James Kelso is a singer / songwriter from Donahue, Iowa who writes about people, the lives they live, and the God who loves them more than they can know. Kelso will be releasing a 5 song EP today (Nov 27). In this TCB Exclusive, Kelso opens up about the personal events that inspired the collection and how the cycle of struggle, growth and overcoming is something we can all relate to. Additionally, James talks about his biggest musical inspirations, his hopes for the EP and aspirations for 2021.
Congrats on the release of your debut EP! How long was this collection in the making?
This record began to take shape in the summer of 2019 after a long battle with vocal dysfunction that involved several surgeries, and temporary loss of the ability to sing. Though I hadn’t written the title track yet, everything that I had been writing had a common theme – No matter what is in the way, God will get you to where he wants you to be.
What message do you hope listeners take away from this collection?
I hope that people walk away from this record with a confidence that there is nothing in life that is big enough to prevent us from reaching our destination, which is ultimately God and his design for our lives.
How does your connection to the music you write and record help engage listeners?
Each of these songs is rooted in the struggles of life, the growth that comes through those seasons, and the overcoming power of God. This cycle of struggle, growth, and overcoming is something that everyone can relate to, and I think this is why fans have responded positively to the record. We are all keenly aware of our shortcomings. The redemption story that comes by grace, through faith, is the story that our hearts long to live out. I have tried to capture that story, and tell it, through all of the songs on the record. This is the power of the gospel, and really the reason why my music resonates with the people that it does.
How would you describe your sound on this EP?
I would describe this as an upbeat, hopeful record. While it addresses difficult issues, we chose sonic elements with the hope that they would make you feel the hope of redemption. It leans into the pop genre but contains a certain measure of my country influences.
What are some of your current musical or lyrical influences?
I have been spending a lot of time listening to the music of Cory Asbury and Jake Scott over the past few months. Both artists are deeply thoughtful lyricists, with depth to their songwriting that I really respect. They are also both such exceptional melody writers. You hear their songs and they always make you want more because the lyrics are so strong and the melody is so memorable. I think the other thing that really draws me to both artists is the raw honesty in their lyrics. They both really challenge me to write music that is relevant, singable, and fresh, a combination that can be hard to find, but is so worth the effort and time as a songwriter.
With 2020 coming to a close, can you share with us something you are looking forward to in the remaining months or even into 2021?
I am really looking forward to getting out and performing these new songs as venues open back up for shows. I am also looking forward to some new co-writing opportunities. I have met some pretty amazing people over the last several months who I am looking forward to collaborating with in the future. COVID-19 has forced songwriters to get very comfortable with writing over video calls. This really opens a lot of doors to write with people outside of our physical community. When you get more than one Christian songwriter working together on a song, in biblical agreement, the outcome is powerful, and supernatural. I am really looking forward to more of this!