Local singer-songwriter Ian James released new pop single "In My Head" June 10 with another on the way in July | Photo by Ruta Smith

Ian James first emerged on the Charleston music scene with pop-rock group City on Down in 2016. James decided to move to Charleston to pursue music after graduating with a degree in finance from Bentley University in Massachusetts.

“I got a job out of college that I worked for a few months and I just knew it wasn’t my path,” he said. His journey as an artist has since undergone several transformations.

When the band called it quits in 2018, James began writing his own songs in the Christian pop genre, recording his first single, “I Look Up,” with Brian Jarvis of Charleston’s Midnight City Band in the summer of 2019. 

Proud of the release but hesitant about his live act, James moved back home to Rochester, New York, during the Covid-19 shutdown to fine-tune his skills. “I was just so new to the whole solo performing world,” James said. “I really kind of hit a reset … And I got a lot better, stronger vocally. I worked on my craft, got a lot more secure with the sound of music that I liked and was good at.”

He returned to Charleston in 2021, releasing his first music video for track “By My Side” in August before switching directions stylistically. “I have my faith, and that’s everything, but I also just have always been someone who has had friends and relationships in all different walks of life. It just felt like I was entering a different season,” he said.

James is now writing music outside of the confines of the Christian genre. His newest single, “In My Head,” was released June 10. The track features Rochester-based pop and R&B artist and producer Isiah and is pop through and through, with an addictive, buoyant beat and smooth vocal stylings. 

Lyrically, the single describes being unable to stop thinking about someone who has betrayed you in a relationship. “Some of it is personal experience, and a lot of it is the experience of seeing what other people have been through, and this is the type of song somebody could relate to,” James said.

Though he is crafting secular music, James maintains that his songs can foster a special depth of connection. “I want to bridge the gap between people,” he said. “I believe that it’s not really about the title and the label and the category. It’s really just about connecting with people and showing love.”

James is gearing up for back-to-back shows in San Diego on July 15 and 16 and plans to release an ’80s-inspired pop song at the end of July. “I’m going to kind of keep a steady flow of stuff coming,” he said, “with the sound and the style of what I know I am now.”


Stay cool. Support City Paper.

City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.