Half the music industry today is filled with musicians from Toronto, Canada and Ryland James is one you must listen to. James, at only 20, has a smash hit called “In My Head,” that already has millions of streams on Spotify. James has been touring with Alessia Cara this fall and is well on his way to becoming the next big heartthrob from Canada. ECHO had the chance to sit down with James at his LA show at The Novo.
How are you and how have you been enjoying tour?
It’s been crazy, being on the road in the US I think is a big thing, because it’s always kind of intimidating coming to this country, because it’s a big music country. It’s been so good and the crowds have been so receptive, at each city they’ve been learning more songs and the lyrics and even unreleased stuff, which is crazy. Alessia, she’s the best person I could ever ask for to tour with, we’re on the same wave length with everything and personality wise, so we match well.
How did you get connected with Alessia for this tour?
We actually have the same management team, so they asked her if Ryland could open for her and she said yes. I got a call earlier in LA this year when I was with my dad and we were driving on the highway and they told me that I was opening for Alessia and I was just blown. It’s been a dream of mine to open for her for a while. I remember back in 2016/17, I wanted to go see her at the MMVA’s in Downtown Toronto and I couldn’t see her because we got there late and my mom was with me and asked this guy if we could go up on his rooftop, and he said yes, so we paid him a little bit and we climbed up this latter, like four stories and we got up top and we got to see her accepting her award, and she thanked her management and it made me wonder how I could get there. It was a week later that I started working with them, and that’s how it happened.
What has been your favorite memory on tour?
The whole Halloween show in Rosemont was amazing. We all got to dress up, everybody was having a good time, they were dancing and singing. I dressed up as Elvis, Alessia was Mary Poppins, it was a fun time.
Is Elvis a big inspiration for you?
Actually yeah. I did a few covers of his song “Can’t Help Falling In Love” back in the day and I’ve been compared to him by some people, so he’s definitely a big inspiration.
If you weren’t doing music what would you be doing?
I’ve always loved music, I knew I wanted to do music at a young age, but I have a really big passion for science. I did chemistry and math in High School and those were my favorite subjects, so I wanted to go into something science or doctor, but now doing music I realized I wouldn’t be happy.
Talk about your song “In My Head” and the creative process behind it and your reaction to the fan reception of the song.
I wrote that song about a year and a half ago with these few other amazing writers and we sat down and we were working on this completely other different kind of song. We were trying to come up with ideas and it wasn’t going anywhere, so I suggested let’s try something different. I just started playing chords for “In My Head” and immediately I was drawn to it and we started coming up with ideas and concepts and melodies and I think one the first lines that came was “If we fall apart,” and we kept singing that and then eventually got to the line “then I still got you in my head” and that was kind of the catalyst for the rest of the song, we sort of build around that, that’s the creative process.
The fan reaction has been amazing. People are loving it and it’s been incredible to see people react to it in the audience at live shows, it’s been incredible. I’m seeing people make edits of it online with all the lyrics, so it’s really cool.
Being from Toronto, are there artists you want to collaborate with?
Definitely. There’s so many. Alessia, she’s one of the first I looked up to so much, so this has been a dream come true. Shawn Mendes is another one. There have been some other cool people too for me, like Jesse Reyez and Daniel Caesar and seeing how they have cool vibes for their music. The Canadian music industry is a very small circle and everyone kind of knows each other, so it’s nice to be able to have that.
You released your Christmas single “Please Come Home For Christmas,” what is your favorite thing about the holidays?
I feel like I didn’t appreciate it enough before but now that I’ve been on the road, it’s just being with your family and seeing everybody and going home, just having that time off and being in Canada with the snow and the winter, it really is my favorite holiday season. The lead up to Christmas us exciting too.
Not only this year, but this decade is almost over, what is one lesson you’ve learned this past decade?
I mean I went through all my teenage years this decade, so I feel like I learned so much this decade. The biggest thing I’ve learned is being more comfortable in my own skin, I’ve always been so insecure. I think just learning to be comfortable and to relax in situations and to let things happen the way they happen naturally, everything falls into place.
What’s one inspiring quote you’ve heard in life that you want to ECHO out to fans?
“If you’re feeling down, ask your self, what’s wrong with this moment? Chances are that you’re upset about something that happened in the past or you’re anticipating something that might happen in the future, but is there anything wrong with this exact moment?”