Making music from Natura to Nashville
Published: Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, July 20, 2011 17:07
The Orlando music scene has missed folk singer and UCF alumnus James Roquemore since he left town in 2010 to find a music career in Nashville, Tenn. Once a local standout and open mic regular, Roquemore is now faced with rebuilding a fan base and gaining recognition in the musical city of Nashville.
"The Nashville music scene is very interesting. It is definitely the most competitive scene I've ever seen. Everybody is a songwriter, everybody plays guitar," Roquemore said. "In that sense, it's a little intimidating to know that feeling that you're not special because you're a musician – you're actually part of the majority."
During his years at UCF, Roquemore steadily earned loyal fans, playing house parties and frequenting places like Natura Café and Austin's Coffee. At a CD release party held at the Plaza ‘Live' Theatre in August 2009, Roquemore unveiled his EP titled "The First," which he recorded at FlatFoot records at Valencia Community College. His performance that night featured a full band and nine-piece string section.
Now Roquemore spends his days writing songs for a new record in ambitious style. Outside of his own talent on guitar, piano, bass and drums, he also plans on recording with string musicians for roughly half the album. Roquemore said the record will consist of a wide range of "pop songs, to kind of darker blues songs, to sweet and slightly depressing folk songs."
"This record is going to be a lot different from the first. I feel like it's going to be a lot more accessible," Roquemore said. "There are a lot more upbeat songs and something hopefully everyone can sing along to."
At night, Roquemore can usually be spotted in one of the many music venues that line the streets of Nashville's Music Row. He said he plays out often in order to network with people who know how to promote artists like him.
"Country music is definitely [the city's] main focus," Roquemore said, but he hopes his focus on "storytelling and simple, solid songwriting" will provide something familiar to country, Americana and folk music fans alike. He added that his fiction writing studies at UCF, along with an interest in narrative film, aid the storytelling aspect of his songwriting.
Roquemore returned to a crowd mixed with longtime fans to play an acoustic performance at The Abbey in Orlando on Saturday night. The show, part of a 21st birthday celebration for a friend, was an opportunity for him to record a live performance.
"We are hoping to get some video out of this since it is a really nice venue," his brother Peter Roquemore said at the show. Roquemore's family, who also relocated from Orlando to Nashville, enjoys supporting his music career.
"He has to re-promote himself all over again, which is always a challenge," Peter said. "At home, we let him play music all the time."
For the rest of the summer, the folk singer plans to continue his "couch tour," playing house shows in exchange for a couch to sleep on. After a short trip to Alabama, Roquemore will travel back to Orlando for a show at fan Kelly Riordan's house in August.
"His songs are easy to relate to," Riordan, a senior communication sciences and disorders major, said. "His music is really relaxed and so chill. Plus, James is just a really nice person. So because of that, I want to support him."
Fans can follow Roquemore on Twitter and Facebook, or visit his website at www.jamesroquemore.com to find tour dates, music videos and his blog.