Aiden James: The Folk Musician Goes Pop

By Brett Edward Stout

Originally published on Advocate.com March 19 2012 10:13 AM ET

 Singer/songwriter Aiden James struck a chord with music listeners with his latest release. "Best Shot," the electro-infused first single off his third studio album Trouble With This recently climbed to number 28 on the iTune's top 100 chart. James took a moment from his tour schedule to speak with The Advocate about his music, family, ambition, and the pride he feels being an out musician.

The Advocate: How would you respond if I say, “folk rock has gone to the gays?”
Aiden James: I would say you’re absolutely right. [Laughs] I don’t know, I wouldn’t consider myself folk anymore. If you were to take one of my songs and depending on what production you put behind it, it could be anything. You know the electronic production I have on my record is pop. Like, David Grey came out with White Ladder, it’s that singer songwriter kind of pop so I think folk rock and me, I don’t listen to it and I certainly don’t consider myself folk rock. But yeah, it’s very gay, everyone’s doing that.

How did you react when “Best Shot” went to the top 30 on iTunes?
It’s very validating. You put a lot of work into a record and it’s some really bum nights and a year of my life. It’s like being on RuPaul’s Drag Race and winning the drag challenge. [Laughs] It’s very surreal to see your dreams materialize and come true and it shows the power of fans and how much power people have when they click “buy” and download it really has a powerful impact on an artist.

What compels you to go about doing all that work?
It’s something I love to do. You know, big shock, a musician who likes to make music. But also, as I’ve toured around the country I’ve realized it’s really important to be out and open about who you are and what you do. Being gay, [I've learned that] a lot of people can hate you for that very reason. And like you were saying early with my album, when it hit number 28 on iTunes I feel that I won that day. It kinda gave hate a really big slap in the face and I think we all won that day. Me being successful, it’s not only about me but there’s something else behind it now with everything that’s going on fighting for LGBT rights and equality.AIDEN JAMES 02 (RUSS HICKMAN) X390 | ADVOCATE.COMIs your family supportive of what you do?
It wasn’t until recently that my family even knew what I did. I don’t know, they just don’t care or it’s not on their radar; a lot of people have different family dynamics and my family was never super close and I always would try to get out of the house. When I was in high school and middle school my family had a lot of shit going on and I got out as much as I could to do things like take karate. But we couldn’t afford it so I walked in and said, “Hey, I don’t have any money, but I really, really want to train.” I just always wanted something more and bigger than my hometown had. So, he took a chance on me. A year later I was teaching classes, and eight years later I was assistant black belt instructor at the school. So, I always sort of made it happen for myself and got outside of what my card was dealt.

With your family not really a major part of your life, did you fill that gap with something else?
I have a severe personality disorder. [Laughs] No. I have an amazing group of friends that are here in Philly. On tour you meet a lot of really awesome people and that sorta filled a dynamic in my life that is super rewarding. Let’s face it a lot of times my record is my entire life. It’s very consuming. And I think that kinda helps fill the gap a little bit. But, you don’t miss what you’ve never had.

Now that this album is released, what’s next?
Touring. And I am working on a move out west. I’ve been rehearsing a lot with some new equipment, vocal processors, pedals to distort or enhance guitar sounds, so basically when I perform you’ll get an advanced Aiden 1.0. Instead of Aiden with an acoustic guitar which people love but as a musician you get bored so you want to pull in some extra stuff to keep it interesting for yourself.

Watch James perform "Best Shot" below.