Early James makes special appearance in hometown

Published 3:44 pm Saturday, February 10, 2024

By Amy Fuller

Americana singer/songwriter Fredrick James Mullis, Jr., best known as Early James in the music industry, made a special appearance in his hometown of Troy Friday night at Fuse Coffee with fellow musician Adam Guthrie. Although James has been back to Troy to perform at Sips On The Square, this was his first time performing at Fuse.

James said it was nostalgic returning to play his hometown.

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“It is nice to play right next door to Momma Goldberg’s, because that was where I would play in high school,” he said. “I didn’t even realize it until I looked next door and saw someone coming out.”

James said he enjoys coming back to his hometown to perform and that it keeps him grounded.

“I think it’s important to see all my friends and family and remember where I came from,” he said. “It’s also a good excuse – an easy excuse – to come see my mom and dad.”

Jim Mullis says his son’s success came as a surprise but that he thinks it’s wonderful.

“I’m behind him one hundred and ten percent,” he said.

Jim said that James taught himself how to play guitar and told of a young James giving up guitar lessons.

“He was special because he taught himself how to play,” he said. “He was taking guitar lessons and I picked him up one day and he said ‘We’re throwing our money away’ because [his teacher] didn’t go fast enough for him.

James then told his father he wanted to go home and “get on the computer” and teach himself how to play. James began playing local gigs soon after and has been a great success since he was discovered by Dan Auerbach, guitarist of the Black Keys and founder of record label Easy Eye Sound.

He began writing and making music at the age of 15, when he received his first guitar. His big break came in 2019, in Birmingham, when roommate Ryan Sobb, also a musician, introduced his music to his manager Clay Bradley. Bradley is Vice President of Creative for BMI Nashville and grandson of legendary music producer Owen Bradley.

Bradley then introduced James’s music to Auerbach, who asked James if he could produce his first album. “Singing For My Supper,” was released in March of 2020, and featured songs “Blue Pill Blues,” “It Doesn’t Matter Now,” and “High Horse.”

In 2020, James planned to be on tour supporting artists Shovels and Rope, The Lone Bellow, The Marcus King Band, and The Black Keys, but the COVID pandemic interrupted those plans. James did, however, perform some virtual shows, including performances with The Marcus King Band.

James began his first headlining tour in Texas in late 2022, following the release of his second album “Strange Time To Be Alive.” That album features singles “Real Lowdown Lonesome,” with songstress Sierra Ferrell, “Racing To A Red Light,” and “Straightjacket For Two.”

Compared to Tom Waits by American Songwriter Magazine’s Hal Horowitz, Horowitz called James an “idiosyncratic Americana” artist. He writes about his disdain for such figures as Elon Musk and Joe Rogan, along with his issues with religion on “Strange Time To Be Alive.”

Local artist Adam Guthrie played alongside James, performing several original songs. He said he began performing professionally in 1991. He got his start when his parents bought him a guitar at the age of eight and he began writing songs soon after.

Guthrie said Friday night was his first time performing with James, even though they had “picked together a few times.” Guthrie is currently working on a new album with his pop punk band Salvo, formerly known as Pain. Pain was formed in 1994 by guitarist-songwriter Guthrie, lead singer Dan Lord, and bass guitarist Mark “Pose” Milewicz. After a hiatus from 2000 to 2019, Lord and Guthrie reunited to form the band Salvo, which is composed of 14 members.

Salvo released the album “Off The Charts” in 2019. It was recorded at Ol Elagante in Birmingham. Guthrie said Salvo’s next project is currently in the works.

“We have a new song that drops on Valentine’s Day,” he said,” It’s a brand new song, so look for it; called ‘Call My Friends.’ It’s a pop punk anthem. It’s so fun.”

Fire Mountain lead singer Perry Brown and Fuse Coffee owner Adam Vinson joined James on stage to close out the night, performing Fire Mountain’s song “Doing Fine.” Vinson said it was great to have James perform in his coffee shop. He said he has known James over 15 years, since he was a young man posting videos on YouTube.

“I saw a video of him playing guitar online and I saw that he was from Troy, and he was just a teenager,” said Vinson. “I remember being so impressed by him.

“Man, it’s awesome [to have him play in Troy]. This guy’s toured with The Black Keys; he’s been all over the world. When you have a Grammy Award winner producing your album, that’s a pretty big thing, and I’m glad to have him in Troy. I’m glad to have him from Troy.”

Vinson said he “loves” James’s unique sound.

“I love it because it’s different,” he said. “You’re not going to hear that on the radio.”

James said he draws from life experiences when writing music.

“Whatever happens to me, mostly, just life,” he said is his influence. “It’s just writing about what I know.”

Although James has performed in venues worldwide, he said there are a few places that are special to him.

“My favorite [venue] used to be Little Italy’s in Birmingham,” he said. “It was a local place. It was where I met a lot of musicians in Birmingham. It unfortunately closed during COVID, but I hope it’s going to reopen. But that was a place where, even if you weren’t booked to play there, you could jump up and play with whoever was playing.”

James also said he always enjoyed playing the Standard Deluxe in Waverley, Alabama, and Callahan’s in Mobile. He said there is a lot of memorabilia from the Standard Deluxe at Fuse Coffee, because his close friend Perry Brown’s band, Fire Mountain, played the venue several times.

James’s next project will be underway at the end of March, with Auerbach producing his third album.

“I’ll be recording my third record with Dan the end of next month,” he said, “so I’ve got a little over a month to figure out what’s going on.”

He is currently preparing to perform at Field Trip Fest in San Juan Capistrano, California, in late March, alongside such acts as Donavon Frankenreiter, Nikki Lane, and Robert Jon & The Wreck. He will then play Strand Theatre Corporation in Shreveport, Louisiana, April 25, and Oxford Performing Arts, Oxford, Alabama, April 28, before heading to Flensburg, Germany, in June.