by Brooke Tunbridge
I first met James four years ago, in my own backyard, after asking him and Donna Arendse, also known as The Septembers, to play at my 17th birthday. It was a laid-back garden party, with their acoustic set providing the perfect soundtrack. I wasn’t the only one mesmerised by their performance; my friends and neighbours the next day asked me for their name and where they could find them. Since then, I’ve witnessed James’ talent on stage with Kilter at Field Day, then recognised his voice on the Hilltop Hoods’ track ‘Higher’, which came in at number 49 in this year’s Triple J Hottest 100.
Donna entered James into a competition for an artist grant supported by APRA, AMCOS and Hilltop Hoods. While he wasn’t successful in receiving the grant, his voice grabbed the attention of the band and their management. ‘Later on they contacted me and asked if I could come in to do a session with them,’ James said.
Now 16,043 kilometres from Newcastle, James Chatburn is making music in Berlin, progressing with his original tracks and exploring the sounds of Europe.
The 26-year-old songwriter and producer grew up in Toronto, Lake Macquarie, up until he was around 19, then moved between Sydney and Newcastle. ‘In that time, I was doing cover gigs, I finished my degree in Audio Production, and I got my first professional full-time job,’ Chatburn explained.
Chatburn’s relocation to Berlin came in 2015 when he came to the realisation that he was not leading the life he wanted: ‘I had a desire to move forward with my original music, so decided to make a change.’ The courage to actually make a change in his life is something I admire, as it’s not something many people are brave enough to do. The amount of people I speak with who have realised they’re not leading the life they wanted, but do absolutely nothing about it, is ridiculous. I understand the need to have financial security, but when you begin to sacrifice your happiness and passion and feel stuck in life, is it really worth it? I’m not suggesting you all pack up and move around the other side of the world, but I think everyone should be inspired by James’ courage in following his passion for making music. Take a life lesson in that you don’t have to settle.
So what is the music scene like in Berlin? Chatburn describes his experience with other creatives as being amazing. ‘Many of the people I’ve met create beautiful music and art. I feel like we’re all working towards similar goals, and it’s inspiring to be surrounded by these people.’ Chatburn commends Donna, Tala and the rest of the team at Lekker Collective for bringing the community together by putting on events, and being ‘a driving force in [his career]’. James added that ‘their events are becoming a staple in the live electronic & soul music scene in Berlin, Germany and soon to be Europe’.
Chatburn’s first release this year was a track called ‘Omens’, which featured on Soulection’s ‘Promise Once More’ compilation. He began working on it in January last year, creating a catalogue of around 20 songs, ‘keeping them in demo form, planning to choose from them later the four or five I would put on an EP’. After Donna had showed James’ music to Monty from Soulection, he then had a deadline that forced him to finish the track just in time for the compilation.
The rest of 2017 will see Chatburn release an EP, which he says will be finished within the next two months. After that has been released, he’ll play as many gigs as possible (so if you have anyone close to you in Berlin, let them know about James Chatburn, and for us here in Newcastle... Well, luckily, we have the internet).