What does one do following a life–changing injury, caused by something you’ve been doing your whole life? For some, they might focus on their health and, hopefully, return to what they once loved. For others, they might see an opportunity to dive into something completely new.
For James The Seventh, the answer was closer to the latter.
“When my parents found out I was doing music, it kind of hit them out of nowhere because it was just always ballet,” the artist recalls. Yet, the Pennsylvania–born Bethany Latham concludes, “I can honestly say now that I do have a better relationship with music than I did with ballet.”
Despite the apparent shock to her parents, it was, in fact, her dad who bought her first guitar. What James Sr. didn’t know, however, was that he was planting a seed in this young artist, one which would wait patiently to blossom for many years. During the period of her recovery, James The Seventh learned how to play the guitar, and after some encouragement from her sister, decided to pursue a music career.
“I got into songwriting, mid–quarantine, and I ended up showing my sister. She was like, ‘You should make music or something!’ I thought she was joking at first, but she was like, ‘No, I'm serious!’” Her sister then introduced her to Gabriel Gaffney Smith, who co–produced James The Seventh's debut single, “You Don’t Know Me.”
James The Seventh's stage name is a dedication to her father, who came from a long line of ancestors, all named James. After debuting with the Billie Eilish–esque single just a little over a year ago, James The Seventh has now reached over one million streams on Spotify across only five singles.
When asked about the comparison to the young pop star, she seemed unsurprised, citing Eilish—as well as MARINA, Paramore, and Lana Del Rey—as her main musical inspirations. “You Don’t Know Me” places these influences on clear display, with raw vocals found set behind a polished, rubbery synth line. “I only want the ones that don't know me” goes the chorus, and the singer reveals that “the one” in this case is actually Harry Styles. Sparse claps and snaps join along with more instrumentation during the second chorus, creating a clearly antagonistic backdrop for a song that comments on the obsession of celebrity culture and crushes.
It was her second single, “Turn A Blind Eye,” that refined James The Seventh's style. More closely aligned to the “dreamy pop music” the singer describes, “Turn A Blind Eye,” with its chilling instrumental and vocals like a breath of frost, sounds like a Stan Twitter fever dream collaboration between Del Rey and Eilish. But don’t mistake her for either of those stars, because the self–taught musician’s voice is distinctively her own. “If life is a game I've been racing through the course / Had my eyes on the prize from the day I was born,” goes the song's second verse, and the autobiographical tone really resonated with listeners. “Turn A Blind Eye” became James The Seventh’s most–streamed song, thanks also in part due to her constant TikTok presence.
In fact, it's become commonplace to find this up–and–coming musician via her use of social media platforms. With over 2.5 million likes and nearly 200k followers, James The Seventh was able to share her music with the world through the magic of TikTok. Perusing through her feed, you’ll find memes, covers, and even some behind–the–scenes footage.
“TikTok is a great app to promote your music because it gives you a direct line to potential listeners and supporters,” the singer comments. She sees TikTok as a launchpad that could help others establish their careers in music.
Also on her TikTok page? Performances from her time at Billboard NXT, a singing competition sponsored by Billboard Magazine for up–and–coming artists. James The Seventh placed sixth in the final ranking, where she demonstrated her artistic versatility through, for example, a cover of Paramore’s “Misery Business” and her own “Turn A Blind Eye.”
What James The Seventh really excels at is storytelling. “Music is great at making people feel less alone with their emotions, so that’s something I would love people listening to my music to feel,” she comments, and she does just that. Her songwriting style is personal and reads like poetry. At times, her lyricism even merits comparison to Taylor Swift in its use of hyper–specificity which, paradoxically, allows listeners to immerse themselves even more deeply in her narratives.
James The Seventh employs a similar technique. Lyrics like “I know nothing lasts forever but now I'm so / Tired of caring more, than they do / Wouldn't it be nice to not care too?” from “Wouldn’t It Be Nice to Not Care Too?“ or “gambling my dignity’s something I’d never do” from “When the Night Begins to Fall” reveal a brutal honesty that's simple yet impactful.
Her artistic vision doesn’t stop at her music. James The Seventh subscribes to the belief that an album's cover art can sometimes be just as important as the music contained within.
“Sometimes I will only click a song because I like the cover art, so I think it's very important. But also, it's fun to just add the visual element, and I think it's really cool when people sort of create a whole creative world with their music. I try to do that with the limited resources I have,” the singer says.
Those limited resources would be the collection of antiques that belonged to her mother, and most of her single covers are adorned with these artifacts of the past. The objects hold a certain aura of mystery and intrigue, which combines with the distinctly DIY quality of the images James the Seventh produces to create a mystic feeling that mirrors her dreamy pop music.
It wasn't until “Double Edged Sword,” her fourth standalone single, that James the Seventh made her first music video. One can tell that her artistic vision came to life through the surreal, gothic visuals. “It's a lovely façade but you're still feeling ignored” she sings, and indeed, the video feels like a lonely fever dream.
It’s baffling to think that James The Seventh is a self–taught musician. She believes her violin–playing experience from when she was little certainly helped, but the artist admits she's never taken any music theory classes. A listener certainly wouldn't pick up on that from the attention to detail she turns towards her production. Every song starting from “Turn A Blind Eye” onwards has been entirely self–produced, and the subtle drops and transitions between sections appear to be the work of an experienced producer.
In our interview, James the Seventh revealed that a new single is on the horizon, aiming for a tentative Feb. 11th release. Titled “The Moon,” she described the song as laced with yearning for the past: “I used to be a very nostalgic person. I would convince myself that [the past] was better than the present, and it would deter me from appreciating the present moment. I don’t think I feel this way anymore because I’m pretty happy with where I am in life right now.”
The song also features a sound she hasn't explored before, which she labels as akin to psych rock. “I’m always listening to psychedelic rock, but I was really listening to psychedelic rock. I like a nice guitar riff,” the singer gushes. An EP is also in the cards for the near future, although the 21–year–old admits that it might be further down the line due to college. “I really want to release a full body of work at some point.”
Maybe it'll play out just like one of her TikToks: an artist at the infancy of her music career, waiting to make it big. What’s refreshing about James The Seventh, though, is that she never loses sight of her vision. Don’t be surprised if in the future, James The Seventh blows up as an indie–pop sensation in her own right.