“I don’t know if anything sets my music apart but if it did it would have to be the honesty that I strive for,” said Indie Folk/Pop singer/songwriter James Coates. “I have played the game where you try to create an image for yourself and only play high-profile venues and it didn’t fulfill me at all. I try to be honest and up-front when I write, record and when I perform live. I am just another guy with a guitar. I think what sets me apart is that I’m willing to admit that.”
Coates began playing music early in life with piano and then guitar. “My dad is a piano tuner and repairman, so growing up there were anywhere from five to ten random pianos sitting around the house. I started playing piano at a young age and eventually picked up the guitar later on. My dad taught me both.”
He didn’t stop with just those two instruments, “I can BS my way through a few other instruments like drums and bass. I recorded some spoons for a track the other day.”
The singer/songwriter’s musical influences lean towards classic artists like The Beatles, Bob Dylan, producer Jon Brion, Simon and Garfunkel, and Joni Mitchell. “I admire Tom Petty and Brian Wilson more than just about any other artist. Petty always stuck to his guns. He had to go up against a lot of opposition from his labels when he was still coming up and he never caved in for a bigger check. Brian Wilson, the creative force behind The Beach Boys, is just amazing. He wrote and produced all their best music, including the masterpiece ‘Pet Sounds.’”
“I write music and lyrics. I’m inspired by the artists that I listen to but also by people in my life and events in my life. Every song comes from a different place. You could start a song with a riff or a couple of chords or you could have a lyric or title in mind.”
One thing he strives for with his music is a connection to fans. “I played a show earlier this evening at a small bar in Tacoma and there was a woman sitting at a booth near the front and she just looked like she was really dialing into the frequency I was working on. She looked like she felt the music on an emotional level and I think we made a connection through the songs.”
Coates sees a music scene as just a foundation for something larger within Indie music. “If it’s just a scene then to me it’s not really real. A good scene, I’d rather call that a community. There’s a good music community in the Tacoma area. Seattle seems like it’s just a bunch of bands trying to get signed to a label. But when you see a bunch of people playing because they love to play and because they love each other, that’s not a scene, it’s a music community. If artists don’t embrace their independence then it doesn’t really matter that they’re not on a label.”
“Some people view it as dog-eat-dog and others foster a feeling of ‘mutual support.’ I believe in the latter. I’ve seen bands that treat their fans like numbers, just another like on the Facebook page, rather than a real person, and they don’t last. Those bands fall apart because you get what you give. If you just take, take, take and try to get as much as you can and give as little as you can, you have to get pretty lucky to make it. But if you support one another, that’s when you can tap into something really, really special.”
Coates is currently recording his full-length debut album as well as planning an ambitious two month tour this summer traveling to the East Coast, South, and then back to the West Coast. His self-titled debut EP is available on iTunes and CD Baby. He also has a collection of demos available for sale on Bandcamp.
Music fans can follow along with the Washington state based Indie musician on his official site, Facebook page, and Twitter feed.