Ears Wide Open: Emily James

Emily James (Photo by Lindsey Byrnes)

Twenty-year-old songstress Emily James was raised outside of New York City, cut her teeth as a singer-songwriter in Nashville, then moved to Los Angeles to further her music career and hone her self-producing chops. She’s already released five EPs, the first of which arrived in 2016, and now she’s rolling out new singles that showcase her penchant for penning bright folk-pop songs that span the spectrum of emotions.

James’ latest offering is “Peach New Am,” a cheery tune that’s an ode to her college days and the notion she could “keep livin’ this freshman feeling,” as she sings. Says James: “I wrote this song for all of the incredible friends I’ve met at college over the past four years. I wasn’t always sure that I would go to college, but I’m so grateful that I did, in large part because of the people that I met there. We all graduated during the pandemic, and this song is dedicated to them, as a way of saying thank you; not only for making those four years so special and memorable but for being the best friends I could ask for.”

It’s the latest single from James forthcoming EP, “Illuminate” (out July 15), and the follow-up to “Bird of Prey,” released in March. The latter is a spare, hushed composition that finds the musician reflecting on a romantic relationship: “This is strange, I don’t know how to say it / but I’m a little less numb when I’m with you,” she sings at the start of the track, which comes after her previous single, “Brooklyn.”

“There’s a piece of me in everything I write,” James told an interviewer last year. “How much varies from song to song, but I think having some amount of truth in every song is important and kind of unavoidable, at least for me. When I’m really tapped in, it honestly feels as though the song is writing itself, and I’m just the vessel it’s running through.”

“Most of the time, I don’t even know where a song is coming from until it’s about halfway written,” she continued. “I then realize that I’m writing about something I didn’t even know was on my mind. I think that’s why songwriting feels so therapeutic to me – because you’re really digging into the thoughts and feelings you weren’t fully aware of and then laying them all out there in front of you. It can be difficult and ugly, but in the end, it’s such a beautiful and rewarding process.”

||| Stream: “Peach New Am,” “Bird of Prey” and “Brooklyn”