I met Kevin James in Bali last fall at one of his kirtan gatherings in Ubud. Kevin has a strong following here in Bali and abroad. He grew up in Australia and though he has a smooth baritone voice like country star Randy Travis (albeit with less twang), and he is a talented guitar player, it wasn’t until later in life that he found his true passion and dharma: to bring greater joy and connection for others through music, chanting and song.
Kevin had been recording his 4th album with our mutual friend Soma, a talented sound engineer from England, when we connected again around the possibility of me creating a music video for one of the songs on his new album.
You can listen to and download Kevin’s music, as well as watch his latest video at at http://kevinjamesheartsongs.com
Kevin, “Aum Tara” is one of my favorite songs from your new album “Heartstrings.” The first line of the song “I call upon the light of my soul help me to see through my own darkness” made me reflect on my own life. In your online autobiography I read that the Tibetan Buddhist teaching of Dzogchen introduced you to Eastern philosophy. You wrote “for the first time since entering my teens, I felt that I wasn’t alone in this world.” Can you tell me a little about your own journey through darkness and light, and how this has influenced your music?
"My songs have always been a reflection of my own inner journey. They have been my inspirations and anthems of a journey that I shared with the people around me. In my writing, I would often feel into what do WE want to be singing. Basing from my own experience and doing my best to avoid any dogma so there is a feeling of inclusion for all."
Kevin, tell me what inspired you to write the song, “Heaven in Your Eyes“? What do you want people to take away from it? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQKnslOgSDw)
"I wrote this song with the intention to remind us that heaven is inside us in the form of positive emotions that can only come through us. We cannot possess them or find them in things. So, if we share them, we can experience them more. It's petty simple but nice to be reminded. In this song I encourage us to take action to connect."
Kevin, also on “Heartstrings,“ is “All Rise Together.” I see it as is a song of hope. What do you believe we need for a shift in human consciousness, to evolve to be more kind and caring to one another? How are your songs inspired by the idea of our connection to one another (“the illusion of a separated self”)?
"Before stepping out into the world with my music, I spent 10 years off the grid so to peak, living close to nature to try to find a way to help solve the dysfunction in our culture in an attempt to do something meaningful with my life.
I suppose I realized that the illusion of a separate imaginary self was at the core of it. But separating myself and living outside the system was not an answer. I realized that we need to make this journey of reconnection together. So my coming out into the world is the outcome of the desire to join and connect with others who have the same intention, strengthening the movement rather that coming from a space of separation and wanting to change others or the world. My music is a hand reaching out to join and sing together, to affirm what we already desire or perhaps reaching people as a reminder, or to find a resonance with the words. This intention is reflected in that song for sure."
Kevin, you’ve been on tour for a while now with your daughter Shenteh. You originally wrote the song “Om Gaia” about your love for her. What do you want her to learn from this experience with you and your music?
"Shenteh chose to join me as my hand was reaching out for her. I simply wanted to give her what I could to support her journey into womanhood as a father. Simply to give her all I can to support her to grow and also to relieve the stress of leaving school and working out what she wants to do with her life. Offering the freedom to find her own inner strength and connection to her heart, introducing her to a world and friends that is beyond the limitations of Australia."
Shenteh, has traveling and touring with your father been a “transformational” experience? Please tell me a little about your own story.
"I have experienced a huge transformation since leaving Australia for Bali over two years ago when I was seventeen.
Travelling the world and being immersed in chanting circles as part of yoga, meditation and health retreats have been a huge curve in my learning about myself, the world and relating to a diverse range of people. Throughout my teens I had rejected many of my parents’ ‘alternative’ values and was unstable emotionally. At first it was hard for me to always be the youngest and least experienced person in the room, but it challenged me to learn to really listen and contribute in a more intelligent way. Chanting and kirtan have helped me to connect to people, and be more compassionate and loving."
Shenteh, you sing and play harmonium with your father. What gifts, independent of music, do you want to share with the world? Imagine 20 years from now when you are 39, what advice would you give your 19 year old self?
"I feel like my gift to the world will come through self development and staying connected to myself, friends, family and the land.
If I were to give myself advice it would be to listen, and to be receptive to the opportunities that I am given to grow and expand, to be creative and active in the world, and express myself with love and wisdom."