When James Robert Webb was a child, he never imagined carving out a path for himself in the music industry. But with his debut album “Pictures” due out on March 15, this up and coming country music star is only beginning to walk such a path.
A native of the Tulsa, Oklahoma area, Webb grew up on a 10-acre farm raised by a father who was a construction worker and a schoolteacher mother. Though music has been a passion of his since childhood, Webb says he didn’t see it as a profession until about six years ago when he began to get into songwriting. “What is it about these songs that you hear that resonate with you,” said Webb, speaking to us at the 2016 Country Radio Seminar, about what draws him to songwriting.
And while citing artists like Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson and Ronnie Dunn as his influences, Webb listens to a variety of music, bonding to messages of positivity, family and real life, noting the influence of Glenn Frey and the Eagles. “You don’t know him, but it’s almost like he’s your brother or friend because you’re so familiar with his voice on the radio and his voice in the lyrics,” Webb said of Frey, who’s untimely passing in January shocked and saddened the music world. “They [the Eagles] were excellent at being plain spoken and just having the right words. They wrote all those songs that just kind of defined an era.”
It’s these types of songs that Webb hopes to create throughout his own career. Comparing writing a quality song to learning how to kick an impressive field goal (20,000 times he uses as a reference point), Webb has found himself writing not just in the country genre, but also pop, rock, blues and even film and TV. “If the idea resonates with me, I go ahead and write it,” he said.
With a writing talent that expands across an array of genres, Webb is drawn to songs that have no boundaries in terms of the types of people they reach. Surprisingly enough, the songwriters that the Tulsa native emulates range from Dunn and Brooks to early 20th century greats like Cole Porter and Irving Berlin. “Those guys used an economy of words and were very efficient at writing,” Webb said of the old-fashioned singers. Describing his songwriting style as one that is “universal,” he respects the songs that can be sung not only by both male and female, but also incorporate a human element. “That’s what I like about country music because so many of those songs are just songs about being human beings,” Webb said.
Fans may be surprised to hear the up and coming artist refer to himself as a “squeamish” singer who, at one time, didn’t like the sound of his own voice, but knew he had a strong ear for pitch. However, his love for music was always instilled within him, using it as a medium to express his thoughts and emotions. “Everybody has that special song they put on when they’re down that’s better than any anti-depressant,” he said of the power of healing through the art form. “Music for me has always been a way that I connect with my feelings and where I am in life.”
And his time in Nashville has only unlocked more talent for this rising star, who’s found a home as a songwriter for Banner Music and an artist under the wing of independent record label, Bison Creek Records. He’s currently working with vocal coach Renee Grant-Williams, who’s helped Webb’s singing talent develop. “For whatever reason, Renee and I just connected,” he said. “Renee is fantastic. What she says just makes complete sense to me.”
But the real turning point for Webb and his musical dreams came from a good friend and former bandleader for Razzy Bailey, who told the singer that he encountered many people who thought they were the next big star – but he had a good feeling about Webb. “He paid me probably the nicest compliment I’ve ever had because he said ‘I think you have something special and you should go follow that,’” Webb revealed. “That was a really wonderful word of encouragement.”
Fans can get a taste of Webb’s style on his full-length album “Pictures,” which comes out March 15 featuring 11 songs (four of them written by Webb). When describing the album, Webb makes it clear that its sound will encompass a variety styles, revealing that the songs range from ‘90s throwbacks to power ballads and western swing. “Each of these songs is like a little individual snapshot of different parts of my influence and style,” he explained. “I try to be true to country and yet take it in a new direction.”
With this new album comes big dreams, as Webb hopes to one day win a Grammy and Entertainer of the Year – and he’s willing to work hard to get them. “I have always been one that’s geared to achievement,” he states. “A lot of what we achieve depends on believing in ourselves. If my goal is to change people’s lives through the songs that I write or the songs that I sing, then why wouldn’t I want to do that to highest level.”
We have no doubt Webb will achieve his ambitious goals and we look forward to what’s in store for this up and coming star. For more information on Webb and his album, visit his official website, like him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.