Busking to the big time

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A lucrative night busking in Queenstown sparked Graeme James’ professional music career.

“I was busking in Queenstown, in 2012, and I made $1000 in a night,’’ the 32-year-old indie musician tells Mountain Scene.

“I thought ‘maybe I should do this properly’. The decision was made while I was driving back through the Kawarau Gorge.’’

He returns to the resort as a critically-acclaimed artist next weekend, as part of his ‘Long Way Home’ tour.

A musician from a young age, he started playing the violin at age seven.

“I went down that path all through high school, that was pretty much my career goal at the time, to be a concert violinist.’’

But a shoulder injury meant he couldn’t practise as much as he needed to, so at uni he traded the violin for a guitar and started writing his own music.

He also has a long history with busking.

“Dad used to drag my brother and I out on the street to play Christmas carols when I was in my early teens, which was super mortifying,’’ he laughs.

“I was terrified that anyone I knew would see me. But I think it did give me the confidence to perform in front of all sorts of people.’’

His family also had a band, and James says he was influenced by growing up in that environment.

“If I trace it back, my musical journey began there, listening to some pretty obscure folk music.’’
James has since released two albums, toured North America, and his track Young Blood has more than nine million hits on Spotify.

His latest album, Long Way Home, was penned before he moved to Europe.

“It’s a journey album looking at the concepts of home, travel, time,’’ he says.

“It’s interesting in that it was written before I left on that journey, the anticipation of it, looking at questions like ‘when you leave and come back, are you the same person?’, ‘is home the same place?’.’’

To catch Graeme James, head to Sherwood, Saturday, 9.30pm, $20