Photo: Will Fournier

Darryl James is no stranger to success in music. You may know him best from The Strumbellas, but he’s also co-written songs with some serious heavy hitters. His new solo project, Close Kicks, is all about the connection between artists writing together – he just dropped the first single “The House We Built”, so we caught up with Darryl to chat about that collaboration with Kevin Griffin, his deserted island albums, and what’s next for Close Kicks.

From The Strait: Tell us about the new single, “The House We Built”.

Darryl James: The song The House We Built is my first ever single released with Glassnote Records. I wrote the song with Kevin Griffin from Better Than Ezra, and I produced and performed the entire song in my home studio throughout the early stages of the 2020 pandemic. It’s a song about building something bigger than yourself.  It’s about being part of a team and creating something special. This is a concept that really ties in with what I’ve been able to build in The Strumbellas, and hope to build with Close Kicks.  And, I hope this universal message helps inspire others to reach their goals and achieve what they thought was the impossible!  

FTS: As you mentioned, the song was co-written with Kevin Griffin from Better than Ezra – how did that collaboration come to be?

Darryl James: Before the pandemic hit, I had multiple songwriting trips planned to LA, Nashville and throughout Canada. When everything got turned upside down, many of my scheduled sessions went from in-person to online sessions. Kevin and I already had a session set-up through my publisher, Kobalt Music, and so we connected online instead in what was my second online writing session ever.

To be honest, I was pretty nervous as I’ve been a fan of Kevin’s music for a long time!  Fortunately, right from the beginning we hit it off, and we were able to create The House We Built. After we wrote it, I couldn’t get the song out of my head, so I started to work on the performance and production for the track. After about 4 months of work on and off, I finally had something I wanted to have the world hear! 

FTS: How does Close Kicks differ from your work in The Strumbellas, as far as songwriting, recording, and creating music in general? Is it a whole different experience for you?

Darryl James: Having spent over 10 years writing and touring with The Strumbellas, I’ve gained so much perspective both musically and personally.  It’s through this experience that I started my own songwriting side project, Close Kicks, which is separate from The Strumbellas creatively and in many cases involves collaboration with other artists. However, I’ve without a doubt learned a lot about songwriting, recording and creating music from my experience in the Strumbellas and from my bandmates. Even though Close Kicks is my solo project, I know that my bandmates are supporting me along the way, and that’s a great feeling. 

The name “Close Kicks” represents that connection between two writers when they bring out the best in each other’s talents to create something extraordinary.  That’s how I’ve always felt after a writing session, and this is why I wanted to start showcasing the incredible songwriters I’ve written songs with. Each new song that I release will highlight each of these incredible writers, and will tell the story of the journeys we’ve both made to create the song.

FTS: If you were stranded on a deserted island with only 5 albums to listen to, what albums would you hope to have?

Darryl James: My five top albums on a deserted Island would be:

Everything Must Pass – George Harrison

Let It Bleed – The Rolling Stones

Evening Machines – Gregory Alan Isakov

Where Did Our Love Go – The Supremes

The Genius Of Ray Charles – Ray Charles

FTS: What’s next for Close Kicks?

Darryl James: My goal is to release a new song every 10-12 weeks, and to continue to bring awareness to the incredible songwriters that I’ve had the pleasure of writing music with.  I will also continue to write and produce as many songs I can. I have a catalogue of over 150 co-writes and I’m going to continue to push my limits creatively to get these out into the world!

Check out the new single from Close Kicks, “The House We Built”!


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