John Jenkins and the James Street Band


A great many bands come and go over the years with an equal amount of their individual members either hanging up their hats or moving to pastures new and other projects. Many have cut their teeth in the industry in many well-known bands of the world today who have gained global recognition and at a certain time in their career have chosen to side step into a musical career of their very own as their success on the global stage dictates and has made them an artist in their own right and simply took that leap of faith when the time was right. Stargazer Music Magazine is delighted to pay homage to one such artist John Jenkins as we not only pay tribute to him and his shining career to date but the incredible band he has now created John Jenkins and the James Street Band whose current members are John Jenkins – Lead Vocals and Guitar, Denis Parkinson – Guitar and Backing Vocals, David Nixon – Harmonica, Ukulele, Percussion and Backing Vocals, Dave Orford – Drums and Backing Vocals, Lee Shone – Keyboards and Steve Atkinson – Bass.
John was once a member of the Liverpool based Persuaders and Come in Tokyo giving him the opportunity to share the stage with Elvis Costello, Echo and The Bunnymen and The Beat setting him up nicely to furthering his career to what he has achieved to date. In recent years he has carved his own path as a solo artist with the support of his current project The James Street Band and in 2019 was lucky enough to support Chris Difford founder member and songwriter of the British band Squeeze along with performances with Dean Owens and the Southerners and Jarrod Dickenson. On his solo performances, John uses a few members of The James Street Band using the aka of John Jenkins and The Paris Wives, and on some recordings uses the talents of guest duos such as – Pillow Torque, Limerance, The Folk Doctors, Two Black Sheep, as he likes to mix it all up from time to time keeping things fresh.

John was joint audience winner of the Liverpool Songwriters Challenge in 2014 and 2015 and later became the 2018 finalist. He was selected to take part in the 2018 Americana Music Association UK Song Writing Workshop in front of a prestigious song writing panel consisting of Chris Difford, Mary Gauthier, Beth Nielsen Chapman and Sam Baker, receiving high accolades, and likewise with The James Street Band and is classed as a Liverpool legend.

John used to tinkle the ivories utilising the family piano in the 70’s, creating his own renditions of
Gilbert O’Sullivan songs for his own amusement and later bought a Teac Portastudio in the very early 80’s along with a Sielorchestra electronic String Synth to perfect his craft. Soon after, he joined a local band that needed a keyboard player called Come in Tokyo who had already raised the eyebrows of record companies taking them to many BBC Radio Sessions. But, as he didn’t write for this band, he felt the need to form one of his own called The Persuaders with a friend in 1985 complete with horn section and two amazing vocalists and continued to have BBC radio sessions. Vocalist Siobhan Maher and drummer Paul Speed later formed River City People in 1986 whilst performing for The Persuaders where John was responsible for writing all their material whilst on keyboard duties and later got signed to Emi records, releasing a couple of albums and top 10 hits.
From there Siobhan formed a duo called Kindred Spirit with one of The Bangles. After that, she married Nashville producer Ray Kennedy who works with elite artists such as Steve Earle, Richard Thompson, Lucinda Williams, and recently did a duet with John for his new album last month.

Now with gigs stacking up due to their individual popularity and with a well-known front man, they started to move through the circuit taking them higher and higher in local recognition which soon exploded further afield. So I went on to ask the band what were their favourite venues to play and why, to which John told me;

“As a band, any that can fit us all in with drums rather than a Cajon,so The Big Room in Heswall has been great along with The West Kirby Arts Centre, and Folk at the Dock Festival. When we play either as a smaller unit or just one or two of us definitely the smaller more intimate venues such as Thornton Hough Village Club and 8 Renshaw Street or Grateful Fred’s Atkinson Theatre Southport spring to mind”.

Denis followed this up by saying;

“The smaller venues with listening audiences such as 81 Renshaw, THVC, Big Room, and Atkinson”.

David went on to confirm;

“Yes THVC is a beautiful venue, along with the Atkinson theatre in Southport too”.

With that said, not every member necessarily has a favoured venue and their choice is based on necessity as Steve rounded up by telling me;

“Ones that pay so it covers expenses”.

Liverpool has an amazing and vibrant music scene where everyone supports one other and although it would be unfair to single any performers out, the boys have had some great live experiences playing alongside
Only Child, Two Black Sheep and Robert Vincent.

But, behind every great man there is a great woman.
Emma Newby, Vocals / Guitar, draws her inspiration from All About Eve, Stone Sour, Ghost, Anathema and Pink Floyd which has truly crafted her performance over the years and is not only reflected live and in the studio but through her song writing style also.
Emma started playing in 1994 and went on to play full time for a band in Spain for eleven years. But it was only since her return to song writing that she met Nick via a mutual friend he used to work with, and joined the band 2 years ago as their manager and vocalist, but soon took on guitar duties when the line-up relocated.
The vocal harmonies between Emma and partner Nick work beautifully, helping you drift further into a song and a more thoughtful frame of mind.
Now a song writing duo, Emma is truly the wind beneath his wings.
Simon Lind – Lead Guitar, cut his teeth listening to Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Satriani, Jeff Healey and AC/DC. Originally a drummer, Simon struck an interest with the guitar at fifteen, by seventeen Simon’s intrigue with guitar grew stronger and by eighteen made the transition from drums to guitar and went on to perfect his newly found craft, taking him far and wide touring America with Prog Rock Band Captain Beyond, which set him up nicely with the experience needed to further his career. Once in the spotlight with his ever faithful axe in his hand, Simon steps into his own offering a masterclass of guitarmanship within his genre, giving every track the cutting edge needed before setting the stage ablaze with intricate precision.
Inspiration sparks an emotional quickening and uplifts us and infuses us with hope and generates new ideas with a sense possibility and at the same time influences us, exerting a specific directive force to provoke change on a more regular basis. With that in mind, I asked the members what influences them to become a better musician and to drive them and the band forward, their answers were extremely unique and informative, and went on to tell me;

John – “In the main for me it is just great songs. I have too many influences to mention individually. I guess if you had to pin me down to a selection I’d say Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles, and Singer Songwriters of the 70’s, Motown, a lot of Americana before it was called Americana, and I have a big love of classical music since I was a teenager much to everyone’s amusement at that time”.

Lee – “I started to play piano and keyboard aged 10 listening to a wide range of music and was inspired by my families’ love of classic country songs and Elvis. As I developed I gained a love for soul and Jazz. My all-time greatest inspiration is Steely Dan and have traveled all over the US to see them in recent years”.

Denis–“Extremely varied, Bob Dylan, Punk, and Bowie but still listen to current bands such as Hold Steady, Jason Isbell, Conor Oberst, and Simone Felice”.

With that said, as a band this is a slightly different story as a band as John went on to say;

“Everyone in the band brings a bit of their individual influences to the party and it’s filtered through their playing onto my songs. I would have the last say in the song arrangements, but band members have a lot of scope to put their stamp on each of the songs”.

Now relentlessly trying to perfect what I already feel is perfection, the boys hope to still be doing music, but at a higher level, which the next 5 years will display, although David hopes he can finally hang up his hat reflecting on a great career on his boat.

With that said I asked the boys what they have learned about themselves during their time in the music industry, both individually and collectively as a band, they went on to tell me;

John – Personally for me that it’s easy to be bogged down if you can’t see beyond the local area. I’d like to believe my work can be appreciated worldwide and not be out of my depth anywhere. Band wise – It’s very difficult to get everyone as enthusiastic.

Denis – Not to take things too seriously and to enjoy it.

Steve – How to be patient.

David – It requires a lot of time and dedication to keep going and I don’t have a fraction of what John has.

In my twenty-five year career as an International Music Journalist, and a songwriter myself, I am always interested to discover a wide array of song writing techniques and to find out what is unique to the individual musician. I posed this question to John and David, whereupon John told me;

“Songs differ, but if I had to be just general, then I’ll pick a guitar up, or play the piano. Melodies come very easy for me. I’ll record loads of ideas and then I’ll go away and think about what I really want to write about. Sometimes my dummy lyrics have a phrase that subconsciously dictates a path. I like story songs so I’ll immerse myself in characters and fine tune my lyrics in a café with my notebook and pen. Occasionally I’ll have an idea or a title or just lyrics in my book that I can match to the music. I have also woken up with songs written and I scramble for the phone and record them and go back to sleep”.

David went on to add;

“Its a process of strumming my guitar to get ideas and build a tune. I then struggle to write lyrics, finish a draft of the song, edit bits out when bored, then test at open mic nights and embarrass myself”.

And that brings me nicely to their latest album “Looking for that American Dream” which was released on June 1st 2019 and its continued success has accelerated performances across his local area. Now with a view to spread their collective wings further afield, this album is equipped with that recipe for success they greatly deserve. Before even doing any background research, I instantly got the Liverpudlian feel that is laced throughout, and with no accent making this evident, you will always find a certain mood pulsing through the veins of the music from this part of the country, enriched with the true heart and soul ingrained within any genre. From the outset this album stirs the soul leaving you in a more reflective frame of mind projecting that perfect image to the mind that only well written lyrics can achieve.
So why not give them a try and put this album and band on your wish list for this summer.

Star Rating …… 8/10

To close I asked the band if there was anything else they wanted our readers to know, where John told me;
“I have written a musical called “A New York Romance” which I’m quite proud of and written electronic music under the name “Midnight in Manhattan”

David – “I perform my own songs as ‘David Nixon’s Navigation’ occasionally and have an album called
“This Side Other Side”, and an EP”Put it back together” out now”.

Denis – “I have my own band “North Line” for my own songs”

Lee – “I have just come back from Memphis recording an album with some top notch session guys and due out this year”.


                                                                                                               © Stargazer Music Magazine 2020

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