Jul 31, 2012
A single from the epic album, The Whiskey Farmer, "Thinking California" is a ballad that gives a good, hard look in the mirror of existentialism. Honestly confrontational, the song is comprised of two psychological layers.
The first is the obvious age-old theme of leaving-it-all-behind for a new life in California, which started way-back-when with "California Here I Come" and was shot up into the stratosphere by "California Dreamin'." Here, the legend lives on in true pop tradition.
However, the song's second and deeper layer is most intriguing. Playing the "everyman," lead singer James Low reaches into the dark layers of the middle-aged psyche of 21st century civilization in the music video for "Thinking California."
That's where the similarity ends.
Instead of the film character's childish response of vengeful violence, James Low's video character flees childish reactions for a return to childlike innocence and wonder as he boldly ventures toward his long-abandoned dream --- his "California."
It takes balls to admit in mid-stream, or mid-life, that things just aren't happy and that life unexpectedly sucks, and then dare to chase a dream once more in spite of social ties that bind.
Not only does James Low lyrically, musically and visually accomplish this through his character in the music video for "Thinking California," the singer-songwriter has lived through issues in his own life that creatively inspired this truly classic song.
Californiality interviewed the frontman for The James Low Western Front to get the back-story on "Thinking California." Here's what we learned from James Low:
How did your life start out?
"My parents were from Salinas, California, and my grandfather lived in Laguna Hills, but I was raised in a small town in Eastern Oregon."
What was your early impression of California?
"As a kid, I had this intense feeling that California was a place of possibility. I remember listening to 'California Dreamin' repeatedly and feeling like my head was going to explode because I was stuck in the middle of nowhere, missing out on life."
So, like many people around the world, you thought of California as being a kind of paradise?
"Not only did California seem perfect, but it seemed like I would be perfect in California."
How has your perception changed, now that you've recently passed the age of 40?
"As an adult and a songwriter, I have had that feeling again that I was trapped in a life that was not what I had set out for, burdened by the weight of mistakes and the narrowing choices that come with age. Fortunately, it was not a permanent condition."
Congratulations on your recent marriage to your wife, Juveria. Has finding the right partner emboldened you in your pursuit of fulfillment and meaning?
Definitely. We're finding a tremendous amount of happiness together.
How did such a mid-life epiphany translate into this very emotional, psychologically deep song?
"The imagery of a man trapped by himself and wishing for a place of renewed possibility inspired the verses to 'Thinking California' and my childhood vision of California encouraged the chorus."
Thanks for not forcing lyrics like "warn ya" to rhyme with "California." There is nothing cliche' about your songwriting.
"California is just a really great word to sing. It practically rhymes with itself."
In addition to frontman James Low, The James Low Western Front is Tim Huggins on bass/vocals, Dave Camp on guitar/vocals, and Joe Mengis on drums.
Great songwriting by an observant composer, performed with ripened intensity, and played by a very tight band, equals real music for real people.
"Thinking California" by The James Low Western Front is the deepest of all songs about California this year, and the following music video is better than a movie.
James Low | Thinking California