Everyone's journey is different—in life and in the music business—still, in the music business, there are two
STONED TO DEATH
pretty typical paths that aspiring country artists follow. One involves moving to Nashville, working and grinding,
and in 10 years or so, finally catching a break. The other involves reality competition shows and proving
yourself after you've released an album.
Then there's the journey that Bayou Chicot, Louisiana native James Dupre' embarked on.
The one-time aspiring meteorologist-turned-paramedic-turned-singer/songwriter has to chuckle at the topsyturvy
nature in which his promising music career came to fruition, including the fact that in his youth, he was too
bashful to sing in front of people. "I was actually terrified of the idea of performing, I was super shy," James
says smiling. "Every time that I would sing, I was either alone in my room or with my parents in the car, but
other than that, nobody knew."
James may have been bashful, but he learned at an early age that what he possessed vocally was pretty special.
He recalls, "I started singing before I can remember, but I started paying attention to it when Vince Gill first
came out. That I Still Believe in You album, I just wore it out, studying everything he did with his voice, and I
recognized I could do a lot of what he did. I was eight or nine years old, so I could hit all the high notes with
At the urging of his parents, both medical professionals, James continued to sing, but then tragedy struck...sort
of. James smiles slyly, adding, "When I hit adolescence, my voice got deeper and I was disheartened for a little
while. Then I realized I could kind of do the Randy Travis thing. I still sing a lot of Vince Gill songs, just an
As much as he loved music, he didn't consider a career as a performer until he joined a band in college as the
back-up singer. Eventually, he worked up the nerve to step out of his comfort zone and into the spotlight of that
band. His confidence continued to be bolstered by the positive reaction he was getting and his own satisfaction
grew as new musical influences like James Taylor and Waylon Jennings inspired him to explore his potential as
Growing more self-assured as a lead singer, James found himself recording covers of his favorite country songs
and, eventually, sharing them on YouTube.
"It was an experiment," James explains. "For me, it was the best of both worlds because if I didn't like a certain
take, I could just redo it. It was different than going out in front of a bunch of people, although I'm not sure at the
time that I realized that was the reason. YouTube was just starting to become popular and not a lot of people
were doing music videos like that."
After watching Tim McGraw on the 2007 ACMs, James filmed his own version of "If You're Reading This" and
shared it, first to My Space and then to the video-driven social media page. "I was blown away by the feedback,"
he says shaking his head in disbelief. That video received nearly views and over 200 comments that consistently
used the word "amazing." James' fanbase and confidence continued to grow as he posted more videos and his
shows and audiences grew as he went from a local to a regional and then a national performer.
Included in the feedback was David Batten, who has since become his manager, and another even less believable
email. James smiles broadly and continues, "In the beginning of 2010, I got this message on YouTube from a
producer on the Ellen show. I called the number and they said, 'Can you come out next week? Ellen saw some of
your videos and would like for you to be on the show.' So, I was like, 'Yeah, I think I could take off of work.' We
scrambled to put the album out for sale and we sent her some copies. She was on the show holding up my CD
while I sang Matchbox 20's '3 A.M.' and just from that one appearance on Ellen, the album charted on
James now had another great leg in his musical journey and yet another to come. A trip to Nashville connected
him with Warner Bros exec, Cris Lacy, iconic musician Jerry Douglas and legendary producer Kyle Lehning, the
mastermind behind one of James musical heroes, Randy Travis, as well as George Jones, Neal McCoy, Dan
Seals and more. With Kyle behind the control board, songs and co-writes began pouring in for the unassuming,
modest and incredibly talented singer, but as is the nature of Music Row, the timing was off and James was
eventually released from his contract with the record label.
Once again an independent artist, James was considering his options when another random opportunity came
along. He continues, "After I left the label, I was making plans to launch the album and someone sent me an
email asking if I wanted an audition with The Voice and I was like, 'Yeah, why not?' So, I tried out and I'm glad I
All four chairs turned for James who performed the Hootie & the Blowfish classic "Let Her Cry," and he chose
Team Adam Levine. James' tenure on the highly competitive reality show continued through to the "Knockout
Round," where his journey brought him back to Nashville.
"Regret" doesn't seem to be part of either James' vocabulary or journey. Everything he has done, including
earning himself a new friend and mentor in Randy Travis, as well as an acting role as Randy's son in the movie
The Price, has brought him to this point and to his sophomore album, Stoned to Death, produced by Kyle's son,
The 10-track collection of music, seven songs co-written by James, is light-hearted and fun, steamy and sexy,
and dark and moody. Songs go from nostalgic and traditional like the album's opener, "Green Light," to fresh
and contemporary like the Travis Meadows, Jessi Alexander and Mike Mobley co-write "Hurt Good." Themes
are love, heartbreak and life. And the thread that connects them all are well-crafted lyrics, conscientious
production and mostly James' velvet and effortless voice, and none of it could have happened if it hadn't been for
the topsy-turvy, inside-out journey James embarked on as a bashful college kid. "We took our time and I felt like
I knew what I was doing and what I wanted to say," he says.
Knowing what he was doing is apparent on the title track, "Stoned to Death," a song he was drawn to for its
emotionally-charged theme and stirring arrangement. "It has a good range and it allowed me to show off a bit
more vocally. And the subject matter and writing was just amazing." James also credits Jordan's impeccable
production in choosing the song as the lead single.
What might cement James for everyone else is that his sound is decidedly more country than what has been
trending in the world of country music lately. The soft-spoken, yet energetic James is neither defending his
sound nor apologizing for it. It simply is what he does. "I just wanted to do the stuff that is me, that I grew up
listening to and loving. I realize that's a taste kind of thing, but I still feel like there are people that want to hear
the same kind of music I want to hear and I like to play." He pauses, then adds, "I'm not living under a rock, I
know what the environment is, but I believe if I continue doing what I do and believing in what I'm