It’s hard to avoid the obvious questions when talking to Eran James, a 15-year-old Melbourne teenager with a great voice and a huge publicity machine.
James’s debut Reviewing The Situation is a collection of soul classics, like James Brown’s Forever Suffering, Al Green’s Tired Of Being Alone and the Isley Brothers’ Work To Do. It’s not all soul -“ he also covers Lenny Kravitz’s Let Love Rule and John Lennon’s Jealous Guy, and shows his writing mettle on I’m All Alone.
Obvious question number one: How does a 15-year-old get so much attention?
I’ve been singing since I was six or seven, he says.
I’d sing around the house stuff that was on the radio. When I’d go to family friends’ houses everyone would hound me to sing and I’d hide.
For musicians struggling through the normal pub-rock channels, James’s story must seem like a dream. At 10, he started recording demos. At 13, he was signed to Universal Music.
I got my big break when I was 10, he says.
I was singing an original song at a talent quest in Melbourne. I did my performance and my manager Shane approached me and asked me to come up to Queensland and do some recording. My mum met him and met his wife and said okay, and then I went up there.
Obvious question number two: What does a 15-year-old know about soul -“ the music or its emotion?
I discovered soul through hip-hop, he says.
I really loved hip-hop and urban music, and I did a bit of research, went back in time to the origins of hip-hop. When I found that out I found all of the big soul artists, like James Brown and Bill Withers, and here I am today doing a cover album of soul classics.
We [James, manager Shane Monopoli and producer Ashley Anderson] sat down and talked about tracks I liked and tracks that would suit my voice. They brought some things from their record collections, and we chose these songs. It was all sweet, I really liked everything that they brought to the table.
Obvious question number three: Does fame and (potential) fortune get in the way of being a normal teenager?
I’ve written more than 50 songs. I’ve been to LA twice, New York twice, London, Sweden. The first trip I performed for major labels in New York -“ I was only 13 years old, he says.
I’ve been doing a home school kind of thing. I’m not missing out on a 15-year-old life because I’ve actually got that life. When I go back home I can still hang out with my mates, play basketball, watch a movie. Having a record out is just a real bonus for me.
Eran James’s Reviewing the Situation is out now.