1) When did you first move to Port Macquarie?
I moved to Port Macquarie with my mum, two brothers my sister in 2014. I think i was in year eight. I moved around a lot as a kid which is quite a long story ... but I spent most of my life in Port, which is where I’d call home more then any other place that I’ve lived.
2) When did you start playing and writing music?
I’ve been playing music for as long as I can remember. A lot of my childhood was spent on our isolated family property inland from Lismore.
I had plenty of time as a kid to be alone with the guitar and my thoughts, with not many distractions at all.
My mum showed me a few chords on my dads old twelve string guitar and that was the only “lesson” I ever had. Apart from that I’m self taught with every musical thing I do. I’ve also been writing songs as long as I can remember.
3) What were/are your inspirations?
I grew up listening to uninterrupted Bob Dylan which has a lot to do with my songwriting. I’m a big believer in lyrics being the most important part of a song and being able to tell a story or paint a picture with words. I think it’s sadly becoming a lost art.
Artists like Paul Kelly, Bob Dylan and John Butler have all had huge impacts on me lyrically and for guitar playing I can’t turn away from John Butler. It’s a blended force of those three songwriters that make up my style which I think I make my own.
Aside from music I have many other life inspirations. Mainly my mum and my siblings. We’ve all been on a pretty wild ride so I get a lot of drive, passion and determination for what I do by remembering where we’ve come from.
4) Do you aspire to return to Port Mac as much as you can to perform for your hometown?
Of course. I love playing in Port Macquarie as it’s my biggest audience and home crowd. I have to be careful not to over stay my welcome with anywhere I go including Port.
If you play somewhere too often then people think they can just go and see you play any day of the week and it spoils the occasion.
Over the last few years I’ve been expanding my playing field across the country to different audiences and new people.
It’s something that allows me to keep it new and exciting every time I return because by the time the circuit is complete I almost always have a few new songs and a fresh approach.
The excitement is given time to build back up and I don’t have to worry about if anyone will come to the gigs (as much).
5) What does the future hold for you?
I intend to keep writing and performing for as long as my lifestyle allows me to.
I have it pretty good at the moment I can record an album, tour the country on weekends and surf during the week. If that’s not the perfect lifestyle I don’t know what is. I know how lucky I am and I think to ask for anything more would be selfish.
In answer to the question though, I have plans to release my third album next year. I currently have a crowd funding campaign to help me cover the cost of the album as it’s going to be the biggest one I’ve done yet.
It is big in terms of focusing more carefully on the recording and production, having different musicians play on the album, promoting and releasing it in the best way (independently) possible, plus touring the country again.
I’m lucky enough to be recording my parts and the percussion in New Zealand with ex John Butler Trio drummer Michael Barker. When I return home I’ve had the beautiful Wendy Matthews offer to lend her voice to a few songs so I can’t wait for it to be complete and to be able to share it with everyone.
6) Are there any special memories from Port Mac that have influenced your career?
My most fond memories of playing in Port Macquarie were at the beginning of my career I first started playing some local open mic nights, which kind of got me into playing live.
I often think back to those nights and if it wasn’t for them I probably wouldn’t have the amazing career I have today.
I also have great memories of surfing with my mates around Port Macquarie and also doing the odd surf trip up or down the coast.
I owe a lot to Port Macquarie and I can’t wait to come back when my new album is released next year and do a launch show somewhere.
If anyone would like to add to James's crowd funding they can follow the link on the home page of his website: www.jamesbennettmusic.com