Laser synths dash across his breathiness, igniting the electronic synergy between his phrasing and the pressure rising around him. It took Christian James two years to record “Fall,” his combustible, club-ready new single, which has remarkably collected more than 100,000 streams on SoundCloud already. It’s a steady climb, for sure, but one that feels urgent enough to burn down around the edges, as he looks to release a sequence of two EPs over the next year. “You and me, the rhythm in the air,” he coos into a moody mist of heavy beats and a slow-cresting hook. When he hit up the studio the first time around, on the heels of his debut single “Give Him Up,” featuring Macy Kate, it was under taxing circumstances. The producers pushed his nose to the curb in an effort to thrust him forward for the take they wanted. But it soon fell apart. He stepped away from the studio and wouldn’t be inspired again until he was 19.
“I really went in there thinking we’re going to set this as a demo and hear how it sounds. The producers were like ‘listen, we’re getting some good vocals out right now, everything is sounding great.’ We got in there and did it. At first, it was really hard. I didn’t necessarily want to do this song at first. I wasn’t prepared. I waited. I got back into the studio two years later, and the producers were really happy then,” he reflects to B-Sides & Badlands. What you hear pouncing along on the recording is a singer coming into his own, as he muses on heartbreak and being there for someone he deeply admires. “I will never let you fall,” he serenades the listener, the luscious and candied production sending the song like Cupid’s arrow speeding into your heart.
“I only did two takes. The first take was two years ago back when I released my first song. This second time was a few months ago. That was when we laid down the final cut,” he adds. During those two years, he not only graduated high school and dove headfirst into adulthood, but something forever changed. “People and the producers tore me down before. I’m getting ready to do some more stuff and able to put more of what I’ve been going through, emotionally, into the music,” he says.
The accompanying “Fall” visual combines an eclectic choice of a helicopter pad as the backdrop and his dance roots. “We were all sitting around in the studio one night and listening to the song. We were like ‘oh, we really like this vibe.’ That’s why I fell in love with this song two years ago. The beat is awesome. We wanted a desert scene, at first. That ended up not working out because of the production costs,” he explains of the video. “So, we thought, ‘what if we get somewhere like an abandoned helicopter pad?’ We shot that, and I wanted to keep the dance vibe. So, that’s why I wanted the studio shot of me onstage to reflect that. I wanted people to know that I love to have a great time but I’m also about lyrics.”
Drawing a zest for performing from his No. 1 Ed Sheeran, who James calls “a lyrical genius,” the upstart exudes the kind of swagger necessary for pop superstardom, humble but shameless enough to compete in a cutthroat industry.
With the bouncy club banger continuing to move hefty streaming numbers, he eyes a forthcoming EP, which he hopes arrives by the end of summer. The second will drop sometime after that. While he did consider a full-length project, the two halves felt like “two different stories,” he says, “and I wanted to keep them separate.”
“We have other material that’s on the hold up. We have stuff we could be releasing but it depends on how I feel about which way I want to go with my story,” he then teases.
“Fall” readily fits in with today’s proliferation of house waves and The Chainsmokers-level of simplicity, which is certainly why so many fans have been drawn into his sphere. But his sound is “still evolving. We’re listening to a lot of music that’s happening today. We are relating my sound to that. I want to put something out that speaks to me,” notes James, adding the pressure he feels to reach that point of self-realization in his music. “I feel really close. I’m excited to see where my sound goes next.”
He then takes a moment to catch his breath. “I just graduated high school last year. I did my first year of college this year and moving into online classes. You figure these things and your relationships and friendships. My song hit 100,000 plays on SoundCloud. It’s so cool to see that. It’s just the beginning,” he smiles. “I’m sure you hear this a lot but it’s hard to know where you are going exactly or if you are going to get there. When you see those kinds of numbers, that builds your confidence and motivates you to keep going.”
With a few thousand fans already accumulated across his socials, he takes that support to heart much more than most musicians. “My fans mean everything to me. Support like that is unbelievable. I want to build a community and spread positivity and love. I want them to know I’m here for them and want them to be there for each other,” he says. “I’ve learned [from them] that you can dream, first of all. You can’t be scared of it. You have to keep pushing forward no matter how hard it gets. I’ve really learned that I might not know people but I’ve come to care for them.”
Hailing from south Florida, James was a self-proclaimed skate boarder growing up, with scuba diving and surfing also taking a piece of his heart. “The beach was a big part of my life,” he considers. While that might be the case then, by the time he was 12, music snuck in to lay claim to his ambitious nature. “That’s the first time I really connected with a song. I started really getting into my career when I was 17.”
He might only be 19, but he carries himself much older. Details on his new music coming soon.
Spin James’ single “Fall” below: