From the first moment I discovered James Abrahart’s demo of Wynter Gordon’s All My Life, I was hooked. I was lucky enough to discover him at a time when his career was just about to get serious – writing for Justin Bieber on his new album, Believe.
Having worked with the likes of David Guetta, Jason Derulo, Trey Songz, Flo-Rida, Jordin Sparks and Paul Oakenfold, to name but a few, James is truly a hidden gem in the music industry. In this exclusive interview, James talks Bieber, his favourite music, plans for the future and being shocked by Jessie J’s outlandish studio behaviour!
1. What was it like working with Wynter Gordon on All My Life?
It was a pleasure! I wrote “All My Life” by myself, with the exception of the bridge; Wynter did that. It was produced by my friends GProduction. She really did a great job making it her own. Unfortunately that was one of those ones where I couldn’t be there when the song was recorded… I think she was in NY and I was in LA. Sometimes it just happens that way, which can be a little worrisome because we songwriters want to make sure our songs sound the best they possibly can, but she did an extraordinary job with it.
2. Who would you absolutely love to work with?
Well, my answer to this would not necessarily be driven by current popularity but more the kind of things that inspire me. I’d love to work with Shania Twain, Celine Dion, Hunter Hayes, John Shanks, Mutt Lange, David Foster, Keith Urban, Micheal Buble, James Taylor, Robyn, P!NK, and Katy Perry. Honestly I don’t think it would even matter all that much to me if the record ever came out, if I could say I had the chance to work with Shania I could retire a happy man!
3. Your musical style is very eclectic. Which genres that you haven’t yet ventured into would you like to give a go?
Well I have yet to have a big hit on the country side, but I have been taking quite regular trips to Nashville few months for the past year to write over there and its been great. I always set out to be that guy who wasn’t pigeonholed as just a pop writer, but rather, the one who would would remain consistently working in multiple genres. Its important to me that at the end of the day I can look at what I contributed to the musical landscape and see something that reached different people.
4. Do you have any projects in the pipeline that you can spill the beans on?
Haha! Yes… there are some real exciting things going on, but I am always hesitant to talk about records before they are confirmed because I think sometimes we hinder our blessings by talking about them too prematurely. Not to mention the music industry is so fickle that I never get too excited about any possible release until I am seeing it out on iTunes or holding the actual CD in my hand! I can tell you I have a song on Trey Songz new record called “Never Again” that I wrote with my friend Teemu Brunila that comes out on August 21st.
5. Your debut feature on Paul Oakenfold’s track, Surrender, put you in the spotlight instead of being behind the scenes. Would you rather be the star yourself or work for the stars?
Hmm, thats a tough one because as creators we are ALL artists in our own right. I have an ongoing battle with this because I am terrified of the spotlight, and the idea of fame truly doesn’t appeal to me, but on the other hand I believe I was given a voice by God & I can’t help but think i’m meant to use it on some level. Also, when i’m not writing for other people, the type of things I end up writing about are very specific to me and the things that resonate with me. Thats the part that makes me consider doing a record at some point, we will have to see. I am very happy with where my career is going now as a writer, but I did love doing this with Paul.
6. Which song do you wish you had wrote?
Oooh, this one’s fun! If we are talking monetarily I’d say “Somebody I Used to Know” or “Call Me Maybe” haha, but just for pure fandom I love “If You Ever Come Back” by The Script, “Wanted” by Hunter Hayes, and “I Love It” by Swedish duo Icona Pop.
7. Is there anybody that you’ve worked with who shocked you?
Actually, Jessie J came in and wrote with me and Jason Derulo a while back and she was really quite hysterical. I was surprised at how outlandish she was in her approach to writing. Also, its good to get some good old fashioned London humor every once in a while, I do miss that from growing up there.
9. If you write a song and it doesn’t end up being used, do you feel it’s gone to waste?
In some ways yes, and in other ways no. I feel like every creation of art has its purpose, and sometimes as the painter of sorts we want to see our piece in a gallery, but it might just end up on the wall in someones bathroom, lol. Its best not to hold on to things like that mentally because I think just because it doesn’t reach the people you had hoped it would doesn’t mean it wont reach anyone at all, and it certainly doesn’t stop you from creating something else that will.
10. What would you say is the best song you’ve ever wrote?
I don’t know, my favorite songs are the ones that mean the most to me personally, so i’m sure my opinion is probably different than my managers, and my publishers. I love this song I wrote called “Chasing Cars” that I did with my friend and collaborator D’Mile. Its about going through life, not living in the moment and regretting it after the fact. Time is always a big theme for me, we don’t know how long we have on this earth and I find myself loving songs that really force me think about the things that we as human beings often times try to block out of our mind. The things that everyone has to ultimately accept.
11. You co-wrote ‘Take You’ for Justin Bieber’s new album, Believe. How did that come about?
“Take You” was a writing collaboration between me, Ross Golan, Alex Dezen & Ben Maddahi. We did the song during a writing camp specifically for Bieber. Its actually quite a cool story because we just sat down with a guitar in a room and wrote the song, which is quite rare in the pop music world that’s dominated by produced tracks that people will write lyrics over. It was created very organically, similar to how I would in Nashville, and I love that. After we finished the song we sent off the guitar and scratch vocal I laid down to these awesome french producers “soFLY and Nius” who did “Wild Ones” for Flo Rida to do the music. Bieber’s team heard the song and loved it, and that was it.
11. Your SoundCloud is home to some incredible demos – are there any plans to use any of them in the future?
12. Finally.. in five years time, where would you like to see yourself professionally?
Honestly, just in a stable place where I am respected by my peers and have the ability to continue reaching people. I don’t care if i’m not in the top financial bracket, so long as i’m fulfilled and still loving what i’m doing…. Although, a Grammy would be nice!