Singletrack: Angela James

Angela James
"Wanna Be Lyin With You"

I wrote “Wanna Be Lyin With You” in 2012 with the help of Jordan Martins, my musical and domestic collaborator. We had been discussing how many great songs there are about loving/sleeping with someone even though you know you shouldn’t: “If Lovin You is Wrong (I Don’t Wanna Be Right),” “We’ll Sweep Out the Ashes” and “I May Hate Myself in the Morning (But I’m Gonna Love You Tonight).” I wanted to write a song about that subject. It’s such a relatable experience. You know you’re about to do something “bad," but desire is steering the ship towards the rocks.

One of the greatest things about country music (and soul music) is that part of the songwriting goal is to tell an emotionally relatable story about love or relationships. That’s one of the reasons I’m attracted to the genre as a singer and songwriter; I want to write about life in a direct and poetic way. Sometimes (well, most of the time) in contemporary country/pop music, that story comes off as cheesy or trite. I worked hard on the lyrics of this song so that they would tell a story that people could relate to that wasn’t too confessional or chock full of clichés. I’m really proud of some of the lines in this song (“And the mornin’ will show/what the night often knows/ that desire just doesn’t care”) and the hook of the song: “So sleep with me/I’m tired of lyin’/I wanna be lyin’ with you.” Jordan helped write the chord progression, and I wrote the melody and lyrics in tandem. The song didn’t “write itself.” It was work. I edited it several times until I had it just right, but the hard work paid off. I felt like I was really honing my craft as a songwriter with this tune.

Featured in this recording are Jordan Martins on console steel, Justin Brown on pedal steel (double steel guitars!!), Anthony Burton on double bass, Charles Rumback on drums, and myself on rhythm guitar and vocals. Dan Mohr also added some piano overdubs. The band was tracked live at Minbal by Benjamin Balcom, and I did the vocal overdubs with Erik Hall. Benjamin Balcom mixed the song at Minbal and Shelly Steffens mastered the record at Chicago Mastering Service.

The music of Angela James is clearly influenced by classic country of the '50s and '60s, and her voice brings to mind Patsy Cline as well as outlaw-affiliated singers like Sammi Smith and Emmylou Harris. Spacious and, at times, experimental arrangements give James’s songs a modern edge. Her strong voice soars over the twang of double steel guitars, droning synth and haunting vibraphone.

Born and raised on a farm in Eastern Tennessee, James first learned to sing country from the radio in the '80s "when country wasn't cool." After playing rock and folk music for years, she eventually discovered her passion for classic country during graduate school when she began playing music once a week with a group of septuagenarians just outside of Memphis. She then moved to Brazil for a few years and experimented with samba and tropicalia-influenced music. Upon moving to Chicago, she began writing and put together a band of musicians from Chicago's jazz, experimental, and country scenes.

Her debut EP, Down and Out, was released in November 2012.

On this track:
Jordan Martins, Console Steel
Justin Brown, Pedal Steel
Anthony Burton, Double Bass
Charles Rumback, Drums
Angela James, Rhythm Guitar & Vocals
Dan Mohr, Piano

The band was tracked live at Minbal by Benjamin Balcom, vocal overdubs by Angela James with Erik Hall. Benjamin Balcom mixed the song at Minbal and Shelly Steffens mastered the record at Chicago Mastering Service.

"Singletrack" is CAR's Artist Story for Chicago musicians in which songwriters and bands discuss a song and how it came to be alongside audio or video clips of the work. To submit your song for consideration, please email the music researcher.

Photos: 

Jordan Martins

Submitted by CAR_BILL on Fri, 07/12/2013 - 2:52pm