Openly gay singer-songwriter Aiden James plays an acoustic guitar and wears his heart on his sleeve. But don't give him the folk-singer label just because of it. The Philadelphia native is the epitome of a one-man band with the ability to play 11 instruments and wrote, arranged, engineered, performed, produced and mixed his latest record Trouble With This.
In advance of his Chicago appearance, the indie artist spoke with Windy City Times about signing with a major label, his Whitney Houston connection and those sexy legs.
Windy City Times: You are a self-contained artist and you play 11 instruments. What was it like creating music for your CD, Trouble With This, all by yourself?
Aiden James: Normally, when you go into making a record the band would just play their own instruments. As a singer-songwriter I write it, I arrange the music, produce and engineer it and perform the instruments. With the previous records that I had out, I decided that I wasn't going to hire a producer or an engineer because those were just ridiculously expensive and I felt like I was just putting their kids through college. [Laughs] I'm super-computer-savvy and a friend of mine in Los Angeles who produces music said, "Aiden, you are really handy with computers and you're super-smart. You should get a copy of Logic [music-production software]. You have the ear, you can write and arrange." I learned a couple of production tricks on YouTube and from all my experience in the studio creatively, everything just started to click.
WCT: What is the next musical project you have on the horizon?
Aiden James: I'm working on another single that's coming out this month called "Last Reminder." All the singles for Trouble With This have already come out. This is a new song that I co-wrote with a friend of mine who wrote "Dirrty" for Christina [Aguilera] and "Miss Independent" for Kelly Clarkson. This is a song I'm going to release just to have a song out for the summer. I'm recording a new album for the fall.
WCT: You have talked in the past about the possibility of signing with a major label. What are your thoughts on that now?
Aiden James: I would do itif the deal was right and there was good management and everybody was on board.
WCT: You are openly gay. How would you handle someone who told you that you should hide your sexuality if you wanted to sign with a major label?
Aiden James: I would tell them that maybe they should crawl out from under the rock they've been living under.
WCT: You have said that you don't like being labelled a folk singer. What do you consider your musical style to be?
Aiden James: First and foremost, I'm a singer-songwriter and I write catchy love songs. A lot of times I feel that if you play the guitarand you are a singer-songwriteryou get mislabeled as "folk," and a lot of times people compare me to Matt Nathanson. I feel that you can write a catchy love song and play the guitar, but I also use synthesizers in my live shows. I would not consider myself folk, I would consider Bob Dylan folk.
WCT: You recorded a remake of Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody." Why did you cover that song?
Aiden James: Whitney Houston and I share a birthday. I was driving back from Washington, D.C., to do a radio interview on NPR in Philadelphia and it was the night of the Grammys, and I remembered we had lost this artist. When I was growing up as a kid, I spent a lot of time in my aunt's hair shop. Whenever the song would come on the radio I would always grab a hairbrush and run to the back of the salon where the shampoo bowls were, and I would put on a show for all the old ladies that were there. I had a connection with the song growing up and that night on the radiosince I just found out that we had just lost WhitneyI did this tribute. After that I got a really good response with people calling in and so I released it on iTunes.
WCT: Whose sexy legs are those on the promotional photo for "I Wanna Dance With Somebody?"
Aiden James: Those are mine.
WCT: Did your Tang Soo Do Korean Martial Arts training help you develop those muscles in your legs?
Aiden James: I work out. [Laughs] Don't get me wrong, but my martial-arts background totally helps with that. It's a lot of lighting and I am oiled up. I've gotten a lot of marriage proposals off of that.
Aiden James will perform at Uncommon Ground, 1401 W. Devon Ave., on Saturday, July 19. Visit www.uncommonground.com or www.aidenjamesmusic.com .