[private] What follows a life that included an appearance on the Ed Sullivan show at age 12, world tours with famous musical acts, including the Rolling Stones and David Bowie and a wall of gold and platinum records? For Brion James … life on an island.
“I had lived out of a suitcase for years and was just ready to be in one place,” says James. When the band he toured with, Dan Reed Network, disbanded, Brion moved from a horse farm in Oregon to Los Angeles. He had been writing since his teens and had nine completed songs in his catalog. Hendrix and Santana were early influences. His acoustical guitar sound was deemed too different and seemed unmarketable in the era of the keyboard until Puffy heard Brion playing in the background during a phone conversation. He sold all nine songs and the Brion James sound was launched.
The money started rolling in. “I knew I’d end up living in L.A. with a huge mortgage and a Beemer if I didn’t get out.” Brion started looking for his place in the world. Drawn to island life he spent two years methodically giving Saint Marten, Hawaii and Belize, among other places, a thirty-day trial. Enamored with Belize, disappointment came in the form of a tropical storm and the stark reality of the vulnerability of the low-lying landscape. Preconceived notions kept him from considering Honduras at first, but after hearing more about the island, James came to Roatan in 1999. “I really liked the vibe here.” Using royalties, Brion bought some land, unpacked his suitcase and settled in.
“The first several years I was here, only my roommates knew I was a musician. I was writing and playing at home but not in public. When I began performing again, I was the only rock band on the island for a six years span.”
“I didn’t market myself in the States after I moved here but people started coming to me as a songwriter. I’m working on songs this week for two emerging American artists.” This evidence of success is not lost on James.
What sparks Brion’s interest these days is finding new talent on the island, including Canario, a vocalist from Punta Gorda for whom Brion has produced CD’s and found an agent. His tracks are on club play lists in Miami. “The sound is an edgy Reggae sung in Spanish.” Also catching his interest is Shocking Tribe from Jonesville, consisting of three male rappers and a female vocalist, and the Coxen Hole triplet of Little Ones.
“A guy came to town the other day who plays the saxophone. We put together a jazz trio with bass and drums and played at Le Bistro. It was cool to do something different. I do miss having people to talk to about music.”
Brion James and his band have found their new home at the Blue Channel in West End. A light comes to his eye when he talks about his plans to redecorate the venue and schedule talent every night of the week.
“What I’ve lost by coming to the island, the high pressure, competitive life, I don’t miss. I’m retired. I play to entertain people. I like to see people dancing and singing and having a good time and I like to play my guitar.”
It’s hard not to see a correlation between the revolutionary times in which Brion found his musical voice and the stage of development on the island of Roatan. I asked Brion what advice he has for people aspiring to get into the music business. “Play music. Write music. Sing with your friends and have parties. It grows from there. Have fun with it.” [/private]