I came to London from South Wales at 18 to pursue a career as a singer/songwriter. I recorded an album of my own songs, was offered several record deals and secured airplay on radio stations around England and Wales before fate took a hand and damage to my spine rendered me unable to stand or walk unaided for many years - putting a stop to my career.
Now, thanks to an exceptional and (literally) life-saving therapy from Australia, called the Bowen Technique, I am back on my legs and so happy to be performing again.
I have been told that many of my songs, such as ‘The Future Is Bright’, 'Freedom', ‘Watching The Leaves’ and ‘Hard Falls The Rain’, have a timeless quality which warrants their being heard. My songs are quite different one from another and likewise when I do a cover because singing from the heart the lyric dictates my voice and so it changes accordingly even throughout a song. Even though it is therefore void of a style as such, my singing has been called ‘Heart and Soul’ and has been compared to such performers as Billie Holiday, Edith Piaf, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix – all unique in themselves, but each having one thing in common, in that they bare their soul and could be said to be devastated individuals giving devastating performances. These singers have been an inspiration to me. I also credit David Bowie’s versatility and vocal range as being in no small part responsible for my own... I just loved his creativity, especially Ziggy. I have to say I was also a very big fan of many of the great singers in my father’s record collection and in no small part they are also why I have such versatility, range and power vocally.
I went through hell suffering ever-worsening incapacity and the loss of year after year due to being failed abysmally by the mainstream medical profession even though always frantically seeking recovery… until at the last, when I had all but given up and could take no more, Bowen therapy literally saved my life. I was working as the Health Editor for the Disability Times newspaper and reviewing therapies for our readership to test their efficacy at treating the severest musculo-skeletal conditions, by gauging how I found them to benefit me. I determined to train and qualify as a registered Bowen therapist myself, because I know better than anybody how exceptional it is and how, past a certain degree of severity, all other modalities will be found to be lacking when it comes to securing a marked recovery - dealing with symptoms/ effects and not causes may help nominally in the short term, but are found to be no great shakes in the long term. I wanted to bring the results I got from Bowen to others suffering most severe conditions as I did, due to the limits of all other bodywork modalities both mainstream and complementary. I now have a country-wide reputation for being the man to come to even if all else has failed you.
I’ve learned so much from what I’ve been through, and gone from being super fit with the prospect of a very successful career as a singer/songwriter in front of me, to being severely incapacitated and had all so-called friends desert me when I wasn’t going to be famous.
Having been through such a hell of an experience, I need the greatest good to come out of it, and therefore intend to write several books regarding it. The first, ‘Hospital Hell’ and its follow up, ‘When Others Take Your Life’ will be autobiographical. Without going into too much detail, I now take nothing for granted. Fundamentally, I really appreciate being alive - being able to walk, to taste, to love - all of which could very easily not have been . . . even experiencing severe pain, bad weather or whatever, is better than the alternate. Basically, so much that I previously considered of importance paled into insignificance, and so much deemed insignificant is now realised as being so incredible, so important.
However, once a singer/songwriter, always one. It’s in my blood; a fundamental part of my being - as is the desire to perform. I’m not the person I was 20 years ago, but I never gave up and now have a lot of time to make up for, so in no way am I ready to put my feet up. I’m younger than George Michael, and consider I’m enriched by what I’ve been through. I was extremely frustrated to say the least, and have even mourned the songs I know I would have otherwise written over the years. While I’m not completely reconciled yet, I’m so glad to be alive and on my feet again in every way, as it was extremely doubtful for a long time if I ever would be. I don’t believe you can really appreciate what you have unless you’ve been threatened with its loss, or have had it taken from you. Now I want to pick up and move forward with my singing. The first step is getting my songs out there that I believe deserve to be heard and given a life of their own. I always marvelled how they seemed to have been ‘intended’. Granted, I worked hard on each one, but it was almost like there was a right word which would come to me no matter how stuck I got writing a lyric; so, in a sense, it was as though they wrote themselves or were intended to be as they came out in the end. This is not said with any conceit - in fact quite the opposite. I look back on them, am very happy about their timeless quality and can’t believe I wrote them.
In recent years, while still recovering, I looked to cover songs I would have done as an artist anyway. Being a huge fan of the Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jnr., Dean Martin) and others of the great jazz singers both male and female, past and present and loving Amy Winehouse’s quality of voice, I delved into the American Songbook. In the past, my forte was power and range; now in addition I have developed a quality tone in a deeper register and have enjoyed working with that recently (please refer to my version of ‘One For My Baby One More For The Road’ once released).
In light of this - these great artists of old, my expressive vocals and the fact that contemporaries Michael Buble, Robbie Williams and Rod Stewart have all shown their love of the American Songbook, I ached to sing those songs also. To date, I have recorded most of the classics in the genre and will release them soon. I have also most respectfully tilted my hat to both Mr Williams and Mr Buble by recording my version of their great songs ‘Angels’ and ‘Home’ respectively. The latter is released already, along with my live performance of ‘Purple Rain’ and ‘What A Wonderful World’.
This brings me right up to date. However, in the past I have been likened to John Lennon because, like him (and I did), many of my songs aspire to make the world a less violent place; especially ‘Freedom’, ‘Make Love Not War’ and ‘Why?’. The last was written after I watched the film ‘Gallipoli’. Prior to being rendered severely incapacitated I’d been a very fast runner and was profoundly moved by the thought of the horror of sprinting headlong into machine gun fire, with only one inevitable outcome… “I hear the whistle, time is blown on my life… looking for bullets that search for me.” (Lyrics: ‘Why?’)
I will be writing more songs, but there are so many great artists and songs that I’d still like to cover and make my own - always with a mind not to be pointless, unoriginal or cheesy, while being respectful to the songs and any potential listeners. As well as writing original songs, I therefore intend a series of ‘Steve James Sings’ albums e.g. John Lennon, Harry Nilsson, Elvis, Lionel Ritchie, Elton John, Neil Diamond, Jazz Legends etc.
I hope people like what I do out of love of great songs and singing and, in time, will even suggest songs they’d like to hear me sing.