By Aaron Wagner
With one of the most polished and pure voices you’ll hear, James Dupre is exactly the type of artist that deserves to be a household name. And with his latest album Home and Away, there’s no doubt he’s on his way to being a mainstay in country music. He’s this week’s Artist You Need to Know.
The Louisiana native made his debut in 2018 on The Voice with one of the most memorable and quickest chair turns you’ll see in the show’s history:
That experience on The Voice has led to James performing on Randy Travis’ tour and making his own music as he looks to carve out a path, notably with his recent album Home and Away. But to learn about who James Dupre is as an artist, we have to go back to his childhood musical influences and an appearance on The Ellen Show.
Our chat with James:
Raised On It: Since we are Raised On It, we love to know…who are the artists that you were “raised on” that influenced who you are today?
James: Vince Gill and Randy Travis both have those voices you can’t stop listening to, and I grew up doing my best to sound like them. In high school, I remember borrowing my buddy’s Merle Haggard Greatest Hits album, and I was hooked. I loved his voice, but his lyrics really spoke to me. After that, add Hank Jr. and Waylon. Somewhere in my closet, I still have my zipper case full of mix CDs that I made from those days.
Raised On It: Did you always want to play music for your career and when did you realize that you could make this a legit career path?
James: I remember always thinking about it as a teenager, the possibility of being a country star. I figured it wasn’t a practical idea though, I mean I knew I could sing a song but it seemed far-fetched. I decided that being a meteorologist made more sense, I especially had a huge interest in hurricanes. I was in college and joined a band, rehearsing when I wasn’t studying the atmosphere, and I realized music was a lot more fun than thermodynamics. It wasn’t long until I quit school, got a “temporary” (six year) job as a paramedic and started learning how to write songs and getting better at guitar.
I had started posting cover videos of my favorite songs on YouTube, which eventually led to an invite to play on Ellen. Suddenly, being a country star didn’t seem too far-fetched. I moved to Nashville not too long afterward and never looked back. Those old videos are still on YouTube, by the way.
Raised On It: What did you learn from your time on The Voice?
James: I learned that there’s a whole world of things that go on behind the scenes of a show like that. The excitement of it all made it such a fun ride. One of the biggest takeaways for me was that I could push myself out of my comfort zone and still excel, which is really important for a performer who is constantly struggling with self-doubt. Even though it’s a competition show, all the contestants were rooting for each other, building each other up. We all were just having the times of our lives, and we didn’t want it to end.
Raised On It: You most recently released a new album Home and Away. What was your goal when you set out to make the project?
James: Last summer, I was at my manager’s house in Texas and we were talking about my next career steps. We had this pile of songs that we believed in, ones that didn’t fit on previous projects for one reason or another. And for the first time in my career, I had the opportunity to have creative control over what songs made it on the record. I felt like this was the time for these songs to shine. As it turned out, I put the songs in chronological order of when they were written, and it just worked out perfectly. I’m so thankful for this project and I’m really proud of how it turned out.
Raised On It: What went into the idea to name the project “Home and Away?”
James: I felt like it was appropriate since the title track was my next single, which was coming out during football season. Even when we weren’t sure if there was actually going to be a football season, we were all stuck at home, wishing we could be away. And a few of the songs were written with my real home in mind, Louisiana.
Raised On It: Is there a song or two on the project that is your favorite or is just a bit more special?
James: “I Pulled It Off.” That one is super special to me, I think because it was one of the first songs I’d written solo after moving to Nashville. It became my favorite original to sing at writer’s nights, and people loved to hear it live. I hated that it took so long to put on an album, but I wouldn’t change anything looking back. It is perfectly at home on Home and Away.
Raised On It: Which song of yours has been the biggest game-changer for you in your career so far?
James: I’d have to say “Stoned to Death.” It was my very first radio single coming off The Voice, and for an independent artist, did well on the charts and on streaming. It was a perfect follow up song for the new fans I gained from my time on the show.
Raised On It: What do you enjoy most about being an artist?
James: The fact that I can make a living doing what I love and contributing something that society craves, especially these days. The heart and soul and tears and time that you put into a project, and to see that it is appreciated as it spreads. It’s a profound thing.
FAST MONEY QUESTIONS:
Favorite album of all time: Against the Wind by Bob Seger
Dream collab: Kenny Chesney and John Mayer
Favorite venue to play in Nashville: Ryman Auditorium
First concert you remember: Tim McGraw, Sept. 2002, Start, Louisiana
Song you wish you wrote: “Springsteen” by Eric Church