11 Questions to a Nashville Musician: James Levy

James LevyEvery now and then, it’s great to hear something that sounds just a bit different from the rest. Well, my ears just can’t get enough of the hypnotic and spellbinding title track to James Levy’s “Soldier.” Watch its fascinatingly cool video shot in downtown Los Angeles.

Levy is a multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter who certainly stands sonically apart from the usual sounds coming out of Music City. In the past, he’s worked in the bands Reputante and Lolawol, and in 2012, he released a record under the name James Levy and the Blood Red Rose which was well received by the British music mags. Levy also co-wrote and produced Charles Bradley’s posthumous 2019 Soul masterpiece, “Lonely as You Are.”

The “Solder” LP is Levy’s second solo record and was written, recorded, and mixed by him at home. It is now out on the digital label Side Hustle Records and is well-worthy of repeated listening. Thank you, James Levy, for visiting 11 Questions. I can’t wait to see you at The 5 Spot one of these days!

Where are you from originally, when did you move to Nashville and why?

I was born in Burlington, VT. Then I moved to NYC for about 18 years. I’ve been in Nashville for the last two years, but my heart and soul will always be in the Northeast.

What are the first and the last records you bought, and where did you buy them? 

I think I stopped buying music when people stopped buying mine. So, between four-to-seven years ago. I remember I bought one of the last Leonard Cohen records on iTunes. Then I realized it was on Spotify, so my head got kind of dizzy. The first record I bought was Stone Temple Pilots Core. It was in the mall of South Burlington. I got into music relatively late at around 13 years old, so I was behind the pack. I also may have picked up Pearl Jam Vs. that day, which was odd because I had only heard the first record. But the manager convinced me it was better.

First and last live concerts that you’ve seen?

I remember seeing Eddie Money when I was really young and remember falling asleep. I remember Technotronic with Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff opening up. If I’m not mistaken my friend Lowell was choking on a hot dog. The last concert I’ve seen was maybe J Mascis and guests? Charles Bradley sang, Henry Rollins screamed (but mostly spoke) and Noel Gallagher. Both shows were in New York. I don’t like concerts much so that was five years ago. So technically Turner Cody in Nashville was the last “show” I saw.

Whose star should be added to the Music City Walk of Fame? 

Turner Cody.

Where do you go in Nashville for coffee and pizza?

Ha-ha. Well, I think I’ve gone to a place in Germantown that was good. But strong coffee puts me out for the day, so I prefer instant at home or good old-fashioned Dunkin’. I miss the old days of diner coffee (can’t beat it), and the days of sitting in cafes with a weak cup of shitty coffee (also can’t beat it).

What’s your favorite record to ever come out of Nashville?

Oh, that’s a hard one. I don’t know which records were specifically recorded here. But Nashville Skyline by Bob Dylan would probably be how I romanticized Nashville growing up. And I love all Johnny Cash.

Where’s the best place to eat late night after a show?

Hmm. Once again, I would say at home. And once again, I miss those early days of going to a diner late at night. Being young and being full of shit. Eating McDonald’s in your car also works.

The Bluebird calls and asks you to host an “In the Round.” Pick three local songwriters to join you.

Yeah, I mean I don’t think they would ever call me! I’m not really in that vein of that sort of thing. I can think of a few singers I would like to sing with round robin, but I’m blushing and too embarrassed to say. I’m keeping that one in the vault.

What are your favorite music venues to play in town?

The 5 Spot. Love that place. Love everything about it. The outside, the people, the community. Dee’s also is a great place. Especially during the day. I don’t really make it out at night, and I saw some fun stuff at the Basement. Also, good outdoor space. It’s really about the outdoor space isn’t it.

Name a musician who you’d like to see move here.

Turner Cody.

Finally, what’s in your musical future?

Now that’s just an impossible question. I’ll keep making things and doing whatever comes along. I mostly like to write. Performing not so much. I love duet records, so I’d like to do more of that. I’ve been lucky to find the right people to sing with that I respect. I’m looking for a new duet partner all the time. But this may be as good as it gets. And I’m OK with that.

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