“There was never a time when music wasn’t a part of my life,” said James Violet. He considered himself a shy kid but after graduating from Syracuse High School he had a decision to make. He could either put himself out there and perform and post videos online, or he needed to pick a different career. He moved to Los Angeles without having contacts or friends in the area and performed on the street almost every night. “The action of turning the street from silent to your voice and your guitar freaked me out a lot, but I had to get over it. That’s what I had to do to free myself of the social anxiety of performing in front of people. It’s still scary but I’m so much more comfortable than I was.” That comfort and ease was something the coaches on The Voice noticed when he performed for them during his blind audition that aired in September 2019.
The Voice has five different stages. It begins with the blind auditions where coaches listen to contestants perform with their backs to the performer. If coaches like what they’re hearing they turn their chair as a sign to the contestant they want that singer on their team. If more than one coach turns their chair, it is up to the contestant to choose who to go with. Three of the four coaches wanted James to join their team and James chose to go with Gwen Stefani since he knew he could grow a lot on her team.
Once the coaches fill their teams, they work with each artist and prepare them for the progressive rounds where artists perform with hopes they will avoid being eliminated. “I like The Voice because they have coaches instead of judges; they are there to help you get better,” said James. The show culminates with the artist pool shrinking after each episode; eventually, the performances are live and the audience votes for who they want to stay. In the end, there is only one artist standing.
James watched The Voice regularly and he thought it would be insane if he ever made it on. He used to think it was beyond what was possible for him. “I just decided to go for it and I traveled to Denver for the preliminary audition.” Eventually, he made it to the blind auditions.
The experience helped him realize you can make your dreams a reality, regardless of what your dreams might be. He has also learned that where you live doesn’t necessarily determine what you can and can’t do. “I was always trying to escape Utah and I had an epiphany while I was in LA. It wasn’t working financially and otherwise and I started wondering why I was focused on escaping instead of staying home and changing. There are other people exactly like me, whether they are in Utah or another state or country. They don’t feel like they fit the norm where they’re from, and I don’t want people to be afraid to express themselves and be who they are.” He moved back to Syracuse after his lease ended in California and continued to work on his music.
James has realized it is best when people are unapologetically themselves. He has seen that others respect it when people stay true to themselves and represent a certain amount of people who are not like everyone else. “I’m sure there are people that don’t like my style…but if you do your own thing and focus on yourself, even the people who aren’t drawn to your style will still respect it.”
He has put a lot of hard work and commitment into developing his talent. The school band at Syracuse Jr. High was his first introduction to music theory and he started off as an instrumentalist before becoming a vocalist. This was long before he adopted his stage name, James Violet, and was known as Jake Waller. Woodwind instruments, like the clarinet and the saxophone, were the first instruments he played, but eventually he progressed into playing string instruments like the piano, ukulele, and guitar. Singing followed shortly thereafter.
James writes his own music and you can listen to his album 404 Not Found, which can be found on YouTube, Amazon Music, Apple Music, and Spotify. When he writes a song, his creative process is different every time but “The good ones just flow out naturally. I try to rein in the natural flow.” A lot of the moments that led to that creative flow came from being on the street performing in the dead of night in California. Performing on stage on The Voice inspired him to take his music even further.
As he thought about the people who helped him along his path, he acknowledged that people he had never met really inspired him. He hopes he can pay forward the inspiration that he received from watching others create and unapologetically be themselves.
James made it through the battle round but his journey came to an end after the Knockout Rounds. We are all excited to see where he takes his music from this point on! Below are videos of each of the three rounds James was involved in starting with his most recent performance.