He's toured with Van Morrison, Aretha Franklin, Etta James and Willie Nelson. He's performed on Jay Leno's Tonight Show, David Letterman and Conan O'Brien. Critics just love his singing, his band and his CDs, "People Gonna Talk", "The Hard Way" and "Minute By Minute". We are talking about James Hunter and his band, The James Hunter Six.
Q - James, I saw you on the Jay Leno show awhile back.
A - Oh, yes.
Q - You and your band were the first band he's had on in months and months that were truly a good band to watch and listen to.
A - Nice one. Thanks.
Q - I take it that every guy in your band is a seasoned, veteran musician, correct?
A - I suppose so, yeah.
Q - They've been in other bands, haven't they?
A - Yeah. They've been in other bands. The reason I've kept 'em so long is they're still waiting for me to pay 'em.
Q - You've got two saxophone players in the group. You've got a guy who occasionally plays the stand up bass. That's a throw-back to the early days of Rock 'n' Roll. Is that the type of music you liked growing up?
A - No, not particularly. It's just a preference for a sound, that's all. It's just a preference for a particular style and sound. That's all.
Q - How popular is that particular style of music in England today?
A - It's hard to tell. I don't really have my finger on the pulse of what is popular at the moment. Basically I just make music to please me self.
Q - Would you say your particular style of music is popular in Europe?
A - I don't know. I couldn't really gauge how popular a certain type of music is, to be honest with you. We get a few people at our gigs. That's as near as I can answer your question. (laughs) I don't know how popular other people are. I really couldn't say.
Q - You were born a little too late to fully enjoy the music of the British Invasion, but how about your parents? Did they ever talk about it to you? Did they ever see The Beatles or The Stones?
A - No, not really. They never went to see anything like that. I'm not especially into the British Invasion stuff to be honest. It's alright. I've got a general preference for Black music. I don't know if that's obvious or not. (laughs) We don't exactly sound like The Dave Clark Five, do we?
Q - No, you don't.
A - Or The Hollies.
Q - No, you don't.
A - There you go.
Q - I don't know how far away Liverpool or London was from your hometown.
A - Far enough away. I mean, Colchester is fifty miles from London and for people in our sort of income bracket, fifty miles is a long way to go and see a band. My parents didn't really go out there. There wasn't money to spend on stuff like that.
Q - You toured with Van Morrison. He saw you in Wales and asked you to come onboard. Where did he see you in Wales? At a nightclub?
A - It was a place called The King's Hotel in Newport and I think that's in South Wales.
Q - After he caught your act, did he come backstage and introduce himself?
A - Kind of. The hotel was owned by a mutual friend of ours, so the three of us had a cup of tea afterwards.
Q - Was that the type of venue where people like a Van Morrison would come in?
A - Not especially. Van happened to be a friend of this bloke, as I said, and the bloke invited him along. So, whether he made a habit of going to that place, I don't know. He might have. But it was mainly due to his friendship with the fellow who owns the place.
Q - Because of the Van Morrison tour, word spread and that is how you got to tour with Aretha Franklin?
A - Well, eventually it happened like that. What led to the touring in the States was more related to my manager about ten years after I met Van. When they signed us up and got us touring in the States, that's what started things off. That was in 2006.
Q - Was there ever a point when things just weren't going your way and you thought about quitting the music business/
A - No. I had to take on other work as a necessity, but I never actually stopped performing.
Q - What kind of work did you do?
A - I did labor jobs. I worked for an agency and used to pick up laboring work. I had to cycle around London to do that stuff and work around building sites. Then I started busking. I found it paid better.
Q - And what is busking?
A - Busking is performing on the street.
Q - And so you'd take out your guitar, started singing and people would put money in, say a hat?
A - That's pretty much what a street performance does, yes.
Q - Would you do that at lunch time?
A - It was more at night really.
Q - That would seem dangerous to me.
A - It was. Sometimes it was quite dangerous.
Q - Maybe somebody would observe how much money you're making and try to mug you.
A - We nearly had a couple of those. The danger we were in was more from slightly territorial stuff. We used to get sort of crack head beggars who would try to chase us off their territory. One of them was a fairly well set chap and he gave us some veiled threats. So, I just unplugged my guitar and put it over me shoulder and he changed his mind.
Q - As Summer approaches, you're preparing for a major tour, are you?
A - Yes, that's right.
Q - Does it ever bother you when lesser talents than yourself have all this attention and praise heaped upon them?
A - No, it doesn't bother me at all. I get enough attention. Why sort of begrudge them theirs? There's lots of people in jobs they're not very good at, getting well paid for it. I mean, I'm doing alright, so I couldn't care less. (laughs)