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Born in Nelson (New Zealand) Graeme James started out playing violin in the Netherlands as a seven year old with the desire to become a classical concert violinist. After his family moved back to New Zealand he pursued this goal throughout high school as well as branching out into folk and celtic music, playing fiddle and singing in his family’s folk band playing local festivals and events. After years of playing in local and national youth orchestras Graeme left secondary school to study to be a Primary School Teacher. It was while he was at university in Palmerston North that he put down the violin and started learning other instruments, the most significant of which being the acoustic guitar which enabled him to start writing and playing his own songs.
In 2010, in a moment of fortuitous impulse buying, he bought a loop pedal which would finally allow him to combine and layer the various instruments he had picked up along the way.
In desperate need of some cash to repair his car while on a New Year holiday in 2012, Graeme hit the streets of Gisborne for his first ever loop pedal busking session and the response from the public was so generous he was back on the road in two days. An idea was born... For the next few months he travelled to New Zealand's capital city Wellington to play music. Sleeping in his car while honing his performance skills on the streets, he realized that his future lay in music, and dropped out of an electrical engineering course to become a full time street performer.
A major breakthrough came later that summer in the NZ tourist mecca Queenstown, where he would play nightly, busking concerts to crowds of 200-300 people by the lakefront. This started to gather what would become a large, loyal and global fan base. On the recommendation of a fellow street performer Graeme decided to record an album of these quirky covers.
The self-released album Play one we all know was released in 2013 followed by Play one we all know Vol. II in late 2014. The latter was funded through a kickstarter campaign that met its $5000.00 target in 27 hours. Both cover albums have sold thousands of copies while busking on the streets of New Zealand. Graeme had always written his own songs, but it wasn’t until 2015 that he began performing them live at shows around New Zealand. His original material was met with immediate interest from fans with breakout singles Alive and One + One racking up over 7 million plays between them, and Alive placing second in the singer songwriter/folk category of the international songwriting competition Unsigned Only.
His debut original album News From Nowhere, released in September 2016, peaked at number 3 on New Zealand album chart and number 26 on the Top 40 album chart. It was a finalist in the NZ Music Awards 2017 Folk Album of the Year. A collection of songs written while touring the length and breadth of New Zealand, the album drew inspiration from the beauty and immensity of Aotearoa’s famous landscapes, and is intensely visual in its writing and sound. The News From Nowhere album tour featured a string of sold out shows across the country and was followed by a summer of national and international festival appearances cementing Graeme’s reputation as a captivating live performer and recording artist.
Following the success of News From Nowhere Graeme signed to indie record label Nettwerk in May 2017 -an exciting step for the long time independent artist. “I was astounded to receive an email from the CEO of Nettwerk, Terry McBride,” said Graeme about the signing. “To be approached out of the blue by a label that has so many of my favourite folk and indie acts is mind blowing. It’s been a perfect fit for me from a creative perspective and I can’t wait to share some new music with the world.”
With his songs having been streamed over 15 million times- mostly by fans outside of his native New Zealand, the choice was made to head to the Northern Hemisphere for an extended season. After a sold out farewell tour of New Zealand, Graeme relocated to Europe in May 2018 and will shortly embark on a 34 date tour of North America in support of his new single The Times Are Changing (to be released August 17, 2018).