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Singer-Songwriter and constant beanie wearer James Droll hit the scene with heartbreak and now he’s about to take it over with his friends.

I’ve asked many people what their aesthetic is, it’s a fun and vague open-door where you can learn a lot about a person. Very few responses are intangible; and that makes sense, aesthetic to a lot of us signifies what we convey and how we do that physically pops up first. In no cases, until I spoke with Nashville artist James Droll, had anyone responded with a virtue. More specifically, Droll says “as smarmy and pious as it sounds I think honesty is my aesthetic.” The Ohio-born musician marries the current singer-songwriter trends with the best of indie and R&B for a pared down but precise sound. His twitter reads like the texts your funny friend sends you at work that land you glares from your boss when you can’t stop snickering. There’s sustenance and awareness behind his snark; but there’s also thoughtfulness. When I ask what makes him laugh, he succinctly bites back “hour long vine compilations and dogs wearing people clothes” and I’m already a fan.

Last year, he released his debut EP Self Sacrifice, a raw and honest project that establishes Droll as one to watch. The project is bookended by Game Boy, the tastefully Soundcloud sounding heart break of a millennial and the guitar backed I Don’t Smoke taking the listener on Droll’s journey trying to reconcile an old-school heart with a modern eye. He jokes before zeroing in, “someone’s probably going to push me off my soapbox but I feel we are currently a generation of window shoppers.. we are burdened with possibility. I always find myself wondering how I can decide on anything when everything is a tap or click away. I know it sounds like I’m talking about an online shopping addiction (and I might be) but I think it has permeated our ability to connect, and in this case disconnect, with one another.” This is where his single, Old School Heartbreak, comes in as close to home. “I wrote the song in the midst of a breakup and honestly wished I could just chuck my phone off a bridge,” he explains. “It’s so hard to have a window into the life of someone who broke your heart, especially when that window is in your pocket every single day — my phone, I’m talking about my phone. I wanted to entertain the idea of love and loss outside the spectrum of social media and our obsession with mass faux-connection.”  

All these choices don’t just stop at dating, it seems every month brings a slew of new and amazing artists to pay attention to. With such an exponentially growing pool of contemporary creators, someone else is always doing something similar and the internet opens the door for constant comparisons. “I used to spend so much time thinking about ‘what my sound is,’” ruminates Droll, “and honestly now I’ve set that to the side and replaced it with “If I wrote it and it’s honest, it’s my sound.” I’m a firm believer that everything that will be written has already been written — and also that genre is dead. The best I can do is write the perspective of my unique sequence of experiences.” And his perspective is able to hold two truths at once in a way that is hard to do without overdoing. A wise, retrospective narrative, with the same tingly warmth you got in middle school passing a “check yes or no, do you like me back?” note to your crush. It wouldn’t be apt to describe James Droll’s sound as bare or even just elegantly simple. The slicked back production is never one-note, it’s blended into a cohesive moment. I ask what his music would smell like, he lobs back “a combination of coffee and weed,” before adding “inside a sneaker store. It’s like that nagging feeling you get when you know you forgot something but you can’t remember what.. quickly followed by the inability to care because it didn’t really matter in the first place.”

Droll hit the ground running for the new decade, releasing a collaboration with producer/songwriter Trove, States Away, an electro-ballad that’s both danceable at the club and in your bedroom alone with a glass of wine. The pair clearly vibe well, almost like two kids on top of each other inside a trench coat except successfully pulling it off. “Drew (Trove) and I met because a mutual friend of ours thought we should write together as he had just moved to Nashville. We didn’t even end up finishing a song that day but got along really well, booked a few more sessions, went on a few writing trips, and the rest is history. I think honestly we’re just fans of each other’s music, good friends, and have compatible styles. Writing together is more of an excuse to hang out than anything else.” They love each other so much, they’re releasing a collaboration EP this year. On theme for Droll as he hints at other collaborations “keep an eye out for one of my favorite songs I wrote last year coming out with one of my favorite artists right now, Caro.” He whet your appetite with his debut EP and we’re not even at the main dish yet.

photos / Jena Cumbo
styling / Julie Zielinski
grooming / Amanda Thesen
story / Mallorie McCall
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