March 3rd, 2020 10pm Stage 3
James Henry Jr. is the solo venture of singer-songwriter Pete Harper, a Chicago native, who is also one-half of the duo Motor Sales. Harper has a long resumé as a songwriter/collaborator with the likes of Madison Cunningham, Elliphant, Sammy Brue, Courtney Marie Andrews and Sara Bareilles, but his new project draws on the deep well of life experiences. His new alter ego, in fact, is the name of his grandfather. “He was a truck driver and a searcher,” Harper says.
The first single, “Take Me Down Easy,” can be read as an entreaty to a lover or a plea to the Fates to go easy on him. Considering what precipitated this bout of creative energy, it’s probably the latter. Harper started the album after the breakup of his former band and the news that his father had fallen ill.
“I felt like my identity had disintegrated overnight,” he says. “My whole life I was a road dog, a brother to my bandmates, a son. And suddenly I was just in my backyard, smoking cigarettes and staring into the trees. I wasn’t even a smoker.”
So J.H.J. was born.
“I was back in Chicago visiting my Dad and I heard an Elvis song on the radio. He loves Roy Orbison, Elvis, all those guys,” the songwriter recalls. “I wrote this song, never intending for anyone to hear it. I came back to L.A., and a few great friends, Sean Watkins and Tyler Chester, told me I had to record it and that they would help.”