Local singer/songwriter Jerry James featured artist in Theatre Victoria's 'A Lone Star Night'
By ALICE ADAMS
Aug. 14, 2010 at 3:14 a.m.
Jerry James, the city of Victoria's director of environmental services, spends his days concerned about water resources, solid waste treatment and air quality, but in his spare time, he is a singer/guitarist and songwriter.
He will be one of the performers at this weekend's "A Lone Star Night" at Theatre Victoria.
The 57-year-old James said he grew up in Houston singing and playing the guitar.
"I was 12 or 13 when I learned to play the guitar," he remembered. "That was back in the days when the Beatles were popular. I had always loved music and I think I learned to play guitar to impress the girls. That's the motivation for just about everything you do at that age. After high school, James attended the University of Houston, where he earned a degree in public management. "But during my college career, I also - at one time or another- majored in music, studied opera and played in country, rock and blues bands around Houston," he said.
After college, he spent his spare time working as a singer/songwriter, playing in clubs in Houston's Montrose area and in towns around southeast Texas.
"I played at Gilley's in Pasadena during the Urban Cowboy days.
Then he married his wife Debbie in 1984.
"We met when I was playing a gig in Baytown. In fact I've written a piece titled 'Debbie's Song,' which I'm thinking about singing in 'A Lone Star Night.' That's when I settled down and became a family man, and it has been the most wonderful thing in my life."
In 1994, the James family, which by then included three daughters, moved to Victoria when he accepted a job with the city.
"Then, about two years ago, when I was 55 and our kids were grown, I decided it was time to go back to my music as well as playing the guitar and mandolin," the songwriter said.
He began singing for friends and later at Greek Bros. and Rosebud restaurants and at private parties.
James, who also serves on the Edwards Aquifer Board, spends time unraveling endangered species issues and often travels to San Antonio for meetings.
He gets inspiration during his from his travels, as well as at home.
Usually a quiet, unassuming personality, James said his stage character is much more outgoing than he is.
"When I'm on stage, I'm performing and that guy is much more gregarious than I am," he confessed. "There's a certain amount of art and skill to connect with an audience and I often step outside myself to make that connection."
"My music has helped me feel comfortable when I'm up in front of people and it also has strengthened my communication skills," he said. "I'm working with a group in the San Marcos/New Braunfels area right now on endangered species. When we have two- or three-day conferences, I take my guitar. During the day, there's a serious focus on endangered species, but at night I play and sing and people get to know me through my music.
"Dealing with environmental issues is about bringing people together, and my music helps there, too."
James said music provides his life with a creative outlet. "It's a sanity check, especially if I've had a stressful day. I also work hard on my music, but at the same time, it's a lot of fun and it helps keep me in balance."
"I'm almost 60 years old and feel blessed because I do what I love," he added, "and I tell my kids not to stop looking until they find something they really love to do."