Two years after his debut album, “Pictures,” James Robert Webb feels like it’s time to break through. He seems on the verge of that next-level career move with his new single, appropriately titled “Now We’re Gettin’ Somewhere,” currently in release.
“It’s doing really well,” says the Oklahoma-based singer-songwriter, during one of his frequent trips to Nashville. “There are several radio stations that are already on board. It’s getting a lot of traction early.”
The single showcases Webb’s traditional-sounding voice and organic sound, mindful of his influences like Waylon Jennings and Bob Wills. It’s a style he first formulated on previous singles “Makin’ Love Tonight” and “How That Feels,” and he’s worked to enrich and expand that as he gains more experience. “I think it comes down to the fact that I have developed more as an artist,” Webb muses. “Vocally, I am starting to get there. I’ve really only been singing for about five years. When I started, I think I was more of an impersonator, you might say. But my producers have helped me find my voice.”
One of those producers is the renowned Buddy Cannon, who helmed Webb’s current single. Cannon is best known for his records with Kenny Chesney and Willie Nelson, so to have him on the team is a dream-come-true moment for Webb. “You never think that you’ll get to work with somebody like Buddy,” Webb says. “You wonder how many steps it will take to get you to that point. I’m really fortunate to get the opportunity.”
Webb is somewhat of a modern anomaly in that he continues to live in Oklahoma, commuting back and forth to Nashville a couple weeks each month. He makes his home in Tulsa, close to his hometown of Kellyville, preferring to stay close to his roots as well as his other chosen profession: a practicing physician, specializing in bone health. The Tulsa area, he notes in his easygoing manner, has spawned its share of meaningful musical artists, so it’s not exactly an artistic wasteland.
“There are a lot of artists from this area,” Webb says. “Leon Russell grew up in Tulsa, and he helped form what they called the ‘Tulsa Sound.’ That’s what I grew up on. [Songwriter] J.J. Cale was part of that Tulsa group.” Another of Webb’s idols, the great Bob Wills, got his start in Tulsa, hosting his own radio show in the city for more than 20 years.
Webb’s Kellyville hometown recently honored its favorite son with a unique, and certainly clever, promotion centering around “Now We’re Gettin’ Somewhere.” The city changed its name to “Somewhere,” Oklahoma, for one day, October 12th, in support of Webb and his current single. On that day, Webb and the town mayor changed the name on the city sign. “I was kind of blown away by that promotion,” Webb says with a smile. “That was a huge honor for me and I thought it was a fun idea. Growing up in a small town like that, the people were always great. It’s a very working class area and I still have a lot of friends there. And it’s actually on Route 66, which is kind of cool.”
Webb still plays a good number of shows in Tulsa and surrounding cities. For the coming year, he aims to balance a more extensive tour schedule with time in the recording studio. “I hope to have a new album out early next year,” he says. “We have already tracked a couple of songs. There is one called ‘April May’ and another called ‘I Love You and Me,’ and both of those will be on the project.” Asked if “April May” served as a play on words, Webb grinned in agreement. “It’s about a bachelor who’s basically saying that no woman has ever made him stay, but ‘April may.’ That’s one of those ideas that got telegraphed to me through the universe,” Webb adds with a hearty laugh. “I think it just came to me one morning. That one was actually in the running for the single.”
Instead, “Now We’re Gettin’ Somewhere” won out, and it looks to be the proper choice, based on early reaction. He did not have a hand in writing it, but it definitely caught his ear. “The first time I heard that song,” Webb recalls, “it sounded special to me. I think it has a good mix of classic country and contemporary. And that’s my goal, to make new classic country.” With a broad and bold smile, he adds, “I want to make music that will stand the test of time.”