It wouldn’t be out of line to lump in Jason James’ “I’ve Been Drinkin’ More” with such country drinking staples as Gary Stewart‘s “She’s Acting Single (I’m Drinking Doubles),” Johnny Paycheck’s “I Can’t Quit Drinking” and George Jones‘ “If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me (Her Memory Will).” And for good reason: The 30-year-old Texas singer-songwriter cites all three of those artists as key influences on his brand of heartbreaking barroom country.
“Growing up, that’s what I was surrounded by,” James tells Rolling Stone Country. “And my voice fits it. When it comes to country, you can’t fake it, even though a lot of them try. But with old-school country, you have to know what you’re talking about.”
The debut single from James self-titled debut album, due later this summer, “I’ve Been Drinkin’ More” isn’t a celebration of booze, however, but in the style of classic country, a sorrowful mid-tempo ballad about self-medicating. (Listen to the song below.)
“I wanted to write a song using drinking in the negative context, versus the party drinking songs that there are so much of. Usually, the old-school drinking songs had something to do with a negative aspect — you were drinking because of something,” James says. “I never get tired of hearing good drinking songs.”
Nor do the crowds who assemble throughout James’ native Texas to hear him perform. Currently booking shows in the Lone Star State with Cody Canada, Jason Eady and Adam Hood, the singer says he’s seen his fair share of whiskey-soaked madness.
“The type of places I play, alcohol is very prevalent. And you never run out of stories. I’ve seen things night after night that could go a thousand different ways once you add alcohol into the mix,” says James with a laugh. While a Texas mainstay, he looks to Sturgill Simpson as inspiration for bringing his music to the masses.
“I want to take it outside of the Texas dance halls. I’ve seen the success of Sturgill and it’s so cool seeing that happen,” he says. “My voice is more geared toward [classic country], so hopefully I can take it out of Texas and to wherever country music fans want to hear it.”
James’ debut album, produced by John Evans and Keith Gattis, and featuring the rockabilly-inflected “Hot Mouth Mama” and the Possum-like ballad “World of Make Believe,” will be released August 21st on New West Records.