Like many great American singer/songwriters, there is a familiarity about James Dunn's voice — almost as if you've heard it before. But as you listen further, it becomes clear there is a unique quality that resonates through his music and songs. Crafted in the true spirit of American rock, Dunn's new album, "The Long Ride Home," marks his second recording release, a follow-up to his 2006 debut, "Lonely American Dream."
Dunn began writing songs after college, having had no prior experience playing or writing music. But a long-running interest in music, a vinyl copy of "Born to Run," an old record player, and an old steel guitar passed down from his grandfather led to songwriting and some songs began to take shape.
For his new record, Dunn headed to Nashville, Tenn. and TrueTone Recording to work with producers Brian Layson and Tres Sasser. David Henry (Steve Earle, R.E.M, Guster, Cowboy Junkies) engineered the record, while Justin Tocket (Marc Broussard, Radney Foster) mixed and Richard Dodd (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Roy Orbison, Wilco) mastered. Of the album, Dunn says, "I had this notebook with a bunch of songs, ranging from stuff I had written quite a few years ago to songs I wrote very recently. I knew I wanted to try and take my sound and songs to another level. I was fortunate to connect with some great musicians and producers who were genuinely excited about what I was trying to do with this project. They had the same passion, vision and ideas about the musical 'treatment' to give the new tunes. In regard to musical tastes, I think there's really a little bit of something for everyone on this record."
Dunn was born in New Jersey and moved to North Carolina in his youth. Since college he has spent time living in Kentucky and Tennessee, and recently returned to Raleigh, N.C. He wrote his first record, "Lonely American Dream," in an old apartment above an antique store in downtown Raleigh. Dunn recalls, "That apartment just had tons of character. It just sort of inspired creative thoughts and really was the driving force, so to speak, to move forward and actually record my music. I had a lot going on during that time and it seemed to flow out of the pen as song lyrics."
Since his first recording release, Dunn has twice been named by Country Music Television as one of America's top unsigned Americana artists. The network has featured two of his songs: "Lonely American Dream" and "The Oak Tree." Thanks to airplay on satellite radio and hometown radio and TV stations, to go along with many live shows, Dunn has managed to build a strong fan base despite his indie status.
ASM: You got a late start in music. Tell us about your childhood and where you grew up.
Dunn: I was born in Wayne, New Jersey, which is about 30 minutes west of NYC. I lived there until I was 7. I then moved to Cary, North Carolina and lived there until I went to college at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C. During the summers, I can recall traveling Jersey Shore with my family. North Carolina was a great state to grow up in.
ASM: What were your interests during those years?
Dunn: Sports. Baseball was my favorite to play. I spent many many weekends with my dad at the field practicing... I played basketball... tennis. I was always a huge college basketball fan. I loved N.C. State basketball and many of my fondest memories of my childhood were the times going to N.C. State basketball games with my dad. I can recall playing entire NCAA basketball tournaments in my imagination while in my driveway.