James Brant
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James Brant

Philadelphia, PA | Established. Jan 01, 2015 | SELF

Philadelphia, PA | SELF
Established on Jan, 2015
Solo Americana Acoustic




"James Brant – Strange By Design Review"

From the Philadelphia area comes the great song writing talents of James Brant on his newest album Strange By Design. Fitting well within the Death Cab For Cutie, Dashboard Confessional and other like minded alternative acts, James Brant brings an honesty and ability to his song writing that many people will enjoy.

The first true track on the album is titled Knew Myself, which is a track that immediately sets the serious pace of Strange By Design. Both the piano and the methodical drum beat work together to allow James to bear his soul on this track. Stripped down and beautiful, this was the best choice to open the album with, as it makes you want to hear more of what James Brant has to offer. Ocean is a more upbeat track that doesn’t take its time like Knew Myself. Instead it brings in some faster strumming that begs you to start stomping your feet to the beat. Not a long song by any means, but short and sweet is the best way to describe Ocean.

When artists lean mostly if not solely on the acoustic guitar they run the risk of having every song start to blend into another, fortunately for James Brant this isn’t the complete case. It would have been nice to have heard a bit more diversity in the song writing by choosing a few different styles of guitars to fill out some of the tracks, but in the desire for tonal consistency, I think James Brant made his choice consciously and not out of a lack of instruments at his disposal.

Know You is easily the single-worthy song of the album. It channels the currently popular alt-rock genre in all it’s The Postal Service glory. It is a beautiful calm track with some emotional lyrics that will get to the heart of a lot of listeners. Don’t Expect is one of my personal favorite songs on the album, it picks up the pace by adding some more layers to track, and because of this the song itself stands out among the rest of the tracks found on this beautifully made album.

Although Strange By Design can suffer at times by either songs that are too brief or that never quite lift off the ground, this is a great album and one worth your time and money. If you like even one song, then you will no doubt like the rest of the album much like I did.

7/10 - Soundscape Magazine - Ryan Donnelly

"James Brant – Strange By Design"

Philadelphian folk-rock singer-songwriter and musician James Brant has taken a winding journey to get to the point of releasing his solo album, Strange By Design, last year. Brant grew up in Western Pennsylvania and as a child of the 1980s, he saw many of the old steel mills shutting down in his town (Billy Joel addresses this industrial downturn on his song ‘Allentown’). During his adolescence, Brant played his father’s piano, took guitar lessons, and worked on his own specific guitar-playing style. He jammed with his musically like-minded friends in the classic rock mold.

Brant’s next step was to take Music Theory in college, but this changed to other, non-musical, majors while he figured out what he wanted to do as a musician. He also developed his skills in recording and sound technology, building up his home recording studio named Sweaty Dog Studios. During the late 1990s to the present, Brant plunged into the music scene, successively being a member of the bands Casual Freedom, Transient, and the still active Couple Days.

Brant had been wanting to create and release a solo album for over a decade and he has finally done so with Strange By Design, a 14-track record that reflects his life so far. The album is a labor of love for Brant and he played all the instruments and recorded and engineered Strange By Design in his home studio. Tom Volpicelli of The Mastering House mastered the album. Brant incorporates not only acoustic guitar, but also piano, bass, mandolin, banjo, and drums into his appealing, folk-rock sound. He also composed all the songs and lyrics and he reveals personal and universal musings and truths through his clear-eyed words and direct vocal delivery.

Strange By Design begins with the brief instrumental ‘A Tone, A Phrase’, which nonetheless sets the contemplative, but bittersweet to hopeful mood. This immediately slides into ‘Knew Myself’ which treads with a sedate pace. Brant sing-talks plainly, drawing out his words over the steady drum beat, occasional cymbal hits, and short piano refrains, stating “There was a time when I knew myself.”, but “It didn’t matter at all / I wasn’t in control.” Over the course of the song, Brant learns to let detrimental influences go and to find the inspiration to get motivated to really know himself. Delicate mandolin plucks make an appearance, along with dancing piano notes that signify this change for the better in Brant (and/or the protagonist of the narrative).

The heartfelt and insightful songs keep on coming, from the upbeat guitar strum of ‘Oceans’ (with Brant’s regretful lyrics “Spent all those nights thinking / and all I did was pass the time / No good has ever come / from idle minds.”) and ‘Stranger In My Skin’ to the banjo inflections of ‘Prima’, the Americana-influenced ‘Rain’, ‘Flood’ with Brant singing in a softer tone “If I could turn back the tide / but I can only go back in my mind.”, the mellifluous picked acoustic guitar, complete with fingers glancing off the strings, and subdued vocals of ‘Know You’, the more intense ‘Don’t Expect’ with its acoustic and electric guitars interplay, the mandolin-led ‘Unexpected Expectations’, and the piano and electric guitar-driven ‘Fell Into Your Past.’ where Brant questions “Will you ever change?” There’s no need for Brant to change anything on Strange By Design, although at 14 songs, it does run a bit long. His perceptive lyrics and pleasing song structures, however, will keep the listener tuned in for the duration.
https://www.facebook.com/jamesbrantmusic - Tasty Fanzine UK

"James Brant - Strange By Design"

James Brant is a singer/songwriter from Philadelphia, PA. A member of bands like Transient and the current Couple Days, Brant has recently struck out on his own and released his first album, Strange By Design. A properly solo effort, all of the instrumentation is recorded by Brant at his own home studio, and echoes of musicians like Ben Gibbard and Glen Phillips. Incidentally, there is a wonderful homespun feel to the record, and it plays like a private invitation to a day at his house listening to him sing his little hymns to you and you alone.

Like Paul McCartney’s early RAM album, Strange By Design seems like a music intended for an audience of no one except for himself. Songs like “Flood” and “Know You” are so quaintly intimate, it almost feels like you are intruding. Yet the songs for the most part don’t tread to far on roads dark and off the beaten track. Brant has a wonderfully sunny, if only a little melancholic, disposition, making for some of the most aesthetically pleasing folk music in a long time. Strange By Design is out now on Sweaty Dog Records. - The Big Takeover - Cody Conard

"James Brant – “Strange By Design”"

James Brant create emotive chamber pop on the meticulous “Strange By Design”. With attention to detail James Brant captures it all from the warm sound of the piano to the taut guitar work, he covers it all. Tying these elements together is is penchant for earnest vocals and articulate lyricism. Like small stories, these songs positively glow with life.

Listen to the full album here:

After the atmospheric opening interlude of “A Tone, A Phrase” things begin with the powerful “Knew Myself”. On “Knew Myself” James Brant takes on a tactile approach with every detail glistening from the delicate drumming to the affectionate sound of the piano. “Prima” moves things into a more country-tinged approach, right down to the banjo that helps to end the piece. Light and airy the careful work of “Rain” works wonders with James Brant’s impassioned vocal delivery. Hushed and stripped down “Know You” has a small intimate feeling to it. As the song slowly comes into bloom it is greater than the sum of its parts with the precise brush work a particularly nice touch. Languid in tempo “Time + Space” harks upon the unknown as the song delves into surreal imagery with the intermingling of piano and banjo. With a direct approach “Stranger In My Skin” opts for a crystal clear arrangement showcasing James Brant’s patient persistent guitar playing. Ending things on a grandiose note is the sprawling ambitious work of “Fell Into Your Past”.

Clever, concise and clear James Brant’s “Strange By Design” is a little treasure. - Skope Mag

"James Brant is a natural, soul inspiring, passionate artist who’s ability to take a person through a spiritual, healing journey through the vessel of music, is timeless."

James Brant is a natural, soul inspiring, passionate artist who’s ability to take a person through a spiritual, healing journey through the vessel of music, is timeless. Can we run on any more….absolutely. He’s genuine and his talents are distinctive and dynamic to his personality.

I really love track one and the opening vibrations of the piano and the melody is intoxicating. “ A Tone A Phrase”, is absolutely mesmerizing. The instrumentation is full, rich, and balanced.

I enjoyed the flow and the well-shaped resonance of each song. Each song is strong in it’s individual dynamic but each song flows well with the other melodies and brings the entire collection together with thought-provoking lyrics and timing.

“Knew Myself” is also a memorable original song. The instrumentation is solid and precise. Lyrics are balanced with a strong story to tell.

James Brant is definitely branding his own style and his own mark in the industry. Nothing elaborate to this, just pure expression. His presentation is not something that takes away from the texture of the music or the song. It’s genuine.
James Brant courtesy of Independent Music Promotions
James Brant courtesy of Independent Music Promotions

This warm and inviting collection was released in May of 2015. It was tracked and mixed by Brant himself at Brant’s own studio, the Sweaty Dog Studio in Chadds Ford, PA. and mastered by Tom Volpicelli in Pottstown, PA at The Mastering House.

Too many times we hear a lot of the synthetic mixing with too much of a computer generated format. Not with this album. It’s true to the artist with real, actual expression by Brant himself. Brant performs vocals, and plays guitar, mandolin, bass, banjo, drums and piano.

I especially enjoyed “Ocean”, it’s upbeat, clean, fresh, and I could actually close my eyes and feel the fresh spray of ocean waves against my face and sand between my toes.

With interests in music from a young age James has assuredly made a mark on the industry with his this collection of such accomplished and creative work. He studied music briefly at the University of New Hampshire, but being primarily self-taught, it is apparent that this young man is all natural.
James Brant courtesy of Independent Music Promotions
James Brant courtesy of Independent Music Promotions

“Prima” is warm and inviting with folk embers and exceptional acoustic accomplishments. Lyrics speak of life and fate and how we should express ourselves and let it out who we really are. We should never let time pass us by without telling how we feel and what life means to us. Beautiful song.

Brant has always enjoyed the collective fascination of being part of a team, a band, and he has had the pleasure of doing so since 1999 when he joined a group called Casual Freedom. He performed with them until 2001. Then in 2003 he became part of a group called Transient who was one of the best known groups in the Philadelphia area and performed on the main stage at Musikfest in 2005. While begin part of Transient he also has been a member of the group Couple Days from 2011 to present day.

He writes, records and arranges most all of his music in short intermissions during the day while assisting in the love and care of his two sons, James and Ethan. Firmly rooted in family, James Brant expresses that in his music for all the enjoy.

This solo album has been a long time in coming, taking almost 10 years to bring it to fruition. Life kept changing the path pushing his music to the side but he kept moving forward with vigilance. This time when the idea to put the album together popped in to his head, he knew it was right.

“Strange By Design” is authentic, creative, inspiring and over all a joyful collection that listeners are sure to include in a personal music collection.

For more information on James Brant, his public appearances, music and more please stop by the following sites and enjoy. - Nashville Music Guide


Solo Release:

2015 - Strange By Design

with Couple Days:

2011 - Pretty Good, the E.P.

2014 - Pretty Good

with Transient:

2004 - The Meaning of One



Folk/Rock singer/songwriter and recording artist James Brant creates insightful compositions that become windows into the deeper emotional experiences of our lives. While striving to authentically capture the complexity of our journey, James offers solace to listeners with his unassuming yet relevant style.

James grew up in Johnstown, an old steel town nestled in the foggy mountains of Western Pennsylvania. Once bustling with culture and industry, Johnstown experienced a decline as the steel mills began closing down in the early 1980s. As a child, James was inherently aware of this evolution – and the challenge it presented to the character and spirit of his hometown.

Through this, the Brant family remained passionate creators and supporters of local arts and music. James grew up playing his father’s rustic piano – his gateway into the musical world. With the piano as his foundation, James began guitar lessons downtown with Bob Bretz. He took lessons for about a year allowing him enough time to learn the basics. He quickly absorbed the basics and formulated his own signature style without much further outside influence.

As a teenager, James would walk to his neighbor’s house to play music with friends who shared similar interests in music which included mostly classic rock, specifically Bob Dylan and the Beatles. They recorded mini “jam” sessions with voice, guitar, bass, and drums. These early musical collaborations developed James’ approach to music – casual yet authentic, laid back yet passionate. Music became the path for this introverted teenager to build lifelong friendships.

In 1991, when the Brant family moved east to Chester County Pennsylvania, music was James’ key to feeling at home and building new friendships.

After high school, James briefly studied Music at the University of New Hampshire. Being mostly self-taught, this experience was too structured and without room for creativity. He dropped this major after only a few weeks and started out again, on his own path, moving back to Chester County as soon as the first semester was over. He studied Computer Science and Psychology at West Chester University.

“I remember sitting in my first music theory class and wondering – ‘what did I get myself into?’.  My understanding of music theory was, and still is, very limited.  At the college level I was expected to already have this foundation which I didn’t.  I dropped that major within the first few weeks and started to try and figure out what to do with myself.”

With the formal training in computer software as a foundation, James continued to develop his interest and skills in digital media and recording. In recent years, James’ interest in sound technology has grown. He experiments and hones his skills in his home recording studio, ‘Sweaty Dog Studios’.

The comradery of being part of a band and performing locally always appealed to James. He has been an active member of three established Philadelphia area bands: Casual Freedom (1999-2001), Transient(2003-2006), and Couple Days (2011 – present).

Transient was the best known of these bands; they played on some of the larger stages in the Philadelphia area including the TLA, and a main stage at Musikfest in 2005.

Currently, James writes, arranges, and records his music in short spurts throughout the day as he helps to care for his family – two little boys – James and Ethan.

Although guitar is his primary instrument, James plays many others including the piano, bass, mandolin, and drums.

His debut solo album, ‘Strange by Design’, will be available on June 02, 2015. He sings and plays all instruments on the album which he recorded and engineered himself at ‘Sweaty Dog Studios’. With this release he hopes to extend his musical reach and expose a new audience to his music and journey in life so far.

“A solo album is something that I have wanted to do for literally over 10 years.  All of the pieces never seemed to fit together at the right time so the project was always pushed aside.  Throughout the years I kept my creative side satisfied by being involved in other music related projects.  The most recent time the idea popped back into my head it felt like the right time.”

Band Members