James Warren: “Do what you love and the universe will make room for you”
Like chocolate, or coffee from freshly ground beans with just the right amount of cream. Or a voice. It’s not a bad nickname to earn.
“Is that James Warren singing?” Someone posts the question as Joe Shingara livestreams a video from an open mic he’s hosting at A.J. McMurphy’s.
“Yes it is. ‘Smooth’ is back,” is the response
“Love to hear him sing…smooth as butter.”
For Greenville native James Warren, he’s just enjoying doing what he loves and the rest is icing on the cake…or butter on homemade bread just out of the oven, as the case may be.
“I’ve heard the comments concerning the quality of my voice and it is flattering although at first I didn’t understand what was meant by ‘smooth,’” James Warren said.
Raised in eastern North Carolina, Warren started playing guitar in his early twenties, but didn’t really get interested in performing until later: “My buddy Earl gave me all his books that he had used to learn to play guitar. I’m basically a self-taught guitarist. I’ve always enjoyed learning new things, and music also gives me an opportunity for self-expression.”
Music in general, however, was something he enjoyed from an early age. “We sat around as a family and watched TV variety shows which always featured some musical performances. It didn’t really matter what type of music was on the show, we enjoyed it all,” he said.
The idea of performing emerged about 5 years ago. “It started with karaoke and expanded into acoustic shows and open mics,” he said. “I’ve always played at home to entertain myself or my family and playing in public never crossed my mind until I started going to karaoke. On Saturday nights I would go to Tiebreakers, a local bar, and perform karaoke to a number of my favorite songs. I enjoyed it so much I decided to go for it and try performing while accompanying myself on guitar. “
His first open mic performance was hosted by Brian Burke at what was then known as the Coffee Shack. He remembers being extremely nervous but it went well and he decided to continue to play and perform.
Remembering that first experience, Warren said, “People seem to enjoy hearing me sing and play, so I said, Why not? Life has taught me and still continues to teach me, to reach for the next challenge.”
What he most enjoys about open mics, he said, is that no two are ever the same: “You don’t who may show up and display their talent.”
He admits that performing is, at times, very challenging but said the experience of connecting with so many people on so many different levels is worth it.
“Music is a fantastic method for self expression, which is therapeutic for me,” Warren said. “Music also makes people happy and I enjoy being a part of that.”
Warren considers his favorite styles of music to perform as rock and r&b. That could include songs like Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry,” Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game,” or Stevie Wonder’s “All I Do.” But sometimes he pulls out a timeless classic like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
He also writes original music: “I love most when a song seems to write itself. That’s called the Muse, as a fellow musician friend would say. The first time I saw someone dancing to an original song of mine was awesome!”
Warren describes the local music scene as “very dynamic” with a lot of talented people in the area. He gives a special shout out to people he has met through performing and their encouragement. “There are some great people in the local live music community, including the restaurant and bar owners who provide the venues, to the bloggers and supporters who try to keep the live music community in the spotlight,” he said.
When he’s not playing music, Warren pursues other creative outlets, including painting and drawing.
“One of the most important things I’ve learned during all this,” Warren said, “is to be yourself and do what you love as best you can. The universe will make room for you.”
And that’s a pretty smooth way to put it.
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originally published in the July 3, 2021