For a normal 16 yr old, notable accomplishments might be good grades or getting a driver’s license. Preston James however, isn’t your normal 16 yr old. A wicked guitarist with a soulful voice and a million-dollar smile, Preston is truly something special.
“Preston is on the fast track,” Coach Blake Shelton stated after his battle-round performance on NBC’s Season 11 of The Voice (Fall 2016). “It is enticing to see that kind of greatness in a kid,” remarked Adam Levine. “Preston, you don’t need The Voice,” added Miley Cyrus.
No truer statements have been said. Music has been part of Preston’s DNA and lifestyle from the beginning. Family range from gospel singers in church to an aunt who sang for years at Dollywood. His father was the tour manager for Collin Raye and his mother owned a publicity firm representing several notable country music artists including the Dixie Chicks, The Judds, George Strait, Martina McBride, Miranda Lambert among others.
The talents of those artists must have rubbed off on him (Naomi Judd & Lambert baby sat him a time or two) because Preston wrote his first song at eight and before he was old enough for a learner’s permit, he had performed at numerous Music City’s hot spots. He won the 2015 Nashville Blues Challenge (Youth Division) which led to a performance at BB Kings in Memphis during the International Blues Challenge. In 2016, he was invited to perform during a city-wide metro school presentation with the Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, the CMA and Darius Rucker and became a regular at Acme Feed & Seed on Lower Broad.
This year, Preston had the honor of performing with his hero Delbert McClinton on the Sandy Beaches Cruise and sat in with the Grammy Award-winning Time Jumpers with Vince Gill’s own guitar. In addition, the famed Wildhorse Saloon added him to their prestigious In-house artist roster and several other notable music venues book him on a regular basis.
With shows and media appearances throughout the southeast along with writing and recording new music (due out this summer) plus finishing high school, Preston rarely slows down. When he does, he spends his free time doing what has shaped him into the artist he is at such an early age – “quiet” time playing guitar and listening to an insane catalog of music most teenagers have never heard of.
If asked about his early successes, the conversation will immediately turn from business to music, dead artists and guitars. Despite his age, Preston is a surprisingly old-soul artist, driven by song and enamored with substance over flash. Starting around age seven, he spent many hours immersed in the tunes of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Ray Charles and Freddie King and with Centennial Jam Band, his bands performed hits from his favorite 60s and 70s rock bands – The Rolling Stones, Allman Brothers, Eagles, ZZ Top to name a few.
Guitarists like Stevie Ray Vaughn & Duane Allman held his attention for hours but the story in a well-written song led his heart to country music greats like Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings and Vince Gill along with newer artists Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell.
It’s the music that drives him most and his musical journey has taken him from classic rock to blues to country music even a little jazz and bluegrass all of which has formed what he calls his own brand of “Southern Soul.”
“I want to make great music like what I enjoy listening to. I’m a big fan of guys who are true artists. They’re both mainstream AND critically acclaimed. I’d like to head in that direction, – definitely always substance over mainstream though.”