James Rutten - Life loves LIVE
Orange is fortunate to have a vibrant and growing local live music scene. So, in conjunction with JAM Orange, we thought we’d introduce you to some of our talented local musicians. Catch them at Jam Orange’s monthly Open Mic Nights, or at a venue near you!
“There is a real uprising of original music happening in Orange and it is really exciting,” says James Rutten, a local singer/songwriter who has become a regular feature at gigs around Orange and the Central West.
But until a year ago James, 36, had put his own musical aspirations aside.
“Yeah, I took a bit of a break for a while. The guitar was collecting dust and I’d let it really fall by the wayside,” he said.
It was only when a work colleague of James convinced him to get up at one of JAM Orange’s open mic nights that he saw inspiration return and over the last twelve months he has been actively writing and performing to appreciative crowds.
“The first time I played in Orange was at the February Open Mic night last year. I was nervous as hell, but everyone was really supportive, and they give you feedback and they welcome you,” said James.
“It’s really a forum where you can go and you have everything to gain and nothing to lose. It's a brilliant start and it opened a lot of doors for me.
“Through the open mic nights I was approached and ended up playing twice at the Museum Up Late program, I've played at Four on the Floor at the Vic twice and I play at Nile Street Cafe regularly… most recently I’ve played at the Sunday Sessions at the Canowindra Bowling Club and all that has come about through contacts made at JAM Orange.”
Born and raised in Armidale, James grew up around music. His father played classical guitar and his mother taught him piano from a very young age.
“Mum got me on the piano in kindergarten, so I did scales every day with homework and then music exams in high school, but the piano was a struggle,” he said.
“Obviously, I'm grateful for it now, having learned the musicology of it and have that as a skill, but back then it was a grind.”
When James was in high school, he put aside piano for the saxophone and got his first band experience both at school and with schoolmates.
“I did play in a few little rock bands and things like that, I think back in the 90s every garage had a broken drum kit and an old Ibanez electric that you could play Pearl Jam covers on,” he said.
“I think we mainly played covers of Santana, and odd songs you'd pull off the radio back then like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Brimful of Asha and things like that.”
Before moving to Orange ten years ago, James was also involved with the local musical society in Armidale.
I got into musical theatre out of high school and we did quite a few plays and musicals, like the Pirates of Penzance, God Spell, Le Miserables, Chicago, South Pacific — It was a lot of fun,” he said.
But it was also around this time that he first started playing guitar, an instrument he fell in love with and one that allowed him to tap into his own creativity.
“I love playing guitar; I rarely put it down. The guitar was something I picked up and it was one of those things that I didn't have to try, it was just natural and accompanied singing really easily, so that was when I started writing,” said James.
“I was quite prolific. I wrote quite a bit then around that time, but then inspiration dried up for a while.”
But since that first JAM Orange gig, 12 months ago, James has been invigorated and been busy writing new material again.
If you had to put a label on his music, you could describe it as contemporary folk, said James, whose writing wanders into areas not commonly explored in popular music.
“I write stuff that explores topics I'm interested in at the time. Love songs are great, and songs about all different emotions are great, but I like exploring a little bit of philosophy in music as well as present ideas that makes people think,” he said.
“It has really reopened a world of possibilities for me to play music and I'm very grateful to JAM Orange. I think Orange is incredibly lucky to have a group of people who are creating an outlet where people can do this.
“The young talent that is coming through is amazing, and these guys started off at open mic nights, just building up their confidence trying out new songs — it is really exciting.