James pursues career from local home base
Written by DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Arts & Entertainment Editor
Monday, 13 August 2012 08:58
Luke James, who made a splash when he made the cut to go to Hollywood in "American Idol," is sticking closer to homes these days.
|Luke James performing on ‘Take the Stage’ on MySpace (Photo courtesy of Abrey Watterson-YOBI.tv)
That will include a grandstand show at the Pemberville Fair Wednesday at 9 p.m.
Not that he's trimmed the sails of his ambitions. He's also appearing online in "Take the Stage" produced by the talent competition network YOBI.tv for MySpace.
The series filmed last spring in Detroit has nine contestants, who were culled from the masses who made online applications.
The singers are mentored by industry heavyweights Johnny Wright, who has worked with Justin Timberlake, Janet Jackson, Britney Spears and others, and producer Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins, who has worked with Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Beyonce, Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson.
James - the stage name of Luke James Shaffer - realized after living in New York City that "the internet is so accessible" it makes a career possible no matter where a musician lives. That's where he happened upon Take the Stage. He applied and was one of those accepted to go to Detroit where 18 episodes were filmed in nine grueling days.
The contestants also have home work, producing a vlog - a video blog - for each episode in which they reflect on that particular show.
The first 10 episodes and vlogs and additional material are available at: www.myspace.com/takethestage.
Unlike "American Idol" the show focuses on the performers doing their own original songs, not singing covers. "That's one of the things that drew me to it," he said.
Jerkins is a Grammy-winner and "he knows how songs are written," James said, and he's willing to share his knowledge James and the other contestants.
"Even if I don't win, I've learned a lot about it."
For each episode the contestants put into a situation they'd face as a major artist. One episode focused on modeling in a photo shoot. Another challenged them to write a jingle for a brand of water.
"They're trying to show us what it would be like to be a career musicians," James said.
In the most recent episode, guest mentor Mike McCoy, a Clear Channel program director, asked each singer to present a song that was ready for radio.
James offered up "Marching On," a single he recorded in Nashville as a prize for winning another online competition.
McCoy had high praise for the song, noting that people were moving and singing along on the set. He called it "a ready-made hit."
James, a 2003 Eastwood High School graduate, credits his mother Deb Shaffer, a community theater veteran, with getting him started singing.
"She passively forced me" to join high school choir. Later came a guitar, and gigs at area nightspots followed.
James moved on to Bowling Green State University, graduating in 2008 with a degree in interpersonal communications and the ambition to be a singer.
James has returned to the more familiar environs of Northwest Ohio where he performs his alternative rock originals and covers regularly at Bar Louie in Perrysburg and in Cleveland.
He works both as a single and with a band.
In September he'll start recording his first album. He wants to give it that professional sheen that demands to be taken seriously. That would "give me some legitimacy."
He doesn't have any interest in trying "American Idol" again. Now in its 12th season, the show has lost its edge. He'd be more interested in "The Voice," but even then he's hoping to set reality TV aside by doing well on "Take the Stage."
Whatever happens,, he committed to being a performer.
"I've really been blessed to play music full time and make a living," James said. "I've learned it's important to do something you love even if you don't make a lot of money. I've been given this passion to play music, so I shouldn't give up on it and get a desk job. Even if I'm not going to make a million dollars, I'm not going to give it up."