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MELODIES AND MEMORIES

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January 9, 2022 

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

Nashville recording artist and alum checks in with updates on her career as well as on a special upcoming personal event.

Photos by Shervin Lainez


Stephie James, aka Stephanie Hamood, NDP'10, is playing a show next week in Great Falls, Montana. It's a long way from Pontiac, Mich., which is where she went to high school, and even farther from Nashville, Tenn., which is where she currently lives.

But measuring James' creative journey since graduating from Notre Dame Prep requires more than Google Maps. After many years (and miles) on the road working as a sideman in the industry, she's finally released her first EP. 

Her credits leading up to this release, called "These Days," are impressive. 

She's toured with Anita Baker and Nikki Lane, engineering for Dan Auerbach (Black Keys) and Buddy Miller, played sessions with John Bettis (songwriter for Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson and The Carpenters, among others) and even landed in a Michael Bolton documentary, to name a few stops on her resume.

Embracing the grittiness of yesteryear’s garage rock productions and also the bittersweet timelessness of artists like Amy Winehouse and Roy Orbison, her music has been called unmistakably romantic and mysterious. Without compromising an ounce of style, James has managed to not only craft an EP of beautiful, heart-on-its-sleeve classic melodies, but also imbue her music with the same sense of intrigue that makes the best Henry Mancini score somehow elevated and torrid. 

She recently checked in with her high school alma mater to talk more about "These Days," touring to promote it, and, of course, Notre Dame Prep. She's also engaged to be married!


Have you been touring or has the pandemic quashed that for you over the last couple of years? Any other shows planned for the future? What about recordings?

Yes, I did release an EP during the pandemic - my debut solo release. We had a full album's worth of material to release, but quickly realized that the pandemic was going to shut down our industry and the record label we were working with had an entire roster of postponed releases, way backlogged. It was kind of a crazy time to release music, especially knowing that we would not be able to tour to support the release, but we ultimately decided to put out five songs as an EP, hoping people would still be consuming content during quarantine and seeking out new music during such a strange time. 

Originally, we had over a year of heavy touring booked surrounding the release and it was all completely canceled as the pandemic unfolded. At first promoters and venues were just "postponing" shows, but as the pandemic dragged on indefinitely, tours were just being outright canceled. Fortunately we had a superhero radio promoter in our corner and he worked the record at radio. The EP climbed the Americana radio charts, despite not being able to tour and it being a debut release. I've been working in the industry for years, but this release was important because it was my first solo release. Everything I had worked on before was somebody else's project, but this one was mine. It was produced by Alabama Shakes producer Andrija Tokic and features my own band and my songs. The first music of my own that I've ever had pressed to vinyl! (which is the natural format for this stuff, because we track everything to tape, live band in the room, the way they used to make records! And anybody that remembers me knows I've always leaned toward the vintage stuff...) I've still got vinyl copies available through the merchandise store on my website, and yes, CDs and swag, too.

All that is to say - yes, it has totally impacted touring and completely sidelined us from the road. But we were able to pivot a little during that time. We started spending more time in the studio, focusing on new content, I developed a Patreon page as a way to stay connected to supporters and share unreleased content and new demos. We did a little bit of the livestreaming thing, but I'll admit, it still feels like an awkward platform to me and was never an ideal substitute - something about not being able to interact with an audience. 

Fortunately, live music is coming back and we've been able to play shows again. The live shows and touring are much slower than before, but it's gradually coming back to life, as venues re-open and start working back to full capacity. We've played a handful of live shows recently and the band is sounding pretty tight - Matt Menold on guitar and Little Jack Lawrence (of the The Raconteurs and Dead Weather (Third Man Records) on bass. We did a couple live sessions with the band that I can include links to below. We've got a lot of new material that we've been working on in the studio, a little at a time, and we're really excited about it. Just trying to figure out how and when to release it.


How has Nashville been for you since moving there? 

Nashville has been great. It's a small town in many ways and we're all sort of connected. It's definitely growing and becoming a very different city than it was a few years ago when I first started hanging around. Lots of gentrification is happening in every neighborhood. I like Nashville but can easily see myself being ready to make a move to another city sometime in the near future. 

Besides all the music stuff going on for me, I got engaged! Also, I'm still involved with the coffee shops up in metro Detroit (Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters) and they are doing great and fortunately survived the pandemic. I've been spending lots of time in New York City, too.

Get back to Michigan often? Would be great to see you back on campus at NDP.

Other than visiting around the holidays, I haven't been up to Michigan much in the past few years. When I do make it back home, it's normally not for any extended period of time. And if we pass through on tour, it's normally just one night and then we're on to the next city. We are trying to book a Detroit date (paired with Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo dates) once the weather warms up. If I'm able to combine it with one of those trips, I would love to stop by NDP and say hey!

Speaking of Notre Dame Prep, can you speak about Notre Dame Prep?

A few years ago, we played at St Andrew's Hall for the first time and Joe Martin (NDPMA band director) came out to hear us. I was really touched by that. He couldn't stick around to say "hey" afterward, but he let us know he was there and I thought that was really cool. I would be remiss not to say that there have been a couple of really influential NDP staff/teachers who have been great supporters over the years and have given me endless encouragement on this crazy, unpredictable road in this industry. 

More on Stephie James:

Website: https://www.stephiejamesmusic.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/stephie_james_/?hl=en
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stephiejamesmusic/
 

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

Comments or questions? mkelly@ndpma.org

Follow Notre Dame on Twitter at @NDPMA.

About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three schools are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the National Association of Independent Schools. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school’s home page at www.ndpma.org.