Hailing from Washington, DC, singer-songwriter and musician James Tillman fell in love with the sound of music at an early age. Exposure to his parents’ extensive album collection, which included everything from Afrika Bambaataa to Joni Mitchell, and solo karaoke concerts with a Fisher Price toy cassette player planted musical seeds within him. A knock out church performance of ‘This Little Light of Mine” at age 9 and learning to play Mozart’s Clarinet concerto by 16 helped those musical seeds to take root and flourish. James’ unwavering desire to become a singer was ignited by iconic artists such as Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye and D’Angelo. After discovering that Marvin Gaye was a native Washingtonian, James became further driven to forge his own musical path. Drenched in the tradition of these greats yet also inspired by contemporary producers, James’ sound is rooted in soulful R&B with a modern twist.
In 2010, James realized that a career in accounting was not for him, so he made the decision to leave the University of Virginia and become a voice major at The New School in New York City. His family members were disappointed and some of his friends and advisers thought he was crazy to leave such a great school, but James knew his artistic ability would only flourish if he immersed himself in the hustle and bustle of New York City.
Sacrifice and struggle were recurring themes over the next few years, but through discipline, perseverance, and sheer passion James steadily pursued his craft and began to find his way and mold his sound. In the midst of keeping up with a demanding school load and working multiple jobs to pay rent, James taught himself to play guitar and held music sessions with his friends from school. He received the opportunity to go on tour as a back-up vocalist for NBC’s America’s Got Talent popular contestant, Alice Tan Ridley. Stepping out on his own, James has been steadily creating a fan base. He has performed all around New York City at venues such as: Rockwood Music Hall, Bowery Electric, B. B. King’s Blues Club, Shrine World Music Venue, Drom, Pianos and more.
James released his debut EP, Shangri La, on April 29, 2014, and his begun to catch the ear of music industry. He has been written about by various blogs and publications including Okayplayer.com and Essence Magazine. His music has been played on various radio stations, including KCRW and Gilles Peterson’s BBC 6 radio program. James’ goal with the Shangri La EP is to reacquaint the world with meaningful lyrics and soul music that makes you feel good. This project focuses on the unique elements of love that stir the soul. Based in earnest artistry and love, James is destined to create timeless music. There is no limit for this young talent.