James Dalton

Going Back To That Truth Thing

The language of music is one which can travel across the vast boundaries of the world, taking on a new shape with each region it crosses. Musician James Dalton has taken this journey with his songs, cultivating his own musical identity at each stop.

From the Baltic Sea, to the United States, Dalton has told his true-to-life tales with an eclectic Americana backdrop and raspy voice. Along the way, he has shared new styles of folk music with others throughout the world.

Outside of the U.S., Dalton has discovered new partners in collaboration (is his answer to my second question true?) and broadened his fan base. Here in New Jersey, the Bay Head-based Dalton continues to sharpen his skills at east coast clubs and pubs and inspire others to continue down a simpler, folksy path. He sings with an optimism of the past, present and future of the world much like Pete Seeger before him.

A breath of fresh air, where cover bands dominate the scene, Dalton's passionate approach to playing and writing never fails to surprise listeners. Chorus and Verse recently asked Dalton about his latest musical journeys. For more information about his upcoming shows, log on to www.myspace.com/jpatmusic.

Can you talk a little bit about some of the travel you have done recently? How has that travel allowed you to grow as a musician?

Since the summer there hasn't been too much travel, believe it or not. Of course, I was up and down the south to Florida a couple times, out in Amish country and western Pennsylvania and spent some time up in New England hanging and doing some cool gigs.

Well, the big trip was July in Sweden and Finland, which was fantastic. I was working as an entertainer on a ferry cruise that sailed between Stockholm and Helsinki on the Baltic Sea. The sun doesn't stay down very long up there in the summer; so there was this mystical vibe in the air all the time, like it was never time to sleep. All my other experiences in that region have involved the opposite; a more extended harder winter where the sun seems never to want to rise for very long.

What new styles of music have you picked up along the way?

I have always been fascinated by house music and other forms of dance club shit. I'd say, deep down, I've got some strange inclination to want to throw on some eyeliner and some fancy duds and be the dance club diva I never was. So, this fall, I lived that fantasy in a studio with some hip young Russian producer and we worked on a few cool tracks. We threw down this very Eurocentric stuff, cool beats, nice atmosphere and I just let go in front of the mic doing all that melodramatic singing. I doubt it will ever see the light of day, but I really enjoyed that process and exploring those sounds, especially since most of my recordings have been pretty lo-fi and acoustic-based.

After visiting areas outside of NJ, have you gained confidence that your style of music is still alive and well?

I am not really sure what my style is, but I guess I can say that what I do is pretty influenced by American roots. That isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Things like blues and country will always have a place. Now, I have always been into lots of different styles and sounds, be it Irish Trad or Jamaican Dancehall, and I really feel that what I do on stage is a little bit of everything that I like.

Maybe it doesn't come out sounding like that, but there is so much in my heart and mind onstage that it feels that way to me. But to answer your question, I am confident that there is a place for what I do all over the world.

How have you maintained an interest in your music across the world?

For a long time, and still to this [day], I have been a one-man team. I do the PR, the writing, the tour managing, etc. and although I don't do major numbers globally, I have picked up cool little pockets of fan around the world. And, even though I am just one guy, I try to be the kind of artist that reached out personally to everyone, everywhere I have ever been.

Now, looking at my tour sheets over the last several years, that seems like a difficult task. But again, I try to be that guy; the one who gets off of stages and makes friends with the whole room. I think being so personal with people from that stage like I am; giving them everything that I have, leaves an impression. So, when I return to Edinburgh later this year, or [when] I make it down to Nashville [again], I'll probably recognize some people in the house.

What are some of the topics you tend to write about lately? What inspires you to write about a particular topic?

Lately, I have been bogged down with love. The big fascination, right now, is the person who has so much love for someone, bubbling out of them even, but it is not returned. It's an age-old theme: loving someone that doesn't love you back. But, as we know, love doesn't always have to be for a person. You could be in love with an idea or even your country, and as much as you have for it, it never comes back to you. I have a feeling that I'm writing another melancholy album. I hope it isn't that bad, but I am working on a project now, a "live-in-the-studio-with-an-intimate-audience" show, professionally recorded and all that.

I am writing all new tunes for it and even bringing in a few musicians to back me up. I really want these particular songs to be very emotional so, again, love will be the theme, most likely.

Is writing about your own or others' experiences an outlet for you?

A creative outlet, yeah sure, but a cleansing one - maybe? I don't really do fiction so well in my tunes, and even though some things just may seem [outlandish] fantasy, there is always some truth. I think that is the most important thing in my writing, truth. Because in truth is where people can identify with your stories and your characters. I'd say that every one of the songs with lyrics on my last album, "Butterflies and Passerbys," were based so much in truth. It was like my confessional. A weary confessional travelogue about me and some of the people I have met along the way.

Is there any method you have for melding your lyrics with the music you create?

Fortunately for me I have not really pinned down what method works for me as far as creating songs and structuring them. I never wanted to be a "songwritery" songwriter, who wrote songs about every daily happening, including writing other songs, and had methods and books about it and stuff. I guess it might make me an amateur, but I tend to want things to come out of me naturally and not contrived. Again, it goes back to that truth thing I was talking about earlier.

[ Website: www.myspace.com/jpatmusic ]

Josh Davidson

Josh Davidson has written music feature articles for Jersey Style and served as the Jersey Shore rock columnist for Steppin' Out Magazine. Other music writing credits include Aquarian Weekly, Jersey Beat, Backstreets and njcoast.com. He has written free-lance for the Asbury Park Press' Community Sports section and has written featured articles for its news section, as well as covering campus news and sports weekly for the Signal, the College of New Jersey's (formerly Trenton State College) student newspaper. He has worked as a staff writer for The Independent, and his work for Greater Media Newspapers has also been published in the News Transcript. He is a former beat reporter for the Ocean County Observer who presently is a news writer for Symbolic Systems Inc. supporting the US Army's Knowledge Center. His music writing covers a vast range of topics, from the current cover band craze, highs and lows of the original scene, to the early days of the Jersey Shore rock scene in Asbury Park. He is also a musician, having written hundreds of songs as a singer/songwriter, and playing them out as a solo/acoustic artist. He has also played with cover bands, including It Doesn't Matter, and several original bands, including as the guitarist for the solo project of singer/songwriter Dave Eric. He continues to work on solo material and is presently the guitar player for Jersey Breeze.