I first discovered James The Seventh on TikTok and was immediately hooked by her ethereal voice and cinematic melodies. We talked to her about her gorgeous video for Double Edged Sword, ballet, and what it means to "do it scared."
How did you get started in music?
James The Seventh: To sum it up, music was something I had an interest in when I was in high school, but I was a full-time ballet dancer, so I didn't have much time to really give it a shot, and I wasn't sure where to start; especially since I had been pursuing a ballet career my entire life, I felt that it was my identity and I had to "stay in my lane." In 2020 when I was 19, I got injured during a ballet class, and I had to get surgery which led to me having to stop dancing. While I was recovering from surgery, my dad bought me a guitar, and from there, I started songwriting, and I eventually taught myself how to produce music after working with my sister's friend Gabriel Gaffney Smith who helped produce my first song, "You Don't Know Me."
Tell me about your video for Double Edged Sword. How did it come together?
James The Seventh: I was so fortunate to get to work with amazing people on the Double Edged Sword music video. I was able to connect with Arielle Friedman, a friend of my sister's as well, who co-directed the video with Camila Grimaldi! The director of photography for the video is Lucy Blumenfield, and the lighting, gaffing, and editing were done by Hunter Kauffman. Prior to making the video, I made a Pinterest board with some of my favorite aesthetics, mainly being renaissance and victorian art paired with modern aesthetics and lighting, and Camila, Arielle, Lucy, and Hunter were all so talented in making these ideas come to life with their creative visions! We filmed it in the span of 3 days around New York City and the Hamptons; we mostly used one of the rooms in Hunter's apartment as a studio and did shots by the water in the Hamptons. The days we did those shots, we finished filming around 11 pm and then woke up the next day at 4 am to get the rest of the shots! It was so much fun to make.
How have you stayed motivated to create this past year?
James The Seventh: The thing that has motivated me to create the most is that it makes me so happy and feels incredibly rewarding to make a song from start to finish. I have found that it can get frustrating sometimes since I make my songs all by myself (except You Don't Know Me). Making music without an extra pair of ears can be a bit challenging at times, but nevertheless, producing my music is the most satisfying thing once it's done! I think letting go of the fear of something not being "perfect" and enjoying and trusting in the process of making every song has motivated me to create this year. I also think that staying inspired by consuming all kinds of art is so inspiring, whether it's music, movies, or books, etc.
What's something that's been inspiring you lately?
James The Seventh: I recently decided to transfer to college full time, and it's a whole new experience for me because I primarily did online school all through middle school and high school to accommodate my ballet schedule. Being in a new environment, meeting new people, and having new experiences have been incredibly inspiring for me recently.
What has been one of the biggest challenges in your career?
James The Seventh: The biggest challenge in my career is putting myself out there. It can be really scary to unapologetically market yourself while also having a fear of being judged by family, friends, acquaintances, etc. It's definitely still something I am still trying to overcome, but I did see a quote from somewhere once that said, "do it scared," and I have tried to carry that mentality with me when it comes to my music.
Who are some artists you look up to?
James The Seventh: My biggest inspiration is MARINA. She is an artist that made me want to start music in the first place; I absolutely love how she is so unapologetic with her confidence and artistic visions, and her music has always made me feel something. I also really love Jorja Smith, Lana del Rey, Lorde, and The Marias. All of their production, lyricism and artistic visions are so inspiring to me!
What's your best piece of advice for young women?
James The Seventh: My biggest piece of advice is to not make yourself smaller or let fear stop you from pursuing things you want, putting yourself out there, and going after the things you want! This is definitely advice I am still trying to take myself, but it is something I often remind myself to do, and it has been incredibly rewarding!