About James McGee Music

I am a songwriter who lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Jumpcuts Live, Tuesday @ The Tennessee

Well, well, well! Finally out of the basement and onto the streets of Parkdale.  Played a set with the Jumpcuts last night at the Tennessee and had a great time doing a mix of originals and covers. Small loyal crowd (read girlfriends, friends, open stage attendees).

The Tennessee has a charming funk that is typical of the area (check out Parts and Labour, Not My Dog etc.) And not a Le Chateau in sight! The bar is under new ownership since January, but still committed to the music policy Mitzi’s Sister (the former tenant) established.

Late start. But well worth the wait. I wanted the rest of my band mates to check out the facilities before we did two sets on the October the 7th and Chris the owner accomodated us. Remarkably it came together, despite my bandmates protestations.  Here’s one of the songs from the night.

Johnston comes off the DH to sing with the Jumpcuts

Johnston is in! nancy my heart belongs to jimmy lrAfter spending the summer months recovering from a wrist injury acquired during an unfortunate skateboarding accident, original Jumpcut Nancy Johnston will be joining us at the Tennessee for a featured performance.

Nancy will be singing her favourite Jumpcut songs along with a few hand picked covers. Don’t miss the performance, October 7th-2015. The Tennessee Tavern.

Jimmy and The Jumpcuts, Live @ The Tennessee, October 7th 2015

There comes a time in every musicians life where (and I want you to think now of the spawning habits of the salmon) must, for whatever reason, get out and play live. I know I’ve used the anaolgy before, but if the fln fits, start swimming.

So in that spirit I (Jimmy) will be playing a gig at the Tennessee on October 7th, 2015 accompanied by good friends and musicians (The Jumpcuts)  who have been supporting me in my writing aspirations on and off for over 30 years – Bill White bassist, Glen McFadyen guitarist, and most recently Fergus Tyrrell guitar/vocals and David Beaver on drums.

We will be doing two sets of originals and covers for your listening pleasure. The first set will be at 9pm.

Reserve the date now: October 7th-2015, Tennessee Tavern, Toronto.


The Great Open Stage Tour

Since Matty won’t call (and I’ve beat that riff to death anyways) it’s time to take some of the songs out on the road and trying out the various “open stages” in the  GTA. So far the boys and I (aka Jimmy and The Jumpcuts) have explored three: Dave’s on St. Clair, The Old Nick on the Danforth, and Revolucion at Keele and Dundas in the Junction.

Dave’s on St. Clair, Thursday

Run by Jay Parnell the night is well organized and well attended.  The event starts at 9pm (it could start earlier) and goes past the midnight hour. The night is run with a steady hand by Mr. Parnell and features a wide gamut of talent. We managed to get the first spot and played our three songs.

Old Nick, Tuesday Night

Noisy, noisy,noisy. I presume the bar is packed with people heading towards the Music Hall or having a break from the festivities.

La Revolucion, Thursday Night

Wonderful Mexican restaurant just east of Keele and Dundas on the fringe of the junction. The night is run by acoustic guitar whiz Michael Keith and features a wide range of talent and skill.

He gives us the first slot and we play five of our songs. He is complimentary and suggests we inquire about a full band gig at the bar.

In conclusion…

Open mic nights provide a great opportunity to tune your chops. They are a commitment (take as much time as a regular full band gig, but with less stage time.) Choose wisely.  Scout the place out before hand. There’s nothing worse than playing for two people at 130am.

As the journey continues I will bring you more insights from the world of the open stage.


Week 6, A song for Matty Dusk

carThought long and hard about Mr. Dusk’s song. Such a specific style both in tone an delivery. I immediately thought of Robert Palmer.  Classy, sexy. Throw in a little  “Mexican Radio” by Wall of Voodoo and The Stranglers “Skinn Deep” and you can see where I was headed.

The Framing Story
Dusk, exhausted after a long week of work, getting out of Vegas with his best girl at  his side, heading out to who knows where, but being quite overjoyed when he gets there. A pure escapist road song.

The Music.
After listening to the samples suggested by Mr. Dusk (Rock Mafia, Pumped Up Kicks, Daft Punk) I knew this baby had to have a riff. So I created one that in the key of B that could be repeated by all sections of the band (from the bass to the horn section). It, as they say, has a wide groove. It’s guitar heavy but can be easily transposed to be used by both brass, bass, and guitar.

The Result
Get on Board. A four minute get away song Mr. Dusk.

Week 5, When Words Fail, Lizzie’s Fugue

 Lizzie’s Fugue, words & music by James McGee. Additional vocals by Jennifer Noble

Had a tough time with this  week’s challenge. The theme and the music came eay but the words really never showed up.  I’ve written about crazy and obsessed before.  Does it still qualify if I only came up with a tone poem?

The challenge,  from Jordan Howard of CCS Rights Management “ I am looking for songs to pitch for a new series on Lifetime that stars Christina Ricci. The series can be best described as a 19th Century “Dexter.” Series centers around a female anti-hero, lots of emotions. Love, Lust, Hate, Danger.

The series “The Lizzie Borden Chronicles” takes off from last year’s “Lizzie Borden Takes an Axe” that was on Lifetime. The show “delivers an intense and fictionalized account of actual events and people surrounding Lizzie’s life after her controversial acquittal of the horrific double murder of her father and stepmother in 1892, when the exonerated figure lives a life awash in new found celebrity filled with scandalous love affairs” It would appear that Lizzie is cleaning up some outstanding loose ends as people around her start mysteriously dying.

The Details, from Jordan
“Musically I am looking for songs in the vain of: Black Keys, Bon Iver, Band of Skulls, Carolina Chocolate Drops, James Vincent McMorrow. For one episode, I am looking for a replacement for Hozier’s “To Be Alone.” As long as the song is in a similar wheelhouse and is lyrically similar, that is what is most important.”

Working it out
Gave it the old college try.  Listened to the samples, was moved  by Hozier singing “To Be Alone”.  Not sure what he was getting at, but there was a tremendous  feeling of passion and pain and someone crying out in vain. A feeling of loss and anger.

The Research
Did mlizzie_400wlry resath and b) the image of her father earch on Lizzie Borden. And what jumped out at me was a) she was a sociopkilling her pet pigeons in the barn. With an axe! Uh oh. I have the image of a crazed sociopath who was allegedly in the fugue state when she committed her killings.

The Results:
I heard, like most a brooding  minor key, I heard pigeons, I heard a woman’s lament in the night.* And most of all I heard voices. I even contemplated using the children’s nursery rhyme in the mix

“Lizzie Borden took an ax,
Gave her mother 40 whacks.
After she had seen what she had done,
She gave her father 41.”

But thought it would be overkill. See, I know restraint.

Alas, the words didn’t come, and after a while I didn’t feel any need to pursue them. So here’s what I came up with it. A musical mash up of sound, voices, and music. Theme music for a Lizzie Borden killing spree.

I call it Lizzie’s Fugue.

*Special thanks to Jennifer Noble for providing the female vocals

Week 4 Challenge, Close to the Edge

Here’s my answer to the Week 4 challenge:

The Song: When Johnny Goes Off to War, rough mix.

This week’s challenge – issued by Ron Irving – write an edgy song for a 21 year old male country artist. With the following caveat(s).

“Target: Male artist, early 20s. No mention of marriage or kids. No references to “partying at the lake”, “trucks and tailgates” and no “bro country” vibe.”

My god! What’s left! It seems that every country song these days has at least one of those elements. At least Ron didn’t take away my Bud and my dog. But I digress.

A tremendously brief history of edgy

johnny_400wEdgy in country huh? In the 50’s it was Elvis, Jerry Lee, and Sun Studios. In the 60’s Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and the Birds. The seventies was the age of country revisionism (The Eagles) and Outlaw Country: Willie, Waylon, Rusty Weir. The 80’s? Hands down it was Steve Earle and Dwight Yoakam. The 90’s? The Americana movement. 21st century? The first decade of the 21st century? Hard do distinguish between all the stetson guys. Was it Zac Brown? He stood out because he wore a toque. And in the past few years we’ve actually seen a dance producer try to combine country and techno beats. 2013 Avicii! A Swedish dance DJ mixing beats and country.

Edgy ain’t what it use to be

Look up “edgy” on Google. First result is Sam Hunt. I’m okay with Sam Hunt but he has the same effect on me as Robin Thicke has (although because he is six foot four, I wouldn’t say it to his face.) Here’s an opinion on edgy from the Urban Dictionary:

“As far as I can make out, edgy occurs when middlebrow, middle-aged profiteers are looking to suck the energy — not to mention the spending money — out of the “youth culture.” So they come up with this fake concept of seeming to be dangerous when every move they make is the result of market research and a corporate master plan.”

Kinda negative, but it is Urban Dictionary. Opinions run rampant.

Edgy is…

Edgy for me has always been about the lyrics and the song. I’ve always been drawn to country and folk because you can infuse social commentary into your lyrics.

Overcoming stasis

Okay, I’ve been procrastinating over this one, only because I’ve been working on another piece with fellow SAC member Jennifer Noble about the Lac Megantic disaster. When the muse calls, you gotta answer. It’s been an interesting journey, and after being disappointed by my first attempt is one that I recommend for people considering a co-write. Let’s just say it’s the way I prefer to work – in a feedback cycle. Jennifer and I started out with a Skype session, threw around a few ideas, and agreed to keep the ball rolling. Jennifer did a stream of consciousness piece on Thursday based on our discussion (part prose, part lyric) and forwarded it to me. I had a go at it on Friday and Saturday. It obsessed me really, it became a piece by piece construction. It also set me back a day or so on this assignment.

You want edgy? I’ll give you edgy

After fooling around with a couple of ironic tunes, a social conscious dirge, and deciding against recycling one of the tunes I have in the drawer. I decided to explore the idea of the returning soldier. Not exactly original but, how about  a psychotic former soldier bent on revenge? Edgy enough for you? I didn’t decide on writing it till yesterday, so I was working against the clock.

One of the things this challenge has taught me is to put down the guitar and just write, so I took to my writing chair and started with this title ‘When Johnny Goes Off To War”. I wanted to (as many have) explore the idea of the returning soldier, and despite American Sniper’s jingoistic tripe, not really being accepted in his home town. It’s a combination of protest and a revenge song plain and simple. I’ve tried in the first part anyways to make it generic (so it can be either a Canadian or an American soldier).

Why Ron should pick my song

I also think it would be perfect for a younger singer who wants to, I assume, move away from the bros an beers mantra to a more mature, socially conscious outlook. It can be played either acoustically or electrically, applied to the American or Canadian situation, and with a little tweaking can become the showcase (or at least the mid-point) of a live set.