Singer/songwriter Sunshine James is just as comfortable entertaining people in small barrooms across the country to tearing the roof off honky tonks in Nashville, TN. As an Arizona native, he grew up in the outskirts of the city just East of Phoenix in the desert near the Superstition Mountains. Having been raised in a deeply musical family, at a young age learned to play guitar and started covering music sung by his hero’s. His foundation as a country artist is traditional at its core, yet he is not afraid to let his rock, southern rock, blues, bluegrass and folk influences shine through into his music. In his early adult life he toured across the western United States, helped physically build a recording studio, and even had a hand in starting a record label. Sunshine James has always done it his way and will continue to do so. After the decision was made to pursue his love of music, passion for songwriting, and build his career as an independent country artist he found himself on the road to Nashsville, TN. Sunshine James can be seen on stage at various honky tonks in and around music city, challenging himself at songwriter nights, and working with other artists to continue building his unique sound and style for many years to come.
Please share a story that includes a happy memory as an artist and has hugely impacted your artistry. The biggest impact on my artistry is my grandfather and my mother. I grew up watching them perform at the Honky Tonks and saloons in the east valley desert about ninety minutes east of Phoenix, Arizona. Most importantly, they played at all our family functions and that was thirty or forty of us all singing along to Johnny Cash and Earnest Tubb. It sounds kinda hippyish. But we replaced the pot, holding hands and patchouli oil with BBQ, whiskey and nascar haha. How do you choose to lead a Happy Healthy life as an artist? Christmas morning 2020 I made a decision to get sober and healthy. I gave up drugs, alcohol, processed sugar and processed food. I eat meat, fruit, vegetables and daily vitamins. I got back in the gym for the first time in ten years and it felt great. It’s not perfected yet and I fall off the wagon sometimes when I need emotional comfort food or I need to shut down my brain. But it’s rare and I instantly regret it and remember why I don’t drink or eat junk anymore. I’ve maintained pretty well and I don’t beat myself up when I fail for a day or two. I stay focused on the end goal. It’s a process and it’s a positive one. As far as my mental health goes, I write songs. That’s my therapy and working out my past. I don’t know if it’s scientific. But it works for me. Who did you learn from to instill those values? My mother and father. They raised us eating real food and not from a jar or box. On top of that they kept us staying physical all day every day. If we weren’t playing organized sports or out playing with friends, we were out somewhere exploring Arizona, Utah or New Mexico wildlife. We didn’t have computer games or gaming consoles until I was old enough to buy my own and at that point I wasn’t interested. I’ve always understood health and what it takes to be healthy because of them. My mother is in her 60’s and could pass for 38 because of her lifestyle she’s passed onto us. There was just a 10 year stretch I chose to be a drunk eating junk. Was it hard work to make sure that you focused on your well-being and not only your art? It absolutely was and is. For years I thought being a kid with a messed up past is gonna help write songs that mean something. Then the drinking and drugs got involved and that made sense for me as well because I could shut down, not hurt and also maintain the dark feelings I thought helped write songs that I loved. Since getting sober I realized staying focused on maintaining my well being goes hand in hand with focusing on my art. When I got sober I started feeling again and that makes for some powerful art. Physically I need to be an athlete to put on a show every night, stay healthy traveling across the country and keep my throat in top condition. I’m not at a level where I can hire drivers and roadies. I'm the one who drives 18 hours to Cheyenne and then sets up gear and lights with the band. You can’t keep up with drugs and booze. It eats you up and you’re dead at 45. Proper maintenance is good sleep, hydrating like hell, real food, vitamins and at least 60 minutes a day gettin your heart rate elevated. I don’t have to and don’t want to do it Waylon’s way anymore. Was there a turning point in how you decided to put yourself first? It was that Christmas morning 2020. I was 275 lbs, hungover, my throat was destroyed and I was disgusted by the guy in the mirror. I was in Nashville to pursue my dream and hang with the big dogs. Well, the big dogs don’t look and act like I was. It was time for a change and the fire was sparked. How do you like to promote a healthy lifestyle? Simply put? Do it. Don’t talk about doing it. Do it. Long answer? I met my now big brother Jake Gerard who’s a gym rat and 4 years sober. I had a lot of talks with him and we have a similar meat head mentality of just pick yourself up and do it. He really helped me sort out my lack of doing and “fears of injury” or “it’s too late” mentality. I know we live in an age where meatheads are a bad word. But the meat head, competitive and driven part of me had gone dormant and made me weak. Talking with him awakened the beast I guess. Once I had chosen to get healthy again the advice of my buddy Ryan Harris, who won a super with the Denver Broncos, was repeating in my head like a hook in a song. He told me that there’s days he goes for a run in his suit or jeans, because in the time it takes to put on shorts and sneakers he can talk himself out of working out. I related to that on every level. Now, I wanna clarify I’m not just name dropping. The reason I tell you who my buddy Ryan is and what he’s accomplished, is because I want the words of a champion to drive home with people the way it did for me. I’m lucky to have him as a friend and his message is incredible. He’s an author as well, so go pick up his books on Amazon if you want further detail on his insight. In what ways are you connecting with fans to check in on each other? Social media is how I interact with folks. I get messages all the time from people all over the country checking in with me and asking when I’m coming back, or when the new music is coming out. That means the world to me. As much as I get frustrated with social media, that is an aspect I’m appreciative of. Staying connected with good people and friends I’ve made is such a positive reinforcement for an independent artist fighting for the big stages. Who checks in on YOU when you need it most? My friends and family. I’m very lucky to be really close with my family and have friends who we call each other “Our Chosen Family.” There’s no feeding egos and there’s no liars. It’s all brutal honesty and jokes at my expense. We always joke that nobody can hurt us because we have all attacked each other's insecurities and shortcomings our whole lives haha. There’s nothing an outsider could say that my loved one hasn’t already beat the dead horse with. Unfortunately, I’m bad about reaching out because I didn’t have a phone until I was 18 and I still hate the damn thing. I’m a very in the moment person and give whatever’s in front of me all my attention. That being said, I’m very thankful my friends and family care enough to call and text me on a regular basis despite it not always being reciprocated. I’m sorry! I swear I’m trying to be better! Changing habits can be hard. Which was the habit that you had to change and how has it changed your life now? This is gonna sound like I’m painting myself a victim. But I take responsibility for allowing terrible people in my life and trying to save them. I don’t know if it was ego or I was an outcast as a kid so I felt empathy and I was always taught to see the good in people? But, I was called out by a close buddy of mine, Jesse, who said “You can’t keep putting your heart out there for people to destroy and take advantage of.” It was a few years before I understood what he was saying because I took it personally. I was a mister macho man who’s gonna save everyone. What happened, because I continued to blindly hand out my heart, was I became jaded, bitter, angry and always saying to myself “Why me? What am I doing to deserve this?” Then what Jesse said finally clicked and I went “Oh. I keep ignoring red flags and letting bad people into my life. Then they do exactly what they do and I act confused.” I learned you have to have self respect, self worth, self esteem and people have to earn being in your life. I know this sounds like basic cliches. But it’s simple and true. My friends and I weed out the assholes and we don’t hang with slouches anymore. We all came to Nashville to do big things and you don’t do big things with small minded people. Success comes from being genuine, hard working and good hearted people. Then you hire the lawyers to do the paperwork haha. Is there a song, book, movie, show, or anything that always gives you the motivation you need? The “Tennessee Whiskey” documentary. Like most people, I’m a huge Dean Dillon fan and I related to him on many levels. I’m not comparing myself to him by any means. But knowing he was a long haired kid who came from nothing, makes a (former) long haired kid who comes from nothing feel like he can do whatever he wants in this town. What is the mantra of 2022?! One song. That’s all it takes. Give all the inside scoop on your latest project! I’m working with producer Buddy Hyatt on three songs and we are currently in the mixing process. He has done an incredible job and made me comfortable in the process of making music where I’m not in control of everything and not playing as many instruments as possible for the first time ever. I’m hands off except writing, singing and bothering Buddy with my input haha. I’m really excited to put it out and share it with the world. The single will be my first ever co-write I put out called “Wild Wild West.” I wrote that with my buddy Bear Redell. I’m shooting a music video shortly and then the rest is up to the World Wide Web, radio and booking agents. We want to thank you for joining us here and are so excited about what we see from you next! Leave us with your socials!! Website: Sunshinejames.com Facebook: @SunshineJamesCo https://www.facebook.com/SunshineJamesCo/ Instagram: @sunshinejamesco https://www.instagram.com/p/CdeSrZQuDsR/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y= TikTok: @sunshinejamesco https://www.tiktok.com/t/ZTdvVMrq3/