James Ivy, 21-year-old Korean-American singer/songwriter/producer from New Jersey, began his project a little over 6 years ago in high school. Inspired by the rise of PC Music as a collective, and the innovation brought on by SOPHIE and A. G. Cook, James spent his free time teaching himself the ins and outs of home production. From there, he found an online global community of like-minded fans and producers. “We had this little scene headed by Simon Whybray, who had a radio show called JACK Dansu.” By 15, he had played his first show at the infamous Manhattan venue China Chalet, followed by gigs in Los Angeles and at South by Southwest.
Upon moving to New York to study music, James had already amassed enough technical skill to build a solid tune. Still, he faced a major challenge in securing an artistic identity that felt authentic to who he was. “I was comfortable producing, but I wasn’t fulfilled,” he says. “Doing electronic music was confining me from what I could do with songwriting. I still needed to find my voice.” Utilizing the pop-punk voice he jokes that he was “cursed” with (and that landed him a spot opening for Anamanaguchi in fall 2019) James detached from the computer and began writing his songs with guitar in hand.
It was this approach that spawned “Staring Contest,” his formal debut single and the first glimpse of what he has in store for this year. Written this past January, the song developed unexpected layers of profundity as James continued to work on it throughout quarantine. “It started out as a song about a relationship and turned into a reflection of being distanced,” he explains. “It’s about coping with these weird situations that we’re placed in.” The result is something that’s simultaneously grungy and sophisticated, a dreamy confluence that remains honest to where he’s been and where he wants to go. “There isn’t much Asian-American representation in rock music, and I don’t want to be boxed in to any of those expectations,” he says. “I want somebody to see this and think, ‘I can do that too.’” Stay tuned for more from James Ivy later this year.