Carmel Valley musician to perform for top producers at Sunset Sessions
By Megan McVay
Four years ago, Cathedral Catholic High School junior James Morris picked up a hand-me-down Yamaha guitar covered in band stickers and began experimenting with different riffs. Now, he looks forward to picking up his glossy Taylor guitar and sharing the stage with big-name artists, such as Jason Mraz, Jimmy Cliff and Everlast, at Sunset Sessions 2012 on Feb. 16.
Morris, a self-taught musician, began writing songs when he was 14 years old and landed his first performance at the San Diego Fair the summer of 2009. Only a few months later, the high school freshman was booked to play his second show at Soma San Diego. After a band cancelled at the last minute, he was asked to perform a 45-minute set comprised of 13 songs— an incident that allowed him to bypass a budding musician’s stage fright phase before it had even begun.
With such confidence, Morris was able to continue writing innovative songs and eventually create two albums called “Fall” and “Three Part Plan.” He is now in the process of releasing his third album, “Speed of Dark.”
“Sometimes writing a song comes easily and sometimes it involves a long revision process. I’ll grab my guitar and play the same riff over and over again until something comes to me. But I never force songs, I wait to let the world inspire me,” said Morris.
By 2010, Morris had already adopted the titles of singer, songwriter, pianist and guitarist, and soon decided that he wanted to add acting to his repertoire by collaborating with Sundawg Media Company to produce his first music video. Morris traveled to Phoenix and endured the 103-degree weather in order create the music video for “Find You,” a song produced by multi-platinum producer Gardner Cole.
Soon after, Morris wrote a science-fiction book called “Skybound,” which inspired his breakthrough song, “Speed of Dark.” Charles Unger, a filmmaker for the Warped Tour who had met Morris at Sunset Sessions, heard the song and compared it to Salvador Dali’s paintings in terms of expressiveness. Moved by the lyrics, Charles Unger and Paula Unger decided to produce Morris’s second music video at El Mirage Dry Lake in Barstow.
Morris’s music has played an instrumental role in the lives of others. Because one of his main goals is to give back through his music, Morris has become involved in many charities associated with child abduction and abuse prevention, such as the Gina Foundation for Missing Persons, HOC/Believe in Something and the Alicia Project. This year, Morris was named a delegate of the National Child Abuse Prevention Month and participated in the Gina Foundation Squeaky Wheel Tour. During the 12-day tour, Morris traveled with other musicians to play concerts in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Arizona and New York to raise awareness for the many children who go missing every year.
“I think that raising awareness for issues like child abduction and human trafficking by combining a heavy subject with hopeful music leaves a really big impact,” said Morris.
This year, Morris also hopes to leave a big impact on the various music producers, bands and record companies that will be attending Sunset Sessions. Although this year is the first year Morris will be playing on the main stage, it is by no means his first time attending the industry-only event at the Rancho Bernardo Inn. Three years ago, he gave his CD and business card to Michele Clark, the founder of the premier industry event who has fostered the radio airplay and success of artists, including Maroon 5, Jack Johnson, Jewel, Coldplay, Matchbox 20 and John Mayer. After listening to a couple of tracks, Clark honored Morris and his mother with guest passes for the entire three-day event.
Since then, Morris has been dedicated to the “Sunset Sessions family” and last year even wrote a single called “Radio Star,” which he performed at the KPRI 102.1 booth at Sunset Sessions. However, this year Morris will be doing more than exchanging business cards as plays a full 20-minute set in front various record label companies and multi-platinum producers.
With more than 100 songs to his name and performances at the House of Blues and SOMA in his history, Morris has embodied the spirit of a budding musician and the rhythm of success.
“My goal is to continue touring and writing songs and eventually make a living off of my passion. I want to use my music to make a difference in the world,” said Morris.
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