When James Williams, whose stage name is James Stretch, released his first album A Life on a Line on June 30, he was coming off a four-month process of writing and recording his 10-track album, which he played almost every instrument for (except the drums).
“I wish I could say I engaged in a bit of a party on release day. Unfortunately, I was so busy doing promo, getting tracks uploaded, booking tour dates in the UK, and rehearsing getting ready to go out on the road for two months that I didn’t even think about a party,” Williams says, adding that he’ll probably do a launch party once tour dates are finalized.
How Music and Yachting Collided
The professional musician, songwriter, producer, and publisher is represented by Wolfpack Records Ltd. Although this is his first album made up entirely of his own material, Williams isn’t new to the music scene — he’s been playing guitar since he was about 12 years old and before he entered yachting, he was a musician that qualified out of the Academy of Contemporary Music, where he wrote songs and performed all over the world. Now, he’s planning a tour for this album and will be releasing a follow-up in 2023 using the same producers and studio.
“I guess after 15 years, I had nothing really left to prove to myself in yachting and it gave me some wonderful highs and pretty sad lows."
Prior to this, he spent four years as crew — he was deckhand on S/Y Mirabella V and then bosun on S/Y Mustang. Williams fell into yachting after meeting yacht crew in Gran Canaria who were sailing to St. Lucia. This was after he’d just finished a band tour, and at the time, he wasn’t ready to leave the sunshine to go back to the UK. “So I ended up on board a boat where the mast snapped in the middle of the Atlantic. I think I had more disaster experience in 3,000 nautical miles sailing than most have in a lifetime!” he recalls. “So music kind of led me into yachting and it's slowly and gracefully leading me out of it,” says Williams.
Williams left his crew years behind in 2007 to work in media. As for why? “The mast on Mustang snapped mid-Atlantic, so I then decided I’d never get on a boat again where I couldn’t see dry land,” he says. He then took his years of expertise to spend 10 years in various media positions before getting back into music.
Going Back to His Roots
“I guess after 15 years, I had nothing really left to prove to myself in yachting and it gave me some wonderful highs and pretty sad lows. I always knew that I wanted a career in music, so when COVID hit and really affected the industry, it was the perfect time to get songs written, get a publishing contract, resign from my role as a commercial director within yachting media, and do something for myself I was proud of,” Williams explains. “The inspiration for songs came from a lot of the issues with addiction and lifestyle I had to overcome after 20 years of touring and yachting,” he says.
He’s been playing guitar since he was about 12 years old and before he entered yachting, he was a musician that qualified out of the Academy of Contemporary Music, where he wrote songs and performed all over the world.
Described by the music press as having a very raw and distinctive, energetic guitar style, Williams has been influenced by typical 70s and 80s bands like The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Guns N’ Roses, and AC/DC. “Then again, when I want to calm it down, I enjoy writing these days at a piano and my guilty pleasure would definitely be Phil Collins and Lady Gaga, who are both amazing writers when you watch footage of just them and a piano,” he says, adding that they’ve had a huge influence on him to write some of the piano ballads that are on the album.
“My ultimate goal is to write songs people relate to and that help them get through good times, bad times, and sad times. I can assure you, it’s quite a buzz when you watch 20,000 people know all the words to something you’ve written and sing it back. No amount of money can buy the feeling that gives you, and how nice it is for your soul knowing you’ve given so many others something they relate to and have engaged with,” Williams says.
Other Upcoming Projects
Currently, Williams is also finalizing plans for the launch of a record label called “We Are Wolfpack Records,” which gives artists a fair deal on revenues from streaming platforms and sales. He’ll be able to help “guide them through the things we’ve experienced learning about copyrights, how to collect royalties, and get paid what you are worth,” says Williams.
Buy the digital album for £10 at jamesstretch.bandcamp.com.