. When I get dms and messages from people saying they like my music, it makes me really happy. I'm a big fan of lots of artists, and I'm a fangirl, and I love that shit. It reminds me of when I get so excited about a song and how it can really help me through whatever is going on.
What artists are on rotation for you right now?
James the Seventh: I'm kind of in the same rotation right now: Fiona Apple, Jeff Buckley, also this French psychedelic album called Papuse. It's so good. I love Wolf Alice. I love them so much, and beabadobee, who I've finally gotten into. I've started getting into Faye Webster, also Sherly Crow. I've been listening to so much Sheryl Crow lately. I listen to a lot of women. I feel a different type of empowerment when I listen to women.
I feel like you hear your own thoughts in their music. I can't relate as much to men. Can you tell me your best piece of advice for women in music?
James the Seventh: I think it's to not care about being too much or being like, "You try too hard," and those were concerns I had when I first started putting myself out there. I didn't want to seem like a try-hard and cringey, and one day I just thought, "it doesn't matter." I think, as women in general, it's so common not to want to take up too much space or be too much, but at the end of the day, you have to be! That's so powerful to walk into a room or post something online or put your music out there and be like, "I love this, and I want to share it with the world." I think it's common for people to try to make women seem like they're too much, but those people can fuck off.