James Abrahart, better known as JHart, is the mastermind behind some of music’s biggest songs. As one of the most in-demand songwriters and producers in the industry, JHart has already penned music for hitmakers like Justin Bieber, Camila Cabello, Usher, Keith Urban, and Kygo. This Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum selling artist has worked mainly behind-the-scenes, until now.
Building off of the success of his first single, ‘Put It To Bed’, JHart is ready to step into the spotlight and showcase his own talent as a solo artist. Between preparing for the release of his debut album, Vol. 1- Songs From Therapy and opening for Kygo on his current arena tour, JHart found the time to tell Vydia about his journey from songwriter to center stage, plus a sneak peek at his new remix! Here’s what he had to say:
How old were you when you started writing music?
I remember writing my first “original” song over a Whitney Houston karaoke track when I was about 12 years old, and it was about my parents. I wish I was one of those people who could remember the title and all the lyrics but I can’t remember anything except insisting I perform it for them and their friends in the kitchen.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
It’s so hard to say just one, I’m inspired by so many people for different reasons. Beyoncé, Michael Jackson, Bowie, Mutt Lange, Max Martin. That’s like asking me to pick my favorite song of all time, it’s just impossible.
How were you able to turn this hobby into a career and what was the most significant turning point for you?
I worked tirelessly for a long time, I think it was very frustrating in the first few years because I didn’t understand why my music wasn’t connecting and how it was different from the best songs on the radio. Took me a while to grasp the concept of what makes a great melody, song structure and understand strong unique lyricism. I listened to advice and tried to retain as much of it as I could while also trusting my gut instinct. The most significant turning point was probably the first song I wrote for Justin Bieber, “Take You” in 2012.
So far, you have penned music for some of the hottest acts in the industry including Justin Bieber, Camila Cabello, Usher, and Kygo (just to name a few). What have you learned through your experience working with them?
I’ve learned what makes a great artist, and how much I respect those who have an opinion. Whether or not an artist writes their own material shouldn’t matter, what should matter is how involved they are in deciding what they stand for and how authentically they deliver it. I respect when an artist says, “You know what, I’m not a great writer, I trust these people to help me write, my job is to reinterpret this song as my own.” I’ve also worked artists who are great writers and I respect and love that too, but neither more than the other.
Your work with Kygo’s single ‘Permanent’ landed you a spot on his tour. What was the transition like from writing behind-the-scenes to performing in front of a packed arena?
It wasn’t a smooth transition at all to be honest, but I loved that about it. I literally jumped in the deep end and didn’t look back. Got the call about going on tour and said yes. Didn’t think twice. I wanted to keep pushing myself to do things that scare me, and that’s one of the things I want my life to be defined by when I look back later. It made saying yes to other things easier, especially once I had confirmation that I could get up in front of all those people and do it without melting into a puddle.
You’re about to release your debut EP, Vol. 1- Songs From Therapy which was inspired by your actual recorded therapy sessions. How did therapy change your approach to creating content?
I released the first song “Put It To Bed” and a handful of content to go along with it and tease some of the rest of the EP. I wanted to approach writing for myself completely differently than I do writing for others, so experimentation was important. I decided to record my therapy sessions and take them in the studio with me because I knew that the way I would write would be more authentic naturally, and would feel like uncharted creative space. I’m very happy with the result.
What was the biggest challenge you faced putting together Vol. 1- Songs From Therapy and how were you able to overcome it?
Honestly, just keeping all the parts moving forward. It’s so much to keep track of, from the songs to the agreements with the producers to the visual content to the promotion. It gave me a unique opportunity to be creative in a way I haven’t been since childhood, but lots more to manage. I think it helps just making sure those around me who are involved know where I stand on everything at all times.
What is the story behind the video for your lead track ‘Put It To Bed’?
I had a few brainstorming sessions with my creative director, Chuck Willis, and the producer, Brett Long, about the video. I didn’t want it to be a straightforward on the nose idea, wanted it to ooze creativity and to maybe surprise some people who have known me and labeled me as solely a writer. We talked about “The Miracle Question” and its applications in Psychology, and dug up this idea called “The Injection” that repurposed the idea as a medical treatment. We all were inspired by it and decided to put a black mirror twist on it and use it as the basis of the video.
You’ve worked with many big artists, can we expect a collab soon? Who would your dream collaboration be with?
Kygo and I already have some things in the works, hopefully, those turn up soon. My dream collaboration right now would probably be with Yebba, Adele or Frank Ocean. Have a great deal of respect for them for different reasons, but I love me some vocals hunny.
What’s the best piece of advice you received as a creator?
Don’t concern yourself with things that are out of your control.
What advice would you give to aspiring creators?
Trust your gut instinct (assuming you have good taste) and keep pushing yourself to go deeper and deeper creatively.
What is a fun fact that no one knows about you?
I’ve broken 3 bones on siblings birthdays. My family has decided I hate giving up the spotlight, even for a day.
While we anxiously await for JHart’s full album to drop, be the first to check out his ‘Put It To Bed’ remixes! Make sure you follow him on social media for more new music to come. Don’t forget to check back with our weekly blogs for the next creator spotlight!