Creatives' Best Coach
The coach you didn't know you needed, James Sweeting guides music creatives towards a financially sustainable path.
Truly helping our music evolve in Nashville, James Sweeting strives to help musicians and fellow creatives reach monetary stability in order to fully pursue their dreams.
Twelve years and counting, James Sweeting has lived in Nashville longer than anywhere else. Born in northern Illinois near the Wisconsin Border and partially raised in mountainous Colorado, James first visited our town while seeking a college to transfer to. During his road trip to visit a school in Chattanooga, he pit-stopped at Nashville’s Bongo Java during their after hours for a show (which happened to be a performance by mandolinist Chris Thile from Nickel Creek). Post-show James stood outside and spotted grand Belmont; he checked out the campus the next day and transferred sophomore year, sticking it out through graduation.
Freshly graduated, James worked in a studio for producer Charlie Peacock alongside a high echelon of artists. For example, he engineered and programmed for Grammy Award winning records/artists such as The Civil Wars. Additionally Charlie presented exciting, informative, and callus-building opportunities for James to act as tour manager for acts such as Holly Williams, Hank Williams’s granddaughter, and Andrew Peterson. One exciting tour managing incident involved a bus driving through a nasty 3AM snowstorm. [Ask James to tell you the story, it’s a doozy.]
Though he worked for a producer, he rarely worked in production during that time; his innate musically creative production skills kick in later for a side project, which I’ll later discuss in detail. Mostly, James sought to work as a seamless business bridge between venues, the artist, and the money, allowing the artist to fully focus on creating and performing.
Collaborating with Charlie segued James to dipping his toes in royalty accounting, tax prep, and personal business accounting, aiming to help other creatives, since he himself comes from the creative side.
James’s superpower is creating sustainability for finances, aka strategic money management. Emphasizing entering the mindset of creating and running a personal business, whether as a performing artist or an artist ally, James drills that money is the lifeblood of business and that managing money well sustains business.
Though, being mentally and spiritually fulfilled rises above all.
James firmly believes an artist performing or recording full-time, no “day job” or “side gig” included, is possible. The common roadblock is that artists choose to ignore their finances or devote time on non-music jobs. Mindset is key. If being a musician is a hobby, great. If being a musician is a career choice, taking the plunge to make it a full-time gig is essential. For guidance, working with a financial coach or joining mastermind support group goes a long way.
Creatives helping creatives, encouraging and trusting one another, replaces the need to rely on an hourly wage.
Enter: James Sweeting
James offers individual coaching or group coaching, and he asserts it is possible for creatives to spend no more than 2-4 hours on finances per month. Though, those 2-4 hours can be overwhelming.
One of the things James loves the most is a free ($500 value) introductory session or call, just helping artists or business folk clarify their vision. The big question: where do you want to be one year from now? From there, James helps strategize a plan, looks at skills to improve on, and determines what environmental factors create or reduce friction, to ease reaching success.
In addition to financial stability, James emphasizes immersive experience.
Though today he does stream music on his phone, his preferred listening method is hopping into a record shop and physically picking up old records. Actually placing a vinyl record onto a record player, feeling the minuscule ridges with your fingertips, and listening to the full, physical record transforms the music into experiential listening. From time to time, James will include his adorable blonde haired, blue-eyed tot Hudson (pictured left [on computers] or above [on phones]) on the audial journey. The record shop is also a physical experience for Hudson because he knows how to gingerly pull the vinyl out of its decorative and perfectly fitted sleeve, lay the large, round LP on the magical music box, and press the pleasing play button. James and Hudson then run around in circles chasing each other, bonding in a loving and unforgettable way.
As opposed to listening to tunes on a phone that can also take pictures, make phone calls, and countless other tasks, the sole purpose of a record is to distribute music throughout a room. Having an object with a specified identity to be able to pass down to his son is important. (Right now James’s favorite record is a solo record three or four years back from Jónsi, front man for Sigur Rós. James describes the solo album as more poppy, accessible, and cinematic.
Other than Jónsi, having a classical influence from his mom’s side and bluegrass roots from his dad, James gravitates towards 60s classic rock like The Beatles, Beach Boys, and a sprinkling of early contemporary Christian tunes, but frequently branches out to other genres and sounds.
The aforementioned side project is a musical duo called Jimmytrick Sweetwood, consisting of James and his buddy simply creating fun, ridiculous, storytelling music about people doing crazy stuff. One of their songs tells the tale of people trying to pitch a song to a radio station, which James once acutally pitched to Lightning 100. Their sound melds together O Brother with Mumford and Sons, spurting ridiculous acoustic hick sounds on top of experimental Mumford. Jimmytrick Sweetwood released their EP on Spotify, including their song about a guy who built a staircase from his bedroom to the moon in order to save the woman he loved, appropriately titled "The Ballad of Foster Creighton." Though the duo do not currently perform live, on account of half the band recently moving to Florida, they dream of making their debut on the sentimental Bongo Java After Hours stage, utilizing the personal and intimate space to its utmost potential.
Tackling tasks face-to-face, implementing an immersive experience, is more transformative than impersonal texting or music streaming. So, James aims to organize a live, day-long event at HOME, combining financial coaching with personal growth, supplying collaborative masterminding opportunities.
Stay tuned for more info about the event!
Written and interviewed by Andra Ingram