James Henry Jr.
James Henry Jr. is the new solo venture of singer-songwriter Pete Harper, once of the bands Harper Blynn and Mosco Rosco and now one-half of the duo Motor Sales. Harper has a long resume as a songwriter/collaborator with the likes of Madison Cunningham, Elliphant, Sammy Brue, Courtney Marie Andrews and Sara Bareilles, but his new project sees him drawing from the deep well of life experiences. His new alter ego, in fact, is the name of his grandfather. "He was a truck driver and a searcher," Harper says.
The first single from the James Henry Jr. album, the acoustic meditation "Take Me Down Easy," is a choir short of being a gospel song - it can be read as an entreaty to a lover, or a plea to the Fates to go easy on him. Considering what precipitated this bout of creative energy, it's probably the latter. Harper started the album after the breakup of his former band and the news that his father had fallen ill.
"I felt like my identity had disintegrated overnight," he says. "My whole life I was a road dog, a brother to my bandmates, a son. And suddenly I was just in my backyard, smoking cigarettes and staring into the trees. I wasn't even a smoker."
So J.H.J. was born.
"I was back in Chicago visiting my Dad and I heard an Elvis song on the radio. He loves Roy Orbison, Elvis, all those guys," the songwriter recalls. "That night I wrote this song, never intending for anyone to hear it. I came back to L.A., and after encouragement from a few great new friends, Sean Watkins and Tyler Chester, I played it for them. They told me I had to record it and that they would help."
The 10-song album ended up featuring contributions from those two, along with Jay Bellerose, Blake Mills, Cunningham, Julian Lage, James McAlister and Justin Stanley. The debut single is featured in the final scene of an episode of the series "BoJack Horseman" on Netflix.