When I was asked to write about a new artist, Canaan James, I thought I would just be writing a small blurb about his background, asking a few questions and sharing his answers. But, I can’t do that. Canaan James is different. And his story deserves to be told in a different format. I spent a good hour plus chatting with him the other night while listening to his self-penned music. And I was in awe. So bear with me as I tell you about Canaan James. This is a man with a soul. And a story.
Born in Syracuse, NY, and living in Angier, North Carolina. Canaan is a singer and songwriter. Country with alot of soul and an edge. Ballad-driven. He says that it is his will to succeed that fuels him. And when you read his story, you will see why. His raspy, gritty and passion filled voice can handle covers from artists ranging from Aaron Lewis to Disturbed. Canaan was nominated North Carolina’s Best Country Artist 2014 and Best Male Artist 2014.
Currently, Canaan is in talks with DJ Yankee from Medford, NY to create some remixes of the songs on the present album. They are discussing ideas from laying drum tracks to a possible full remix.
Canaan James just released his first album This Is Me. Acoustic, raw and uncut. 7 self penned tracks that reflect the substance and fire of the man who sings them. 7 songs that represent Canaan’s Gritty Alternative Country approach within the genre. Each song will resonate with you. Each song will echo some feeling or moment you have experienced. His current single “Out Past The County Lines” recently broke the The Iceman’s New Country Artist Top 40 Countdown or the Week of October 27, 2014.
GCO: I’m listening to On My Skin.
Canaan: That’s a very intimate song.
GCO: That’s what prompts me to ask you if you are married. I’d be curious, is there is a specific inspiration for some songs.
Canaan: Not married yet. But I wrote it for her (Heather). Just like “Over These Waters.”
Canaan shared some very intimate details about his life.
Canaan: After what I went through with my son’s mother and Zoe’s mom, I wanted nothing to do with females!
GCO: Zoe? And your son’s name is?
Canaan: Zoe, she’s my daughter. My son, Canaan James, passed in 2009. He was born with a congenital heart defect. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
GCO: I imagine your experiences have made some impact on your lyrics.
Canaan: I am pretty open about it. People can smell BS a mile away. My life has been an open book and I don’t know anyone in the industry who is willing to spill their guts. This is Me… this album is a representation of who I am as a man, and an artist.
GCO: The loss of a child is pretty heavy. Any songs that you wrote that were specific to that?
Canaan: I haven’t been able to put into words how I feel about him.
GCO: How old was he?
Canaan: 11 weeks 1 day. He was born in the hospital and he died in the hospital. December 25, 2008 to March 13, 2009. I spent the last 6 months of my marriage on the couch and being hated by my ex. She always blamed me for his problem. It was easier for her to run than to stick it out with me. The story of my life. Abandoned by my parents, abused by my step dad as a child.
GCO: So you were raised by whom?
Canaan: Pretty much on my own. My mom always worked so she wasn’t around to witness the abusing part.
GCO: How old were you when you started fending for yourself?
Canaan: Honestly, since I was 18. My dad left me at a homeless shelter.
GCO: And where was your mom at that point?
Canaan: Boston. I was in NY.
GCO: OMG. I am listening to Anymore. You are killing me here!! 🙂
Canaan: That’s about Zoe’s Mom.
GCO: How old is Zoe?
Canaan: 2 ½.
GCO: Cool. Must be hard with touring.
Canaan: We have it worked out to where I can go when I need to go. There’s a lot more to me than meets the eye, as you can see.
GCO: The intimacy and awareness of your music, I think each listener will be able to fit the songs to their individual situation.
Canaan: I agree.
GCO: And your voice, how would you describe it…raspy, edgy? Your voice makes the music emotionally deeper not sappy, so it won’t alienate men.
Canaan: (My voice) gritty and raw. Someone said, if Tyler Farr and Kip Moore had a love child, it would be me.
We discussed a bit about his musical background and more about the journey he has been traveling.
GCO: So, you write all your own music? What instruments do you play?
Canaan: No co writers. Acoustic, Electric, Bass, Drums, Mandolin, Ukulele and 12 string. I had the opportunity to buy my dream guitar, a Gibson sj200 and I took it back. I liked the Seagull Guitar better. And they are now the only guitars I will play.
GCO: Where and when did you first start playing? What made you pick up a guitar and start writing?
Canaan: Where? North Carolina When? When I was 17. I picked up a guitar because I’ve been singing ever since I could remember. I figured why not both? No lessons. We couldn’t even afford food growing up. Forget lessons, books, tuners. Even when I was younger I had a guitar. A girl gave it to me when we lived in the trailer park. It didn’t have any strings. The guitar was bigger than I was. In 7th grade, my mom’s ex husband, my stepdad made me leave it out in front of the house for the garbage man to pick up. He said I was never going to learn how to play or be in a band or be a rockstar. I wanted to be Bon Jovi from like 3 to 8 years of age. But, he crushed those dreams for a long time. I was overweight. The outsider. I hated the way I looked so much that I never dressed for P.E. (physical education class). I was so hurt from being made fun of. It was hot and sweaty. I wore a coat in the middle of July. It took a pretty huge toll on me. I was 475 at my heaviest. When I was staying at the homeless shelter, I passed out at work one day. I woke up 3 days later and came out of a diabetic coma. They were gonna give me 3 years to live if I didn’t change. I lost 160 pounds. Moved to Florida. To try to start over.
GCO: How old were you at this point?
Canaan: 19. I had an ID, a phone and some clothes,. Not much. But I still had a guitar and my voice. The one thing that no one could take from me. I shouldn’t be here. I tried to commit suicide in the streets. I have the scar on my wrist. I woke up in the hospital again, before I went in to the hospital the second time I heard a voice as clear as day say to me, ‘You leave this Earth when I take you out. You have a purpose. When you have finished, then I will take you out. But not until then.
GCO: Do you know what the purpose is yet?
Canaan: Exactly what I am doing for you. Sharing my personal Hell and how different my life is now.
GCO: What do you think or hope your music will do for others…like me?
Canaan: Believe. Keep moving forward. Never give up. When its seems like you can’t go any further, GOD is there when no one else is.
GCO: I wasn’t expecting to hear such personal stuff. I thought I was just gonna write a blurb and ask you some questions.
Canaan: It hasn’t happened until now (telling the whole story) because I wasn’t ready. I didn’t have it together. If you ever get to hear me perform, all of that pain and hurt and abuse and rage will come out. If you listen with your heart and not just your ears. I finally have a platform to stand on. I want people to hear life. It’s not all money and roses. It’s Hell. Especially when you feel like you are alone.
We talked about what Canaan wants his music to represent.
Canaan: When was the last time you went to a show and took something home with you to chew on in the car ride home? That’s what I want people to do, when they come to my show. I want people to see a side of an artist that most try to hide. If it’s personal, it’s relatable.
GCO: Your story touches on a lot of relatable things especially for this generation. Parents who are indifferent, absent in various ways, bullying, self esteem issues…. and all that translates to something for someone. Everyone will pull something off your songs that is specifically for them. That is super!
Canaan: I’m a very intimate, one on one, face to face kind of person. Honest and genuine. I don’t say that in an arrogant or egotistical way. There’s never been a me before and there won’t be one after me either. So, I have to make my time mean something. I want to leave footprints of honesty, passion and care in the hearts and minds of my fans and friends.
In telling you about Canaan and his story, I hope that you will see pieces of yourself and those around you. You will certainly hear this in his music. In addition to what you have read, Canaan’s sister passed away a year ago. He tells his Mom and Dad he loves them. And he says he really does love them, with all his heart….’because none of us is perfect. I had to forgive them. I’m supposed to honor my Mother and Father As much as it hurts. It’s the right thing to do.’ Canaan met Heather and together they are a family. Supportive. “And life is getting better every day. I play music full time. And it’s just beginning.”