September 2015

A Musical Addict seeking closure through honesty
on an ever-changing stage

By Rianon Stormer

There’s seems to be something missing in today’s pop music culture. Lyrics are made up of a few, thoughtless one liners. The chorus, meanwhile, is on a three word repeat. Radio stations have been pumping out the industry’s standard hits that are completely void of any poetic form. That is until now.

Garrett James Cadwallader grew up in the small town of East Marion on Long Island but these days he’s currently living in Brooklyn, NY. A soulful singer, songwriter, guitarist and music producer, James talks about the musical influences of Sesame Street to Wu-Tang, The Doors and Enya. He isn’t shy about speaking his mind and using music to inspire change in the world. He is a man who wears many hats, that includes starting a beverage stand in Brooklyn serving fresh squeezed lemonade while recording his first solo EP entitled Love/Sick.

DMV: Tell us a little bit about yourself: How old are you and at what age did you realize you had musical talent? What was your 1st instrument and how many do you play?

GJ: First of all, thanks so much for thinking of me for this edition of Dressed MV! I am 28 years young and have been playing/writing/entertaining since I was 4. My dad is a musician, and growing up I always had access to his instruments. There was this little guitar I started fooling around with before kindergarten, but I had begun singing even before that.

GJ_first band_Oysterponds Elementary School

Garrett leading his first band in Kindergarten at Oysterponds Elementary School

The music of Sesame Street was a major influence on me as a wee one, and something about that little guitar just made we want to always have my hands on it and create sounds on my own. In addition to guitar, I play the drums, bass, piano and flute. With the exception of the flute, I’ve never had any formal training with music. I prefer to learn on my own and find my own style and voice. I played for years before knowing what a chord was, even though I had been playing them from the beginning.

At night, I used to sit up and figure out cool new tricks on the guitar. Most of the stuff I learned was pretty basic, but it was extremely rewarding doing it on my own, especially without the help of books or tutorials. Everything I taught myself was by ear. If I wanted to cover a tune, I’d sit down with a cassette and rewind those parts over and over again until I had figured out the right notes. I still learn songs this way, just without tapes and much faster.

DMV: What draws you to the island? Knowing that you were not born here, can you tell us your island story because everyone has one that is always unique and inspiring….

GJ: Like most wash-a-shores who end up on the island, I relocated because I had friends who had been there for a few years. They encouraged me to come check it out. So, I decided to spend 6 months on the island. I grew up in a very similar setting on the eastern end of Long Island, a tiny little no stop town called East Marion with a year round population of 800 in one of the most isolated areas of NY.
My house growing up was nestled between a small corn farm, 20 acres of dried grass meadow with a path to Gardiner’s Bay and a couple lots of old forest growth. The Vineyard reminded me a lot of my childhood home, but with a busier summer and full of new people I had yet to meet.

DMV: About your music- How would you describe your sound? Who did you grow up listening to and did it influence the way you sound/play/record music today?

GJ: I write all sorts of different music ranging from Country to Progressive Rock. But the music I write for myself tends to fall into more of a Pop/R&B/Soul genre. Currently I’m performing mostly solo, but have plans to put together a group this winter/spring.

Growing up, I listened to whatever came my way. My two favorite groups were Pink Floyd and The Beatles, but I was heavily influenced by artists like Wu-Tang, Primus, Jethro Tull, Black Sabbath, Type-O-Negative, The Doors and even Enya. I really enjoy all music!
Currently, I’m listening to Wynton Marsalis and The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Andy Shauf and anything that makes its way on top of the Billboard charts. What I listen to definitely has an influence on my music. But not in the most obvious of ways. When I listen to Pop Radio, my goal is to stay current with production techniques and trends, as well as observing melody and lyrical content.

Pop Radio is what I use as the building blocks for my music, because that’s the market I’m seeking to gain placement in. The other music I listen to is more about the feel and vibe. I draw inspiration from the soul that music has, and try and project that kind of honesty into my pop writing.

GJDMV: Fairly recently, you posted a beautiful, truthful and brutally honest confession post on FB about yourself- Are you always this honest with your friends, family as with your music? Do you expect the same honesty back? Or do you have a deeper understanding [of people], knowing that most can’t be that brutally honest?

GJ: I’ve always been very open and honest with my family and friends. I never really hold back and will always speak my mind. I surround myself with people who respect and engage me in a very open and positive way, and that, in return, fuels my music.

In regards to the FB post, I had no expectations for how people were going to respond, although it was really inspiring to see people return that honesty. It wasn’t about ego or anything in particular. I was feeling so disgusted with how we use social media to sugar coat our lives and wanted to shake things up a little bit. It was definitely a turn off for a lot of people, but I feel fortunate now to know who really cares, and who only wants the play pretend

DMV: You also said, “I dream about uniting the people of this planet, and I believe that I was put on this earth to inspire change and bring peace to the world.” – What change are you referring to and how would you go about uniting the people? Through music? Starting a Non-profit?

Garrett in NY

Photo Credit: Javan Ng

GJ: Music is one of the most powerful tools we have and I can’t think of anything else in the world that could have had a meaningful impact on such a large body of people. I look at artists such as The Beatles, Bob Marley and Michael Jackson- the influence they had on the world not just as musicians, but real people who believed in something. My goal is to use my music as a platform for change, whether it’s through song writing to promote a positive message, or using royalties to fund non-profit organizations.

My biggest concerns today is the current state of our global environment, sustainable food and water supplies for an already over-crowded planet and social equality.

DMV: It’s quite visible how much you’ve grown since your days of young; from a fresh, baby faced boy to becoming a refined, stylish, confident man with a solid sound and voice. Do you find that you are more comfortable with yourself, your image and sound? Or are you a sort of chameleon who is and will be ever-changing?

GJ: Definitely a chameleon. I grew up doing theatre my whole life and costumes play a huge part in my own life’s stage. It’s all the real me, just different hats.

DMV: On your website, your bio reads: singer-songwriter, guitarist and music producer. He is best known for his viral promotional campaign, “Who is Garrett James?” and as the lead singer and guitarist for Lets Tokyo.  Do you currently perform with Lets Tokyo? What about Jimkata? Give us a little history about these two?

Also, how did it come about that you were recently asked to perform John Legend’s ‘All of Me’ featuring Chris Cicoria at the 2015 Winter Youth Assembly at the United Nations Headquarters- what a Great honor it must have been!

GJ: Jimkata was a group I started back in high school with three friends. They still tour regularly and have made amazing progress in the last decade. I cannot take any credit for their recent success, but I did come up with the name 😉 Re: Gymkata – an 80’s cult classic American Kung-Fu film starting US Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Thomas. It was a favorite growing up.

Lets Tokyo is currently on pause, but I hope to reunite the crew at some point in the future. We had made some regional success and I played my biggest concert ever with them as the opener for Lupe Fiasco in 2010. We performed in front of 2500 students at SUNY Oneonta and proved to be one of the most satisfying experiences of my life. Next time it’ll be 5000 and I hope to be headlining!

I got the UN gig through my friend Chris Cicoria. He’s a phenomenal guitarist and writer and originally asked an opera singer to perform with him. She declined after realizing they wanted her to sing John Legend on the grounds that “she doesn’t sing pop.” I was 2nd on the list that Chris had in mind for the gig and happened to be available. The experience was unbelievable.

It was such a humbling experience, being there and performing in front of such a diverse group of people. Most of them barely spoke English, but everyone knew the words to
the chorus. I literally started laughing during the performance because I was so overwhelmed with joy. I’ll never forget the smiles on their faces and can’t thank Chris enough for thinking of me.

DMV: What are you currently working? Future projects? Tours?

GJ: Currently I’m recording my first solo EP entitled Love/Sick. It’s a concept album I wrote in tribute to a very promiscuous time in my life. I was having lots of fun, but hurt many people along the way. Part of my whole honestly bit. That was years ago, but I feel that this record will be closure to a time in my life where companionship was only for a night, and love was just a four letter word used in old black and white movies.

GJ MicI’m also in talks with a Grammy award winning producer in LA who’s interested in picking up the project and finishing it out there. I can’t mention his name now, but you’ve definitely heard songs he worked on. I also have a Grammy Award winning mix engineer who’s offered to mix the album. This record means setting the bar way higher than I’ve ever reached before. No matter what happens next, it’s great knowing that I’m on the right path with my writing. People are starting to take notice as to what I’m doing. It’s rewarding
to get positive feedback from people I respect so much.

I’m not with a label, so there’s no real deadline for the record, but I’m trying to strike the hammer while the iron is hot. I hope to have it finished by the Fall. Then, I’ll begin shopping around for publisher deals and hopefully link up with a team that wants to help me take the next step. Tour next Spring/ Summer is on my to-do list, a solid music video to go with one of the singles, and maybe I’ll even record another album before then.

DMV: Speaking of current, tell us about the launch of Shipyard Lane. I’m super intrigued about this, as well as anyone who follows you via social media- you’re quite the foodie: organic, wholesome goodness….

GJ: NYC is EXPENSIVE! I figured as long as I’m still trying to push my music along, I might as well hold on to my day job. But I’d rather a day job where I’m the boss.

Shipyard Lane is a beverage stand serving fresh squeezed lemonade at markets here in Brooklyn. All of our beverages are made on location, and I use local raw honey to sweeten, as well as a pinch of Sea Salt from Long Island for a little extra something. I also have started brewing locally sourced herbal iced teas and am considering including a new line
of all local provisions like whipped honey, pickled veggies, hand-poured beeswax candles, granola bars and herbal salt baths. The only thing that’s not from NY are the lemons,
but one day in the future, I’ll be growing my own in greenhouses on my family’s farm in Otsego County.

DMV: When can we expect to see you back on MV?
GJ: Summer 2016!!!

DMV: If you could have a sit down/jam session/make some fresh lemonade
for one person, who would it be and why?
GJ: The Dalai Lama. I don’t think I need an explanation for that one.

DMV: Tell us, who is Garrett James in 7 words or less?
GJ: Home Born Boy with a Musical Addiction

Music: Listen Here