James (Jimmy) at age 10
James with George Jones
James with Roy Acuff
At the age of 10, country music artist James Dean Hicks began making the trip from his home on a farm near Bardstown, Kentucky, to the big-city streets of Nashville. There he appeared regularly on the "WSM Midnight Jamboree" with the Grand Ole Opry greats, including Ernest Tubb and Hank Snow. By the time he was 13, James had opened concerts for Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, George Jones and Tammy Wynette.
From this almost legendary beginning, James has traveled on to success as one of America's premier songwriter/artist!
Two of James' compositions -- "It Takes a Little Rain (To Make Love Grow)" and "This Crazy Love" -- became #1 hits for the Oak Ridge Boys. Then came "Goodbye Time" for Conway Twitty, and "Jesus and Mama", recorded by Confederate Railroad which became James' third #1 hit, followed closely by Sammy Kershaw's chart-topper "National Working Woman's Holiday." James' song "Grandpa Told Me So" soared up the charts for Kenny Chesney, "The Hole" was a hit by Randy Travis and "God Gave Me You" was a hit for Bryan White. He also wrote the title cut "Sweet Kisses" for pop sensation, Jessica Simpson, as well as, "Life is a Party" by Aaron Carter. His song "Goodbye Time" was a #1 hit again when it was recorded by Blake Shelton!
The list of artists who have recorded James Dean Hicks' songs is long. It includes Crystal Gayle, Charlie Daniels, Linda Davis, and Conway Twitty. Some of country's hottest young performers are also well-represented on that list -- John Michael Montgomery, Neal McCoy, Collin Raye, Lorrie Morgan, Bryan White, Skip Ewing, and pop superstars, Aaron Neville and Tony Rich. (See the Discography page for the all-inclusive list.)
James was named after the actor James Dean. "It was always kind of hard living up to that name," James says. "One of my brothers is named after John Wayne, another one is named after Ernest Tubb. So I guess it could have been worse. They could have named me after Doris Day."
"I always wanted to sing and write songs," James recalls. "I used to sit on my swing on the farm, and make up songs. Daddy gave me a guitar and I learned to play by ear and from a chord book."
From age 10 until he was 16, James performed regularly at weekend jamborees. Then he decided he was missing out on a regular childhood, so he laid his music performance career aside to enjoy a normal teenage life. "One night some of my high school buddies tossed me in the back seat of their car and started blasting AC/DC on the radio. I had never heard that kind of music before. I really got into Journey, AC/DC and Bob Seger, and those artists have influenced my music. I literally went from Conway Twitty to AC/DC overnight. It was the best shock my music career could have had."
After earning a music degree in college, the next logical step for James was to move to Nashville to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a professional artist/songwriter. "Staff writing helped me learn my craft," James explains. "It helped me learn the basics and how to knock the rough edges off, and taught me how to write from the heart about real life. The good thing is now I know how to put those rough edges back on."
But there are no rough edges in James Dean Hicks' music. His voice is as smooth as the fine Kentucky bourbon distilled in his hometown. His songs recall the purity of sound and emotion found in the best recordings of Dan Fogelburg, the down-home simplicity of Merle Haggard and the creative edge of Don Henley. His live concerts are both captivating and riveting, as he takes the listener on a musical journey through heartfelt ballads, traditional country themes, and rocking anthems. "If anyone had to pick one word to describe my music, I hope it would be 'honesty'. I want my work to have integrity."
This honesty shines through James' compositions and touches universal emotions: lost love, religious faith, single parenthood, straying children, enduring love. His lyrics are complex and witty, poetic, yet simple.
James performs over 200 shows each year opening for many diverse acts, from Merle Haggard to Bryan White, from the Romantics to Keith Urban.
"To me, the hope of creating a classic is why I write and sing. It's the chance to create something that will out last your days on this earth. Finishing a great song is the biggest thrill of all and then to see the emotion of that song mirrored in the face of an audience brings it full circle.
Albums: Making My Own Way, Somewhere in America
Hometown: Bardstown, Kentucky USA
Birthday: December 13th
Musical Influences: Merle Haggard, Don Henley, ACDC, Jimmie Rogers, Dan Fogelburg, Kansas, Conway Twitty, Foreigner, Aerosmith and Richard Claderman