An Interview with James McDowell

Q. When did you start composing music, and why?
A. It was June 1982 – I remember that date specifically because I was finishing high school, and was teaching piano as well. Teaching kids the piano and how various chords go together is what inspired me to start writing songs of my own.
Q. What did you start writing back then?
A. I started composing gospel music for church, and began to get a lot of requests from people to write songs for weddings. Another role I had was transposing music into other keys for people.
Q. Who are your main influences?
A. I listen to a lot of different things – motown, pop, country, all kinds of stuff. Lionel Ritchie, Reba Mcintyre, Neil Diamond, the list goes on.
Q. Do you come from a musical family?
A. Yes! My brother is a musician who plays all kinds of instruments completely by ear. I also have many relatives who all sing and play gospel music.
Q. Were you trained in music at all?
A. You could say that. While my college degree is in business, I also have a minor in music.
Q. Do you think of yourself as more of a performer, teacher or composer?
A. Definitely teaching and composing. I like to perform on the piano, but given the choice I would much rather give a lesson or write a song for someone.
Q. So are you open to having other people perform on your compositions?
A. Absolutely! In fact, I do PREFER to have performers other than myself on my material.
Q. You have written many love songs in the past, but your writing has taken a new approach recently. What caused this change in direction?
A. Beside the loss of my vision, I have recently experienced some losses in the family as well as losses of friends. I started to realize that people are just trying to find something in life to give them comfort, joy, happiness, and HOPE. We need more positive messages in this world today! I also think about a lot of social justice issues, which I started incorporating into my writing and look forward to write more about.
Q. I heard so much about the beautiful song you wrote: “Hear My Voice”. Can you tell us a bit about it?
A. It’s about how people need to start listening to each other, especially families! Everything is moving so fast, and we need to SLOW DOWN and start teaching our children to be more family-oriented and spiritual.
Q. If you could sum up your music and ideas in one phrase, what would it be?
A. “A change for the better.”