A Conversation with James Colah

Our moderator, Andye Andinha, had a cool conversation with James Colah – keyboardist for ‘The Adventures’ (an opening band for Tears for Fears during the band’s most notable years on the road). Fans of the magazine called ‘Record Mirror’ dated October 26, 1985 should check out the last two back pages as there is a write up about ‘The Adventures.’ On the very last night of the tour, The Adventures were invited on stage to sing ‘Shout’ with Tears for Fears. That’s an honour that many of us cherish!

James recently joined two Tears for Fears online fan groups, one of which is the fan forum where other band members can be seen from time to time. It’s such an honour to have him in the fold, get to know more about him, his work and love of music on his website. But first, enjoy this great chat!

Andye: James, thank you so much for re-joining the world of Tears for Fears. We’re so honoured to have you with us. We cherish everyone that played alongside them past and present. Let’s start with your incredible background and upbringing. You’re one of identical triplets?! Did you all enjoy the same music growing up or did you enjoy each other’s musical tastes? Let me also ask if you’re still close and perform together…and Jazz, why Jazz? Who were your influences for this incredible genre of music?

James Colah: Hi Andye. Yes, I’m one of identical triplets, and if you’re interested to know I’m the eldest by 10 minutes and then approx 10 minutes later Marke arrived and then Peter approx 10 minutes after that! We have another brother, Simon who is 16 months older than us.

Our parents were classical music and opera freaks so you may be surprised to know that we didn’t really listen to modern music until we were about 12 years old. I remember my brothers and I at about 8 years old being taken to many Classical music and Opera concerts including at ‘The Royal Albert Hall’ (here in London) to watch an opera although to be honest I think we all fell asleep after a few minutes, LOL!

My father studied to become an opera singer but I think was persuaded to get a proper job, Lol! He also studied classical piano and started teaching me the piano at 4 years old and I continued to have formal piano lessons until I was about 17 years old.

We are third generation musicians, although our mother was not a musician all her siblings were. One of her brothers was the lead cellist in “The Mantovani Orchestra” and am always proud to tell people that he performed in the orchestra with ‘The Beatles’ on the very first global BBC ‘All You Need Is Love’ satellite broadcast in 1967. Our mother’s father was a session musician and wrote music for film.

At the age of around 12 years old we were somehow introduced to modern music and that music was called Jazz Rock or Fusion music and still my favourite band of all time is ‘The Mahavishnu orchestra.’ Our minds were blown away by that style of music so at still 12 years old we formed a Jazz Rock band called ‘The Colah Brothers.’ Marke played Bass guitar and lead vocals and Peter played guitar and I of course was on keyboards. We did our first concerts at 13 years old and toured Europe at 16 years old and at 22 years old were signed to Sony/CBS/Epic records.

We were signed for 2 years and then I decided to leave my brothers and became a session musician and in 1989 started up my music production company ‘James Colah Productions’ composing, performing, producing, mixing and mastering music for Singer/Songwriters which I still do to this day!

Unfortunately my brothers and I haven’t performed together for many many years however my brother Marke is still a professional musician/singer and also teaches singing. Peter is no longer in the music business but has been a very successful Financial Consultant running his own business for many years.

Andye: Absolutely incredible! What a truly impressive music family you come from! You’ve got relatives playing with The Beatles, you are certainly blessed! We’ll have to follow your brother too. We’re all about music careers of siblings. Both Roland and Curt have brothers in music and we follow them like puppies. Given that ‘The Adventures’ were the band that toured as an opener to Tears for Fears, we’d love to know where they discovered you.

James Colah: As a session musician I had adverts everywhere looking for work and I remember one year performing with 10 bands. I had an advert in the prestigious ‘Melody Maker’ magazine and ‘The Adventures’ actually called me up and invited me over for an audition and as the saying goes, the rest is history, LOL!

Andye: Ah okay, wow! They found you! We’re so glad they did. We as fans are very much attached to our memories of concerts and we make note of all who opened for Tears for Fears. We see that there are fans remembering you and you responded to them in the fan group. It’s beautiful to see and we’re happy that your presence made an impact on their concert experience. Speaking of connections…we’re all about connecting with musicians on a level beyond standing in front of them at a show listening. We like to write and keep in touch, help promote music and various projects. How were the crowds in the 80s? Did you feel you could do that back then? Was it safer? Were you stalked?

James Colah

James Colah: ‘The Songs From The Big Chair’ tour in 1985 was one of the biggest tours of that year playing to audiences of up to 13,000 people! I had previously not played to such huge crowds so the experience was mind blowing and loved every second of it. The people were amazing and was always treated like a star.

James Colah ID

Andye: That’s so good to hear! They are super polite and kind that’s for sure. Being in their presence and always having something material in our hands that they touched or produced is important to a lot of us. I know some carry their music everywhere in one form or fashion. We often won’t open the original music but will keep it and then go buy or download an mp3. That goes for the songs of the bands that have opened for them as well as their siblings music. That brings me to this…there are so many differences in the way we consume music now vs. the 80s and 90s. Digital media is the staple with streaming services, etc. What are your thoughts on that? Is it helping you distribute better or do you miss anything from the way it was before?

James Colah: Unfortunately for independent songwriters/artists like myself the internet has generally been our downfall because sadly the majority of people are stealing our music so we are receiving pennies for all our hard work. The streaming services are not supporting us either and to give you an example of how bad things are a legendary Guitarist/Songwriter with many hit records had 15 million streams on a major streaming website for one of his songs and earned just $1,500.

The main advantage today (due to the internet) is that anyone with a laptop, some software and no musical instrument training can create and release music for potentially the world to hear. Obviously before the internet that would not have been possible because you would have had to be signed to a record company who would have invested a lot of money in you in recording costs and promotion so only the most talented people would get signed.

The downside to anyone being able to release music is that there’s no quality control and now the world is over saturated with music including music from many inexperienced talentless musicians/ artists/producers!
Having been signed to the biggest record company in the world (Sony Records) I do now much prefer to be an independent artist because I can produce the music I want and not have anyone telling me how it should sound or be changed, etc, as it’s my way or the highway, LOL!

Andye: Mmmhmm…I see. We’ve always worried about top quality being buried or overlooked. Having worked in entertainment, news and media/technology all of my life I can relate to some of the pains you mentioned. It’s become a lot of noise of late, everybody has a song and their friend has a song and you multiply that by 1,000 and well…it’s a lot to watch and weed through to find the best. We’re happy that at least you can produce music, connect with audiences on a different level now and hopefully watch that dedication turn into currency.

Now, let me go on a deeper path here. You are very youthful and have a good energy. Do you find spirituality helps you in your art? Are you a praying man?

James Colah: I’ve been so blessed to have been in the music business all my life and have never done any other type of job. When you love what you do it’s bound to keep you young looking, and mentally and physically healthy. I have a strong faith in God and my constant mantra is ‘Thank you Lord.’

Andye: Amen. WE agree! And there is a power in music. Yours is so deep and so rich, that one can feel it way down deep in one’s Manipura Chakra, that’s wayyyy down deep. It’s clear that it’s from years of doing this, it seems like second nature to you. Do you ever find producing challenging?

James Colah: Thank you so much for your kind words about my music – it really means a lot to me. Composing/Producing music for clients is not so challenging because I’ve been doing it professionally since 1989 and when I’m contacted by a potential client the first thing I say is, “Please check out my music productions and over 4 decade professional career and then get back to me agreeing that you will trust me 100% because if you don’t I’d rather you found another producer!” Once I know they completely trust me they let me just get on with it so the process can run very smoothly. However, I must be honest and say when I produce my own music it can take a very very long time because I’m always trying new things. I’m a total perfectionist, which has cursed me all my life!

Andye: Ahhh, the music perfectionist. Yes, that can be a challenge to oneself. But the outcome is so heavenly. So, with that in mind, of your work, which two songs are you most proud?

James Colah: In 2009 I released my first Smooth Jazz track called ‘Ocean Tide’ and to date have released 12 Smooth Jazz tracks and for many years have been very proud to be known all around the world as ‘The UK’s #1 indie Smooth Jazz Artist’ and have won many awards!

I compose/produce so many styles of music for my clients and have actually also had 7 #1’s in The UK Soul Charts for a client called ‘Kejam.’ I compose, perform, produce, mix and master all the ‘Kejam’ music and the guy that hired me to do all that was the ‘Executive Producer.’
In total with my music and the music I compose for my clients I’ve had at least 20 #1’s in at least 39 charts all around the world!
The two songs that I’m really proud of are ‘Ocean tide’ and a Soul/RnB track called ‘Could It Be’ Featuring ‘Belle.’ A few years ago ‘Could It Be’ was voted on BBC Radio, ‘Soul Track Of The Year’ which was an incredible honour!

Andye: Congratulations, your accolades and accomplishments are certainly noted and it’s honour to talk with someone who has done so much over the years including being one of the most important parts of a show – an opening set for Tears for Fears. Tell us, please, what are two of your most fond memories of touring alongside Tears for Fears?

James Colah: I have so many fond memories of supporting ‘Tears For Fears.’ I’ll never forget the loyalty and excitement of the fans and performing in some of the most famous venues throughout America and Canada including 5 nights at the Radio City Music Hall in New York, Red Rocks in Denver Colorado and The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville Tennessee – to name a few!

Andye: Oh wow, the Grand Ole Opry, I haven’t been there in over 10 years. Those are some incredible venues. Makes us all hope that when this global illness passes we can get on with our concert attending and band loyalty. I’m sure you’re looking forward to upcoming projects. What can we expect to hear from you next? What’s coming down the pipeline that fans can start the countdown for this year or next?

James Colah: Due to the pandemic and lockdown work has obviously been very quiet but as soon as it’s lifted am itching to get back and work with clients, and by the way am always looking for new Singer/Songwriters to produce so if there’s anyone out there please feel free to contact me because my motto has always been, “As long as you can sing or hum a melody – I can make something great happen.” And actually even if you don’t have a vocal melody I can compose/produce all the music for you and then you can put your vocal melody over the top. It happened this way for a song I composed and produced for an amazing Singer/Songwriter called, ‘Helena Greber.’ The song was released earlier this year called, ‘Something Beautiful’ and reached #1 on ‘The cdbaby Electronic – Pop Crossover Chart.’

I have a lot of exciting projects to announce this year but right now I want to keep them a secret but rest assured if you follow me on social media you’ll be the first to hear about them!

Andye: James, this has been more than a pleasure getting to know you on a personal level and to embrace you into the world of people that we celebrate. Thank you so much for this great conversation. Let’s keep in touch and so we can continue to share your music and maybe send some new and seasoned singers your way to produce!

James Colah: Thank you so much for having me and just want to say a huge thank you to you Andye for contacting me and arranging this interview and to all the Tears For fears fans around the world who have discovered me through the TFF fans pages and my social media pages and have shown interest in me and my music. Please feel free to go to my website where you can hear a lot of my music and even purchase it by clicking on my ‘Store’ tab or from up to 300 stores around the world including iTunes, Amazon, Play, Spotify and more.

Andye: We’re already on it! Looking to do a fun listening party online featuring your music in the near future! Cheers!

James Colah: That’s awesome – thank you Andye. Oh and by the way, please send Curt my best wishes and wish him a Very Happy Birthday from me and I can’t quite believe it but we’re now celebrating 35 years since the ‘Songs From The Big Chair’ America/Canada tour so maybe a reunion with the boys is in order, LOL?

Andye: We’re all about reunions! Bring it on!