With over fifteen years writing, producing and performing, most notably with Maverick Records and Warner Brothers, James Coleman (a.k.a. Sirken) has toured and performed internationally and has licensed songs for commercials, compilations, and various film projects. As one half of Bonhom, his infectious dream-pop band with Diwon, Coleman crafts songs that defy genres and labels blending elements of folk, pop, hip hop, edm and rock. They have composed some of the freshest genre-less gems which could be heard in scenes of shows on Lifetime, MTV, and ABC. Their single, NYE, was remixed by over 35 countries in varying styles, including a remix by Dubstep duo, Neutron, composed of Hollywood producers Laze & Royal. They are responsible for some of the hottest songs by Tyga, The Game, Chris Brown, Ke$ha, and more.
Music is Coleman’s cathartic passion and his way of communicating love, art and spirituality. Mere words can be misconstrued, but lyrical content with sound delivers much more than a simple conversation, it delivers energy.
We got a chance to sit down with James Coleman to chat about his work, and tips for up and coming song-writers!
How do you approach song-writing? (music or lyrics) (i.e. do you prefer playing your own instruments, or writing to an instrumental that already made?)
I typically come up with a title first which is always part of the chorus. This keeps me on point with what the motivation is for the song. From there I write a musical composition, and usually do a number of “mumble” tracks to lock in a melody… After this I summon the devil on route 66 where he guides me the rest of the way.
What are some tools that you use?
Everything can be used as a tool. Gosh, I’ve used a typewriter-buttons clicking-to program a looped snare.
What’s your favorite song that you’ve written?
Every new song I write is my favorite. Then I work it to death until it’s perfected. After that, I pretty much hate it. It’s the way the process goes, unfortunately.
What’s a defining moment in your career thus far?
Signing to Warner Bros. back in the day… Actually it was a tour to New York where my bandmates and I stayed up in the Marriott Marquis Suites, and acted like a bunch of 15year olds. We carjacked a little Ferrari power wheels and drove it around the lobby-tackled each other in the midst of groups of people just to get reactions-and left love notes of a plethora of door steps… Somehow we got away with a lot.
Do you have any tips for upcoming singers and song-writers?
Yes. Don’t be a narcissist. It’s about the music. It’s not about your image. Stop “following your dreams” and actually work. Also, don’t be lazy, and make sure you’re making money somehow.
How do you know when a song is done?
You know a song is done when… You’ll just know. Follow the formula. It’s an easy formula. Listen to top 40, and follow their structure. Don’t follow their sound or lyrical content, just the formula.. You’re not re-inventing the wheel.
What’s your process for finalizing songs/demos?
I usually have a team. I start my song both lyric and composition; then I ship to my co-producer where they add elements, production, and give feedback. We then have another set of ears mix and master. We all chime in on that. It’s a great process!
How do you stay focused and productive?
I get up early in the morning to meditate, work-out and read. I make checklists for my days, weeks, months, years, and follow a plan of attack to accomplish those goals.
Where do you get inspiration?
The Spirit. Dark moments. Anything extreme.
How do you deal with writers-block?
I roll with it. It happens. It’s a good idea to fall in love at this time, because when you break-up, you’ll have something to write about. Kidding. Realistically, it’s a good time to be pragmatic. Study, learn other crafts, focus on older material, go through your catalogue, listen to new music-think outside the box.
Who are some of your biggest influences and why?
John Lennon. His charisma, his mental evolution, his desire to deliver peaceful music.
What are some of your favorite placements?
To be honest, I am grateful for every placement one of my songs has received. It’s an honor to hear your music in a film or TV series.
What are you listening to right now?
This should be obvious. Vampire Weekend “Father of The Bride”.
How do you feel about the current state of music?
There is a lot of pop shite that I honestly do not understand. It’s deeply narcissistic. Why in the world do you want to listen to a song where a dude is exclaiming how great he is?
On the other hand, there is a lot of experimental music that is easy to find with new platforms, which is a blessing and a curse.
Tell us about a time when you needed to change your production style to accommodate an artist.
This happens. If they are respectful, they might meet you in the middle, if they are self involved, they will ruin the entire experience if they don’t get exactly what they desire. I call them Khardashianist’s.
What do you do for fun when you aren’t working on music?
I love to drive my vintage Beemer up the canyon, next to the river, only to park and pontificate.
What’s a crazy experience you’ve had in the industry or a writing session?
Honestly, working a couple tracks with “Jess Cates” was incredible. His talent was unmistakable, and mesmerizing. He has written so many hits, and you wouldn’t expect it until he jumps on the piano
Who would you want to collaborate with that you haven’t already?
Working with Matisyahu was a desire fulfilled. However, Trent Reznor, and Martin Gore are the two that I would trust with production. They are older, wiser, and incredible artists.