On the song selection for the new CD, he said, “A couple of years ago I re-joined a writing collective that I had visited once or twice when I first moved to NYC. It’s called the Jack Hardy Songwriter Exchange. Basically, it’s a gathering of NYC songwriters, some pros, some amateurs, who write a song every week and then critique them in an open, usually constructive forum. Some members of the group in the past have been Shawn Colvin, Suzanne Vega and David Massengill. While my songs still come from personal experiences and emotional inspirations, most of these songs were coaxed out of me because of those meetings. It put a lot of pressure on me to come up with clever ideas and catchy melodies. Knowing that a bunch of songwriters were going to hear and critique the songs, gave me really positive motivation and a deadline. It was a different process than I’m used to, but it resulted in songs that I’m really proud of.”
It was extremely difficult for him to select a favorite song on this project. “Right now, the entire album is my favorite. I”ll probably have a different answer once I’ve been playing the songs on the road throughout the next year,” he said.
On his future plans, he said, “Well, as I do for most albums, I’m going to be on the road, singing these songs, and some old favorites, for most of the year ahead. I’m tentatively planning to revisit my old stomping grounds in London before it gets cold and go to Australia for the first time after that. I think my next writing project, after the tour, is going to be an attempt at writing a show for the theater. So many rock and pop writers that I respect have been bringing a modern take stage shows; Sara Bareilles, Duncan Sheik and Tim Minchin, for example. I have a good friend who is an established screenwriter, and we’ve been toying with some ideas. Living in New York, it’s hard not to be intrigued by the theater world, and I’m excited to find a new way to bring my quirky little songs to people looking for something outside the box.”
Growing up, he was inspired by such artists as The Beatles, Jellyfish, Barenaked Ladies, Elvis Costello, Joe Cocker, Van Halen, Indigo Girls, Ben Folds, Del Amitri and James Taylor
When asked what inspires his music, he said, “My inspiration for songs has always been varied and bizarre. The title song for ‘My Mighty MAJic Stick’ was inspired by the USB stick format that the album is on. So, that’s kind of ‘meta.’ The second single was inspired by a cartoon of a unicorn, triumphantly pissing a rainbow, that my roommate randomly emailed to me. I have one that was inspired by a racist guy over-sharing on social media. I don’t know why or how my brain decides there are songs in these random thoughts, but it does. It keeps me entertained. I’m just glad it entertains the people who hear them, as well.”
He listed Billy Joel and Paul McCartney as his dream collaboration choices. “That kid who worshiped Billy Joel would love to bring it full circle and work with him. Paul McCartney is probably the pinnacle of living music greats. So, it would be a dream to write with him. Of the current chart toppers, I would love to work with David Grohl, Pharrell Williams, Jack White, Pink or Sara Bareilles,” he said.
For his fans, he concluded, “My goal is always to catch one of those familiar feelings, and express in in a new, entertaining way. I’m just another one of those artists hoping that I can make people feel things, whether it’s funny, ironic, joyful or sympathetic. I find it so rewarding when I identify with someone else’s art. I hope I can do that for the people who hear my songs. I’m insanely lucky. I love what I do and I work my ass off doing it. Music, on the whole, is SO subjective, but, if you’re into quirky power pop, and singer/songwriters, I like to think you’re going to enjoy this album. I can’t wait to take “My Mighty MAJic Stick” out there and play these songs for people. Even without the novelty of the new USB format, (and the ridiculous amount of tasteless puns the title provides), it’s an enjoyable collection of songs. Come find me online and see a show. I look forward to seeing everyone out there.”
To learn more about Mark Aaron James, check out his website.