James Essien, the maestro behind chart-topping melodies, is a name that resonates through the vibrant corridors of the music industry. His journey has been spectacular, from being a musician to crafting lyrical magic. With an array of accolades and a knack for turning words into musical gold, James has left an indelible mark on the UK and US music scenes. This exclusive Q&A session delves into his musical odyssey, creative process, and vision for the future.
So, grab a cup of coffee and join us as we explore the world of James Essien.
1. You used to be a musician yourself before writing songs. Can you discuss that chapter and how/why you transitioned into songwriting?
James Essien: I've always been a musician and a singer, but I started writing a little later. There's something to love in every genre of music. When I was a kid, I started learning different instruments. My cousin had a keyboard, and I used it often. When my mum heard me trying to play, she decided to buy me an upright piano. I learned a lot of songs by ear, and that kickstarted my interest in how a piece comes together, which made me want to learn how to write my music.
2. What moment in your career has left you the most awe-struck or made you the proudest?
James Essien: When I flew out to LA for the first time, it was something I had always wanted to do, but it didn't feel real until I got on the plane and realized I was doing this. Then, working with songwriters who are the best of the best, who have been dominating the charts for years, and having them think the same of me was crazy.
3. What does your creative process look like when you enter the studio with someone new?
James Essien: The first thing I like to do is make friends with them and try and understand them as a person. If I understand their story, I know what they are trying to say through their music. I call it their artistic voice. Understanding their artistic voice is essential because every artist has a message, and their songs must align with that. I want to push the creative envelope, so I must know the rules before breaking them.
4. Do you have any advice for aspiring songwriters navigating the studio session/collaboration process, especially when working with a celebrity?
James Essien: Stay out of the way of the song. If it feels good, go with it. Remember when writing a piece of music with or for an artist that it's THEIR song. It's about THEM, not you. Sometimes, you can get too attached to your ideas as a writer. If the artist you're working with has a statement that you don't like or don't like your idea, it's important to remember that they will perform this song more times than you can imagine, so do what's best for the music. Another easy mistake to make is trying to write a song that sounds like something the artist has already done. It's all about finding that sweet spot between their sound and their next step. Remembering that celebrities are real people and we're all just at work is essential.
5. Can you share some advice for aspiring songwriters outside of the studio?
James Essien: Listen to EVERYTHING. Way too many songwriters obsess with just one genre of music and try to make it. Identify the good in everything; different genres give you different perspectives. Writing music is about finding new ways to approach relatable topics. It would be best if you were open to trying new things to write a great song.
6. From whom and where do you draw your musical inspiration from?
James Essien: My biggest inspirations are The Script, Coldplay, Chris Brown, Usher, Drake, SZA, and Post Malone. I like that they all have their own musical identity. When you hear one of their songs come on, you feel their authenticity regardless of the genre or feature.
7. If you could collaborate with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
James Essien: If I could collaborate with anyone, dead or alive, I would pick Rihanna. She has this distinct tone of voice and can bring a song to life. I'd love to write her a comeback single.
8. What's next for James Essien?
James Essien: Working smart. Working with new artists and established artists, working over in the US. My goal is to write songs that change lives. I want to write the music that plays in your head when you reflect on your happiest moments.
Connect with James Essien: Instagram