Featured in The Inquirer and Mirror - Nantucket Newspaper

James McCarthy brings soulful pop to Cisco

By Dean Geddes - The Inquirer and Mirror - 06/06/2019


Up-and-coming singer-songwriter James McCarthy will be setting foot on Nantucket for the first time Saturday when he takes the outdoor stage at Cisco Brewers. The 26-year old began writing music after graduating from UMass-Amherst with of all things, a degree in engineering.

“It’s almost the opposite of music,” McCarthy said. “I decided to play on my own, learn on my own and so that’s what I’ve done since graduating.”

His blend of soulful pop has caught on in the Boston area, where he and his five-piece band have played shows at venues like the Middle East and Hard Rock Café. He’s found his niche, however, playing brew pubs and breweries, he said. “Breweries are a really great place to play in this day and age, because what you’re looking for is attentive listeners,” McCarthy said. “Whether it’s a vibe or the demographic, people just really seemed to be focused there. The audiences have been fantastic. We play bars too, but they’re a little bit of a different thing.”

The group released its debut five song EP “Inside Sunrise” in 2016, but since that time McCarthy, like many new musicians, has transitioned to the singles model. Last year the band released the single “Going Under,” a haunting ballad about the end of a relationship.

It is releasing two more singles this summer in “Jane Doe” and “Take My Time.”

“We’re trying to gain a little momentum by releasing singles every three or four months and we found it to be pretty effective, rather than those large gaps (of time) between putting records out,” McCarthy said. “It’s especially effective now when you have incredible tools like your own Facebook music page or Instagram. There’s a battle for attention these days and the singles game is just really effective for the indie musician.”

 Two of McCarthy’s musical idols are Stevie Wonder and John Mayer. “I always try to emulate Stevie and then you really get an understanding for how insanely good he is,” he said. “When you are trying to follow and learn from the best and their songs, you really see your own music improving.”

 The band includes McCarthy on lead vocals and keyboard, Evan Hill the producer on drums, guitarist Billy Thompson, bassist Jonny Saval and Jarrod Stein on organ and vocals.

McCarthy met Hill and Stein at UMass, and later they joined up with Thompson and Saval.

“I accidentally crossed paths with Evan in a hallway after he heard Jarrod and I playing. He sat in on drums and it really took off from there,” McCarthy said. “It was one of those things. It was a huge coincidence of crossing paths and it becomes such a significant point in your life because we’ve been playing for the past five years.”

McCarthy’s Cisco set starts at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. You can catch his music on YouTube, Spotify, iTunes, Facebook and Instagram. “We don’t even bring CDs to shows anymore. People can just look up our music or scan the RFID tag (at the show) to get the iTunes or Spotify link,” McCarthy said. “We’re looking forward to playing on Nantucket. We’ve heard really great things about Cisco Brewers.”